California’s top oil regulator, Steve Bohlen, resigned Monday after a whistle-blower revealed he’d investigated the oil, natural gas, and mineral potential of Gov. Jerry Brown’s family ranch.
State officials did not give a reason for the resignation, but a statement from Brown claimed that Bohlen would be returning to his former work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Brown and aides directed Bohlen, in June of 2014, to investigate “potential for future oil and gas activity” on Brown’s Northern California ranch, according to reports by the Associated Press released in November. The type of seismic survey used to find commercial oil and gas deposits usually costs $40,000 to $100,000 per square mile of land examined.
A spokesman for Governor Brown told the Associated Press that the governor had been interested in his ranch’s history and geology, “not drilling for oil and gas.” Ultimately, the regulators told the governor that the ranch wasn’t suitable for commercial oil, gas, or mining. California law prohibits elected officials from using public resources for personal purposes, regardless of the motivation.
Bohlen told the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times that Brown “asked me to be careful about what I sent by email because of public record laws.” Bohlen ultimately hand-delivered the report to the governor, according to his lawyers
State officials were unable to produce any other examples of state regulators mapping out the petroleum, natural gas, and mineral deposits of land for personal purposes when asked by the Los Angeles Daily News. State records showed Bohlen’s agency specifically rejecting requests for geological mapping for a private individual from a state lawmaker’s office.
Brown’s statement also said that Ken Harris, a longtime state water-quality official, would succeed Bohlen.
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