California’s top oil regulator sacked after doubling fracking permits

California Gov. Gavin Newsom orders dismissal of state’s top oil regulator

By Janet Wilson, Palm Springs Desert Sun, July 11, 2019, 11:09 p.m. ET
California Gov. Gavin Newsom presents his revised 2019 budget proposal May 9, 2019, in Sacramento, California.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom presents his revised 2019 budget proposal May 9, 2019, in Sacramento, California. (Photo: Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio)

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday directed his secretary of natural resources to fire Ken Harris, the state’s top oil regulator, after learning from The Desert Sun/USA TODAY and watchdog groups that fracking permits have doubled without his knowledge since he took office and that seven supervisors charged with regulating the industry own shares in major oil companies.

Ann O’Leary, chief of staff to Newsom, sent a letter to Wade Crowfoot, California’s secretary for Natural Resources, asking him to immediately make several changes in the Department of Conservation, including firing Harris.

Harris is the head of the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, also known as DOGGR. He could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

O’Leary also told Crowfoot to “continue at full pace the investigation you have already started related to the allegations that employees at DOGGR have holdings in energy companies, which could constitute actual or apparent conflicts of interest, and take the maximum disciplinary action appropriate under law.”

Conflicts of interest: Watchdog groups urge California governor to fire oil regulators

Ken Harris, Californiia Oil and Gas supervisor and head of the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources.
Ken Harris, California Oil and Gas supervisor and head of the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources. (Photo: Calfiornia Dept. of Conservation)

In the meantime, she directed him to ensure that all employees and contractors who own oil or gas stocks recuse themselves from all permitting decisions pending individual reviews based on new conflict rules that are being formulated.

On Wednesday, The Desert Sun reported the pace at which fracking permits are issued has doubled since Newsom took office in January, and thousands of permits for new and re-used oil and gas wells also have been approved, angering environmental and public health groups who hoped for a phase-out of the state’s billion-dollar industry following the retirement of Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Desert Sun also reported on the findings of two watchdog groups, Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance, who uncovered records showing that top state regulators and engineers held investments in Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Valero and other petrochemical giants.

Almost half of the 2,300 well permits issued in 2019 have benefited oil companies invested in by agency officials, the consumer groups said.

Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance uncovered the regulators’ personal investments and permit data through public records requests, and the two groups shared the documents with The Desert Sun and the USA TODAY Network.

“This is a good start,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. “This shows the governor wants to change the culture at the agency to make sure it’s free of conflicts and safety comes before the oil companies’ interests. The next move has to be to hold accountable Mr. Harris’ supervisors, who were well aware that this was an agency that was permitting wells with the oil companies’ interests first in its mind and the public last.”


    Lights For Liberty Vigils Planned In Solano County and Bay Area

    The vigils are targeting reports of inhumane conditions at migrant detention camps, mass deportation and deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border.

    By Maggie Avants, Patch Staff
    Lights for Liberty vigils are planned Friday across the Bay Area and United States
    Lights for Liberty vigils are planned Friday across the Bay Area and United States (Shutterstock)
    SOLANO COUNTY, CA — Residents of Benicia, Vacaville and many other Bay Area cities are planning to take part in Lights for Liberty vigils Friday, July 12 as part of worldwide protests against detention camps at the U.S.-Mexico border. The vigils are targeting reports of inhumane conditions in the camps, mass deportation and deaths at the border.
    According to a release from Santa Cruz Indivisible, as of Wednesday there were over 689 registered Lights for Liberty events on Friday planned around the world. Most events are asking participants to bring a flashlight, an electric candle or a phone.
    In Benicia, residents are meeting from 7 -9 p.m. at the Gazebo in the Park at 1st Street.
    The Vacaville vigil begins at at 8 p.m. at 1 Town Square.

    In Napa, community members are asked to meet at 8 p.m. at Soscol Avenue and 1st Street in the Oxbow Commons area.

    Petaluma residents are gathering from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. at Petaluma Regional Library, 100 Fairgrounds Drive.

    A Santa Rosa vigil is planned at 7 p.m. at the Courthouse Square.

    In Davis, a vigil is planned from from 7 -9 p.m. at Central Park, 401 C St.

    The Concord gathering will be held from 7:30-9 p.m. at Todos Santos Plaza, 2151 Salvio St.

    Oakland will see at least two separate vigils: one at City Hall and another at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater. The City Hall vigil has over 40 sponsors and will begin at 5 p.m. The Lake Merritt vigil will begin at 7:30 p.m.

    San Franciscans will also get multiple chances to participate in a Lights for Liberty vigil. Interfaith leaders will host an 11:30 a.m. event outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices at 630 Sansome St.

    Another San Francisco vigil will be held at 7 p.m. at the Powell Street Cable Car Turnaround.

    San Jose’s Lights for Liberty event will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at City Hall Plaza, 200 East Santa Clara St.

    A Santa Cruz vigil is planned at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday.

    According to the Lights for Liberty website, vigils will also be held in Monterey, Novato, Pacifica, Palo Alto and Redwood City.

    For a full list of registered events and information pertaining to each gathering, go to

    — Bay City News Service; Patch local editor Maggie Avants contributed to this report.


      Benicia candlelight vigil for migrant families at U.S. southern border

      Candlelight Vigil, Friday, July 12, 7-9pm, City Park

      Lights for Liberty poster – download and distribute!

      Lights for Liberty – Benicia (L4L Benicia) and co-sponsor Progressive Democrats of Benicia invite the public to a Candlelight Vigil from 7-9 PM on Friday July 12th, 2019 at the Benicia City Park Gazebo on 1st Street, as part of a nationwide mobilization against the Trump administration’s human detention camps.

      RSVP on Facebook:

      On Friday July 12th, 2019, L4L Benicia will join Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps, which will bring thousands of Americans to detention camps across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees.

      As of today, Lights for Liberty vigils are scheduled in over 340 locations around the United States and the world, with new locations being added daily.

      Beginning at 7 p.m. on July 12th, advocates, activists and impacted persons will speak on the issue of human detention camps in the United States. At 9 p.m., around the country and around the world, participants will light candles in a silent vigil for all those held in US detention camps to bring light to the darkness of the Trump administration’s horrific policies.

      “We shine a light on the inhumane treatment of migrants and refugees by the current administration. To be silent is to be complicit. To sit this out is to be complacent. Now is a time to stand for what is best in all of us, to stop the worst of us. We must stand for one another. At New Sanctuary Coalition, we hold in our hearts a vision of a world worth fighting for,” said Ravi Ragbir, Executive Director of New Sanctuary Coalition.

      “People of color are targets of this administration’s deliberately cruel immigration enforcement policies,” said Nicole Lee, co-founder of the Black Movement Law Project. “We stand vigil with Lights for Liberty and in solidarity with all those in detention camps, and against this administration’s profound racism and xenophobia.”

      “I’ve been inside these camps, and the conditions are beyond description. Twenty-four adults and six children that we know of have already died as a result,” said Toby Gialluca, lawyer, activist and member of the organizing team of Lights for Liberty. “The world must take a stand against this administration and stop these camps before more lives are lost.”

      About Lights for Liberty: Lights for Liberty is a loose coalition of grassroots activists, with support from long-standing immigrants’ rights organizations and other organizers. Five main events will be held on July 12th in El Paso, San Diego, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Homestead/Miami, FL. More information can be found at

      For more information, press only
      L4L Benicia
      Sherry Vinson
      L4LBenicia at

      Progressive Democrats of Benicia
      Roger Straw – L4L Lead
      rogrmail at
      Ralph Dennis, Chair
      redennis5156 at


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