Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday defended firing California’s top oil industry regulator for issuing too many hydraulic fracturing permits, but offered no details on whether he plans to ban or limit the oil extraction process in the state.
Newsom’s chief of staff fired Ken Harris, the head of the state Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, on Thursday after revelations that, during the governor’s first six months in office, the state approved fracking permits at twice the rate it did in the year before under former Gov. Jerry Brown.
“There’s a lot of things that, unfortunately, come to your attention with a government as large as ours,” Newsom told reporters during a morning news conference inside his Capitol office. “I don’t think anyone who was paying attention, including the individual that’s no longer there, is unaware of my position on fracking. I’ve been very explicit about it.”
“We support the governor’s decision to eliminate the regulators who have these conflicts of interest, so the regulators are able to act in the best interests of the public health of Californians,” Kyle Ferrar of FracTracker Alliance told The Times.
“Legally, the governor of California cannot do that. I explored that during my transition,” Newsom said. “What we have done is we fired the person responsible for signing those permits at DOGGR, and I’ll be appointing a replacement that shares my values and not the values that were expressed in his actions.”
“To the extent that they did things legally, apparently, that was the one thing there they did legally,” he said. “But there were questions about ethical lapses and conflicts of interest and people owning stock in companies they were overseeing.”
Newsom also said that, despite his strong support for putting California on a path to a 100% renewable energy supply, it would be unrealistic to think that California can just stop its dependence on oil and gas.
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