Whatever disappointment Governor Jerry Brown may have felt last year when he received a report on his family’s ranch in Colusa County that said “the potential for significant oil or gas in this area is very low,” it was probably dwarfed by the Associated Press revelation last week that the report was put together by state employees and hand-delivered by a senior official he appointed.
The AP reported last week that a phone call from the governor and follow-up requests from senior aides to the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) resulted in a 51-page document with maps and an assessment of the ranch.
On Monday, AP reported that Jennie Catalano, a mapping specialist with the state Department of Conservation, said through her attorney that she had done the work under protest and filed a whistleblower complaint for alleged retaliation against her.
State law frowns upon public officials having state employees use state resources for personal reasons. The Brown administration denies that happened. Whistleblower complaints are treated confidentially and not much information on Catalano’s was immediately available.
“The governor is interested in the history and geology of his family ranch in Colusa County—not drilling for oil or gas,” Brown deputy press secretary Gareth Lacy told the Los Angeles Times. The documents were all public records and any citizen was entitled to ask to see them, he said.
AP said Brown made the request of DOGGR director Steve Bohlen in June 2014, shortly appointing him to office. The news service quoted an e-mail from Bohlen to the staff asking that the information be gathered “by noon tomorrow so I can review and take this to a meeting with the Governor.”
The governor’s office provided a few examples of similar requests to the division, but at least one was from a nonprofit organization and none of them received material as lengthy or detailed as Brown’s. The office is reportedly looking for more examples.
Bohlen later said that the governor got wind of the communication and told him to be careful about what he put in e-mails because of the state’s public records laws.
DOGGR has been at the center of the storm over lax regulation of the state’s oil and gas industry. The Brown report request became known during a lawsuit brought by Kern County farmers who claim the state has done a crummy job of protecting groundwater from drilling that includes fracking, acidization and other modern toxic techniques.
The lawsuit was filed shortly after Brown whacked DOGGR’s two top officials in 2011 for what they said was their refusal to issue drilling permits at an accelerated rate without proper vetting. They said it would be a violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Republican lawmakers want an investigation and the conservative fire-breathers at Breitbart want Brown impeached.