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A vast, untapped oil reserve in California is emerging as perhaps one of the state’s best opportunities to improve its still struggling economy, but exploration and production efforts face resistance from the powerful environmental lobby and Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, which appears not fully sold on the potential.

The roughly 1,700 square-mile Monterey Shale, from the state’s central coast to its San Joaquin Valley, holds roughly 60 percent of the country’s estimated shale oil reserves, potentially making California the country’s top oil producer and revving up its economy like a smaller shale-oil deposit did for North Dakota.

California’s economy has been showing signs of improvement after a downward slide for years – in part the result of myriad regulations, multi-billion dollar budget deficits, high unemployment and now Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s income-tax hike on the state’s highest earners that has some vowing to leave.