Brown fires strict oil regulator

Governor gives a tough oil-company regulator the boot

Gov. Jerry Brown fired a top state regulator who insisted on a top-to-bottom review of proposals from oil companies before issuing permits for the underground-injection method of oil extraction.

Late last year Derek Chernow, then the head of the Department of Conservation, wrote in a memo that relaxing the rules on underground injection would be a violation of environmental laws, according to the Los Angeles Times. The risky extraction process, in which high-pressure water, steam and chemicals flush oil to the surface from old wells, has caused spills, eruptions, worker injury and one death in Kern County. A week after Chernow wrote his memo, Brown had him and a deputy fired and appointed replacements who agreed to relax their standards when issuing permits.

This indicates that for the governor, energy interests may trump those of environmental groups as the economy remains sluggish.