Skip to content Skip to footer

California Gov. Jerry Brown Appoints Big Oil Executive as Industry Regulator

Big Oil, agribusiness and other corporate interests have captured the regulatory apparatus in California.

As advocates of Senate Bill 350 were celebrating the signing of the amended renewable energy bill by Governor Jerry Brown, a major appointment to a regulatory post in the Brown administration went largely unnoticed.

In a classic example of how Big Oil has captured the regulatory apparatus in California, Governor Jerry Brown announced the appointment of Bill Bartling, 61, of Bakersfield, who has worked as an oil industry executive and consultant, as district deputy in the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources at the embattled California Department of Conservation.

What are Bartling’s qualifications? According to a statement from the Governor’s Office:

Bartling has been president at Aspectus Energy Consulting since 2015, where he was president from 2005 to 2008. He was general manager at OptaSense Borehole Imaging Services from 2014 to 2015, president and chief executive officer at SR2020 Inc. from 2008 to 2014 and founder and chief technology officer at Ambrose Oil and Gas from 2007 to 2010.

Bartling was senior director of market strategy at Silicon Graphics Inc. from 2000 to 2005, manager of technical computing at the Occidental Petroleum Corporation from 1998 to 2000 and senior vice president of software engineering at CogniSeis Development from 1996 to 1998.

He held several positions at the Chevron Corporation from 1981 to 1996, including supervisor for exploration, supervisor for production and research, geologist and geophysicist.

Bartling earned a Master of Science degree in geology from San Diego State University. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $180,000. Bartling is a Republican.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s Hollin Kretzmann criticized the appointment, stating, “Governor Brown’s administration has shown a blatant disregard for the law, and time after time it has sacrificed California’s water and public health in favor of oil industry profits. Hiring an oil executive to run one of the state’s most captured agencies is completely inappropriate and only adds insult to injury.”

As was the case on October 8, when Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 350 at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, Brown continually attempts to depict himself as a “climate leader” and “green governor” at environmental conferences and photo opportunities across the globe.

However, court documents obtained by the Associated Press this summer in a RICO lawsuit by Central Valley farmers against the Brown administration document the claims by anti-fracking activists that the governor is collaborating with Big Oil on the expansion of extreme oil extraction techniques in California.

In these documents, two former senior level officials, Derek Chernow and Elena Miller, in the Department of Conservation in Governor Brown’s administration reveal that they were fired on November 3, 2011 after repeatedly warning the governor that oil drilling would imperil the state’s groundwater.

Conflicts of interest abound in California politics; the appointment of an oil industry executive on October 9 and the dismissal of two key regulators by Jerry Brown in November 2011 because they failed to serve the oil industry’s wishes are just just a few examples of how Big Oil, agribusiness and other corporate interests have captured the regulatory apparatus in Caifornia. Other examples of regulatory capture include the following:

• State Senator Michael J. Rubio resigned in February 2013 to go work in a “government affairs” position for Chevron. Rubio, who was leading the charge to weaken the landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and make it friendlier to corporations, claimed he resigned in order to spend more time with his family.

• In one of the most overt conflicts of interest in recent years, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), served as Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012. She also sat on the the MLPA Initiative task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

• While Reheis-Boyd chaired the MLPAI Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, her husband, James Boyd, served as Vice Chair of the California Energy Commission. He was first appointed to the California Energy Commission on February 6, 2002 by Governor Gray Davis, and he was appointed to the Vice Chair position on June 16, 2006. Boyd was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to a second five-year term on the California Energy Commission on February 2, 2007.

• Johnny Amaral, Chief of Staff for Representative Devin Nunes, who represents California’s 22nd Congressional District, joined the staff of the Westlands Water District as Deputy General Manager for External Affairs on May 1, 2015. Nunes is best known for sponsoring legislation to increase pumping Delta water to corporate agribusiness and to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and other species.

• Laura King Moon, a lobbyist for the state’s water exporters, was appointed by Jerry Brown as Chief Deputy Director for the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) in September 2013. Before her appointment, she served as a project manager for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan while “on loan” from the State Water Contractors, as chief deputy director for Department of Water Resources.

Documents obtained by this reporter under the California Public Records Act reveal that Susan Ramos, Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, was hired in an inter-jurisdictional personal exchange agreement between the Department of Water Resources and Westlands Water District from November 15, 2009 through December 31, 2010. The contract was extended to run through December 31, 2011 and again to continue through December 31, 2012.

Background: Big Oil Money and Power in California

Big Oil, the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, wields its influence by spending its money on lobbying and election campaigns, creating Astroturf groups and getting its officials and friends on state regulatory panels – and used every bit of its power to gut SB 350.

Big Oil spent a total of $266 million influencing California politics from 2005 to 2014, according to an analysis of California Secretary of State data by, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to “mislead and confuse Californians.” The industry spent $112 million of this money on lobbying and the other $154 million on political campaigns.

Last year the Western States Petroleum Association spent a record $8.9 million on lobbying, double what it spent in the previous year. In the first six months of 2015, the oil industry spent $6.2 million to lobby state officials, including $2,529,240 spent by the Western States Petroleum Association alone.

The amending of SB 350 and defeat of other bills opposed by the oil industry and Governor Jerry Brown’s support of the expansion of fracking in California show how Big Oil, along with agribusiness, the timber industry, developers and other corporate interests, has captured the regulatory apparatus in the state.

The stakes have never been higher (and our need for your support has never been greater).

For over two decades, Truthout’s journalists have worked tirelessly to give our readers the news they need to understand and take action in an increasingly complex world. At a time when we should be reaching even more people, big tech has suppressed independent news in their algorithms and drastically reduced our traffic. Less traffic this year has meant a sharp decline in donations.

The fact that you’re reading this message gives us hope for Truthout’s future and the future of democracy. As we cover the news of today and look to the near and distant future we need your help to keep our journalists writing.

Please do what you can today to help us keep working for the coming months and beyond.