A consumer watchdog group is urging citizens to test Jerry Brown’s claim that any California resident can have the state prepare a report on their property’s oil and gas potential–just as it did for him.
Capitol Watchdog, seizing on Brown’s use of the California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to explore his private property to look for oil, offered a ready-made form so private citizens can take advantage of the same opportunity.
According to the Associated Press, Brown–a fervent climate change activist–scappointed Steve Bohlen to lead the state oil and gas regulatory division in early July of last year. Just days later, Brown called him, saying he wanted to know “geology, past oil and gas activity, potential for future oil and gas activity in the vicinity of his long-time family ranch.”
Although Brown spokesman Gareth Lacy has protested that Brown only wanted the report to explore his ranch’s history and geology, and was not interested in “drilling for oil and gas,” Lacy had no response when AP specifically asked why the memos and map by state regulators referred to the area’s oil and gas “potential,” adumbrating the area’s drilling history and prospects.
Within two days, staffers at the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency created a 51-page historical report and geological assessment, as well as a personalized satellite-imaged geological and oil and gas drilling map for Brown’s family ranch. They found the prospects for commercial drilling or mining “very low.”
According to California law, elected officials cannot utilize public resources for personal purposes. When AP asked Brown’s office and state oil and gas regulators if there were other examples of the same kind of research performed for private citizens, Brown’s office listed research performed for the city of Los Angeles and the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper non-government organization, plus research for a private property owner, whose name was redacted.
Rick Peace, president of a Bakersfield, California, company that helps manage oil exploration and production, told AP that the kind of work the staffers performed for Brown was atypical, stating, “There’s no evaluation. That’s not a service they provide at all.”
Despite the fact that Bohlen could order his staff to do Brown’s private work, he complained last year that his “dramatically understaffed” labor force could not enforce federal laws preventing oilfield pollution of the state’s reserves of water for drinking and irrigation.
Brown had cultivated a monastic image over the years, but has been far less than transparent about his personal wealth, estimated between $2.53 million and $6.2 million, according to the San Jose Mercury News. In October 2014, Brown refused to release his tax returns.