Calif.’s top oil regulator resigns

The state’s oil czar chief effectively banned fracking during his time with the state.

California’s top oil official left his post last week after a little over two years on the job that saw significant contention between the state’s oil industry, mostly focused in Kern County, and environmental groups. 

Uduak-Joe Ntuk stepped down last Friday and has been replaced on an interim basis by Gabe Tiffany, the chief deputy director of the state Department of Conservation, as first reported by the Bakersfield Californian. 


The big picture: Ntuk took charge of the state’s oil oversight in October 2019 after the previous leader of the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, Ken Harris, was fired after a dramatic increase in fracking permits. 

  • Ntuk’s tenure saw the state impose a de-facto ban on fracking, drawing ire from the oil industry, yet making enemies with environmental groups by approving drilling permits within a 3,200-foot buffer zone that separates oilfields from homes and other areas. 

What they’re saying: Ntuk told the Californian that he was not forced out from the position by Newsom, instead choosing to resign to focus on his family. 

  • “I’m incredibly proud of our work at CalGEM over the past three years, especially enacting the nation’s strongest regulations for protecting communities of color from impacts of oil drilling, moving towards ending the practice of fracking in California and securing more than $100 million in state and federal funding to address the state’s century-long challenge of orphan oil wells,” Ntuk said.
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