Oil Scandal: Did Jerry Brown Want to Frack, Himself?

AP Photo
The Associated Press
Newport Beach, CA

Jerry Brown’s alleged use of California state staff to access geological data may have been related to an effort to maximize the potential to “frack” for oil on the Governor’s private land.

Governor Brown’s Great Grandfather on his mother’s side homesteaded California land in 1852, after coming to California as a German immigrant. The 2,700-acre parcel is located in Schuckman Canyon, West of Interstate 5 and North of Highway 20. The property has historically been referred to as Mountain House.

The Brown family is believed to hold the property in an ancestral trust. Brown personally holds a 27 percent beneficial interest; other Brown family members hold a 27 percent beneficial interest; and there is an undisclosed 46 percent minority shareholder.

Petroleum engineers refer to the geologic structure under Mountain House as being one of the sweet spots in the California Monterey Shale Play. The huge underground formations in the Monterey had served for decades as a prolific source rock for many of the state’s large oil fields. But traditional oil drilling peaked about 20 years ago, and then faded rapidly.

Interest began heating up again after the U.S. Department of Energy’s Information Administration (EIA) issued an 82-page report in 2010 titled “Review of Emerging Resources: U.S. Shale Gas and Shale Oil Plays.” EIA estimated that use of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Monterey Play held the potential for production of 15.4 billion barrels of oil–an amount that was over twice the quantity of potentially recoverable oil in the booming North Dakota Bakken and Texas Eagle Ford basins combined.

But energy development in the Monterey Play developed at a snail’s pace because fracking requires millions of gallons of water, and California remained caught in the grip of a severe drought.

Interest in fracking in the area around Mountain House started heating up a year ago, with meteorologists predicting a high probability that multi-year El Niño would soon bring torrential rainfall.

According to a report by the Associated Press, California Department of Conservation mapping specialist Jennie Catalano has applied for whistleblower protection status due to claims that she was directed by Governor Brown to use state resources to perform private research for his personal benefit.

Catalano supposedly has asserted that Brown authorized research centered on locating potential natural gas and shale oil deposits for private commercial exploitation.

The governor claims that the research was only due to a historical interest in the family homestead and not for fossil fuel or monetary interest. But the Associated Press reported that “after a phone call from the governor and follow-up requests from his aides,” the regulatory agency “produced a 51-page historical report and geological assessment, plus a personalized satellite-imaged geological and oil and gas-drilling map” of the area.

Agenda 21 Radio and the Shasta Lantern reported on November 10 that at least five wells were drilled this spring on Mountain House “at the behest of the current property lessee.” Given that well drilling requires permits and permits require geological surveys, the detailed California State report would have met many of the permitting requirements.

Breitbart News reported that Section 8314 of the California Government Code states: “It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer…to use or permit others to use public resources for…personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.” Violations are to be punished by civil penalties of $1,000 per day for each day of the offense, plus triple the value of the diverted resources.

California Government Code Section 3020 also specifies: “State officers elected on a statewide basis, members of the State Board of Equalization, and judges of state courts are subject to impeachment for misconduct in office.”

In what will lead to further scrutiny, Agenda 21 and the Shasta Lantern allege that the wells appear to have been “drilled using tax-payer funded agricultural grants for livestock wellheads; however no livestock is believed to be present on the property.”

Brown positioned himself as a global leader in the fight against climate change and a staunch opponent of “fracking.” Any confirmation of Brown’s alleged use of state resources to support fracking on his family holdings would create an enormous scandal.