Following Gov. Brown, Californians Seek Oil Records On Their Land

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If Gov. Jerry Brown can have state employees check his family’s land for oil, so can you.

About 200 people in the last week have asked California’s oil regulating agency for maps and records showing the potential for oil and natural gas drilling on their property.

They’re following the lead of Brown, who in 2014 directed the agency’s staff to prepare a report showing the fossil fuel potential of his family’s land in Colusa County. As the Associated Press reported last week, the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources gave Brown a 51-page report judging the likelihood of finding oil or gas reserves there “very low.”

One division employee filed a whistle-blower complaint over the governor’s request, saying the staff had been forced to do personal work for Brown.

Division officials defended Brown’s action by saying that anyone could request the same kind of report, insisting the governor did not receive special treatment.

So to test that theory, the nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog — which frequently tussles with California’s oil industry and the state government — encouraged anyone interested to send the division an e-mail asking for a report.

The group even posted a form letter online to speed up the process, encouraging people to “Ask for Your Free Jerry Brown Oil Map.”

Division spokesman Don Drysdale said Tuesday that about 200 people had e-mailed so far, most of them using Consumer Watchdog’s form letter. All received a reply from the division requesting more data specific to their property, he said. Only a dozen responded. Those who did received a custom map and a summary of oil and gas drilling in their area.

That information, Drysdale noted, is already available on the division’s website, although the site can be daunting to navigate for those who have never used it before.

“Either the Department of Conservation has always honored private requests for oil and mineral surveys of citizens’ private property, or it is honoring them now in light of questions about its action on behalf of the governor,” said Consumer Watchdog Executive Director Carmen Balber. “Either way, Californians can now obtain their own free map, geologic history, and assessment of the drilling and mining potential of their private land.”

David R. Baker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @DavidBakerSF

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