Hmmmm California law bars elected officials from using public employees or other public resources for personal purposes.
Gov. Jerry Brown last year directed state oil and gas regulators to research, map and report back on any mining and oil drilling potential and history at the Brown family’s private land in Northern California.
After a phone call from the governor and follow-up requests from his aides, senior staffers in the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency over at least two days produced a 51-page historical report and geological assessment, plus a personalized satellite-imaged geological and oil and gas drilling map for the area around Brown’s family ranchland near the town of Williams.
Ultimately, the regulators told the governor, prospects were “very low” for any commercial drilling or mining at the 2,700-acre property, which has been in Brown’s family for more than a century.
Through the state’s open records law, The Associated Press obtained the research that state regulators carried out for Brown, and the emails among senior oil and gas regulators scrambling to fulfill the governor’s request.
Brown spokesman Evan Westrup declined to discuss the work for the governor, referring the AP to California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. That agency said the work was a legal and proper use of public resources — and no more than the general public would get. But oil industry experts said they could not recall a similar example of anyone getting that kind of state work done for private property.
Brown’s request points to the complex way that the governor, an internationally known advocate of renewable energy, approaches oil and gas issues in his own state. While spearheading ambitious programs to curb the use of climate-changing fossil fuels, Brown also has sought to spur oil production in California, the country’s No. 3 oil-producing state.
Nine days after Brown appointed Steve Bohlen to lead the state oil and gas regulatory division, the governor called him with his research request.
Brown wanted to find out about the “geology, past oil and gas activity, potential for future oil and gas activity in the vicinity of his long-time family ranch,” Bohlen related in an email to senior agency staffers that same day, June 11, 2014. Bohlen set noon the next day as a target for getting the research done for delivery to Brown.
After Brown’s initial call, his aides called back within hours to ask regulators to look at what minerals might lie under the Brown ranch and also emailed to make sure the regulators were doing a map for the governor.
In an email to the AP, an attorney for the oil and gas agency, Graham St. Michel, said Brown had been compiling documents that “shed light on the fauna, flora, rock formations and geology of the area where his great-grandparents … first homesteaded in the 1870s.”
California law bars elected officials from using public employees or other public resources for personal purposes, with limited exceptions for things like occasional personal calls from work phones.