At last, the new Supervisor of the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) has been announced. Steven Bohlen, currently Program Director at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, will replace recently-retired former Supervisor Tim Kustic. Mr. Bohlen’s background spans numerous academic, teaching, and research positions, including stints at Texas A&M University, the United States Geological Survey, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which focuses on defense science for the federal government. Not a career bureaucrat or civil servant, as was his predecessor, Supervisor Bohlen may lack regulatory agency management experience, but compensates for this by having significant experience managing complex university-affiliated research programs. Bohlen is a Democrat and his appointment will not require Senate confirmation.
A long-serving DOGGR veteran employee, Bohlen’s predecessor, Tim Kustic, worked his way through DOGGR to become Supervisor. He spent his tenure seeking solutions that would appease both industry and stakeholders across communities in California. In making the Bohlen appointment, Governor Brown tapped an outsider and wanted to have a scientist who would not be pressured by special interests groups in his decision-making concerning the regulation of the oil and gas industry in California. The Bohlen appointment also appears to have been influenced by current Department of Conservation Director Mark Nechodem, to whom Bohlen will directly report. In numerous public statements, Director Nechodem has insisted that he wants to see science and facts shape the debate on hydraulic fracturing and other forms of well stimulation, not conjecture or emotions. Supervisor Bohlen will be tasked with administrating the daunting permit scheme embodied in SB 4. He also will oversee the development of the independent scientific study required by SB 4, which will evaluate the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing and other forms of well stimulation. In addition, he will take over during the rulemaking process for DOGGR’s permanent regulations concerning well stimulation.