Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 11 moved to dismiss the overseer of the state’s oil and gas industry, after reports that the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources head was subject to conflicts of interest.

In a letter to the head of the California Natural Resources Agency, Wade Crowfoot, Newsom’s chief of staff, Ann O’Leary, asked for DOGGR head Ken Harris to be dismissed from his position. The instructions followed a news report in the Desert Sun newspaper that hydraulic-fracturing permits have doubled in the state without Newsom’s knowledge, and that seven supervisors in the department own stock in oil companies.

O’Leary also instructed Crowfoot to require DOGGR employees with oil and gas stock to recuse themselves from the permitting process until they are subject to a review, as well as to continue “at full pace” an ongoing investigation into energy-company holdings of DOGGR employees.

“The governor has long held concerns about fracking and its impacts on Californians and our environment, and knows that ultimately California and our global partners will need to transition away from oil and gas extraction,” she wrote.

The move was lauded by consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, which had previously called on Newsom to halt the oil and gas well permitting process until agency officials with conflicts of interest are removed.

“The governor must demand that the entire leadership of the Department of Conservation and DOGGR be accountable for the conflict-ridden agency and dismiss other [Gov. Jerry] Brown appointees that allowed the corrupted oil well approval machine to go on for so long,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said.

Kavya Balaraman covers the California Public Utilities Commission and PG&E Corp. for California Energy Markets. She has reported on climate policy and science in Washington, D.C. and graduated from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.