Last week, California’s chief oil and gas regulator decided to step down, after working in the position for a little over 18 months. Steve Bohlen announced his resignation through a formal letter, stating that he plans to return to a previous position at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which helps security in the United States through developing science, technology, and engineering. Bohlen plans to stay on as an unpaid science adviser to the division. What exactly does this mean for oil and gas production in the state of California?
Initial talks of Bohlen stepping down
Bohlen was hired and immediately had to work with controversy in his department, in regards to its oversight of hydraulic fracturing, and other drilling operations. Complaints were also made when it was learned that oil companies were allowed to inject waste-water from drilling into aquifers, protected by the federal government. This was going on for years, a lot of the times without permits. These revelations gave insight into how oil and gas drilling operations happen in the state. Now, oil and gas production in California is under stringent regulations and oversight, much like the loan industry now is for payday and car title loans. Even with the criticism and changes made to the division. Bohlen said that the future looked bright, and he was working to get all the issues solved. He was appointed the position in April 2014, and spoke with Governor Jerry Brown in April 2015 about a possible return to his old place of employment.
Who will replace Bohlen?
It is expected that Governor Brown will appoint Ken Harris to the position. Harris is currently the executive officer of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. According to Hollin Kretzmann, who works for the Center for Biological Diversity, the new chief oil and gas regulator will need to address the concerns in California about water contamination, as well as the safety risks from drilling and fracking. He believes the division still is far too close with the oil industry that it is supposed to regulate. Hopefully, the next person in this position can look at all the details and move forward in a way that Bohlen couldn’t.
Could personal business cause Bohlen to call it quits?
Many are wondering if Bohlen’s departure had anything to do with another controversy, surrounding a call Governor Brown made, asking Bohlen to check out his family’s Colusa County Ranch home for any potential oil and gas. People were saying that this was a complete misuse of state funds because it was a personal matter. However, Bohlen said it took an hour of his time, and he was baffled by the controversy. Would this really be a reason for his resignation of such a powerful position?
It is uncertain why Bohlen decided to step down from his position as chief oil and gas regulator. Maybe the controversy of the field was too much for him, or maybe he was more interested in furthering his career with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This was his first position in the oil and gas field, and it might not have been the exact career path he was looking for. Governor Brown said that Bohlen brought strong leadership skills and a valuable scientific expertise to the job. Whatever his reason, he will surely be missed by many who have worked with him over the past year.