|(Oct. 12, 2019, 6:35 p.m.) -- CA Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed Uduak-Joe Ntuk to the position "Supervisor of the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources" which operates under the California Department of Conservation (for which he also named a new director.)
Gov. Newsom announced his selection of Mr. Ntuk in an Oct. 12 release stating that the Governor had signed "six bills to move California away from fossil fuels" and "announced new leadership and major reforms for the state's Geologic Energy Management Division" as part of "reforms and new leadership [to] enhance safety of existing oil wells, refocus the stateís geologic energy division to better consider public health and fight against the Trump administrationís efforts to expand oil extraction in California."
Among the six bills signed by Gov. Newsom was AB 342 (by Ass'yman Al Maratsuchi, D, Torrance) barring state bodies "or any local trustee" from entering into leases authorizing new oil-and gas-related infrastructure connecting to previously federally protected lands. (In July 2019, Governor Newsom dismissed of the state agency's chief when environmental advocacy groups criticized the issuance of a large number of state permits allowing hydraulic fracturing ("fracking.")
Given the work requirements of the Sacramento agency senior position, it's not immediately clear if Mr. Ntuk intends to continue in his current LBCC Trustee position. The full board generally meets once a month
Regardless of how he plans to manage the arguable disconnect from LB and the LBCC position and the 500 mile commute from LB, the choice of Mr. Ntuk for the $209,940 state agency Supervisor position also arguably creates an issue for his spouse, Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, currently running against 8th dist. incumbent Al Austin and Reform-ticket challenger Juan Ovalle. If elected to the Council, would Ms. Thrash-Ntuk effectively be a robotic supporter of policies advocated by Governor Gavin Newsom (regardless of their impacts on LB)? Incumbent Councilman Austin is endorsed by Mayor Robert Garcia, who's mainly supported or remained silent on policies advocated by Gov. Newsom that have run counter to local control on housing and land use.
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Mr. Ntuk, 40, holds a Master of Science Degree in petroleum engineering from USC and has been a petroleum administrator for the City of Los Angeles since 2016 [2018 salary was $141,940; source: Transparent CA database] prior to which he was a petroleum engineering associate for the City of LB from 2006-2011.
Mr. Ntuk is also a visible Dem Party partisan (delegate to 2016 national convention where he supported Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.) He was elected to LBCC's Board of Trustees in 2018 (outpolling veteran incumbent Jeff Kellogg (one of LB's last remaining Republican electeds) in a campaign marked by an Ntuk mailer that noted that Jeff's brother Keith [a retired U.S. Army Three-Star General and combat veteran] had advised candidate Donald Trump on national security matters and was part of the Trump White House's national security team. In the mailer, Mr. Ntuk's said: "As someone actively engaged in the battle against the Trump Administration agenda, I will work hard as your Community College Board Member to defend our Democratic values, ideals and educational policies."
In addition, within weeks of learning that he faced no serious challenge to his 2018 re-election, 9th district Council incumbent Rex Richardson made a $10,000 "in-kind campaign" contribution to Ntuk's LBCC campaign from Richardson's Council re-election campaign warchest (for "campaign staff/walkers," providing a valuable ground campaign for Ntuk's campaign to unseat Kellogg.) [The $10,000 in-kind contribution was to our knowledge the largest single campaign contribution, in-kind or otherwise, in the history of LBCC's supposedly non-partisan governing Board of Trustee races.]
Mr. Ntuk was silent on two recent petroleum-related LB-impacting issues. He took no public position regarding continued use of Modified Hydrofluoric Acid (MHF) at the LB-adjacent Valero Wilmington and Torrance (ToRC) refineries (the only two CA refineries that use MHF, a highly corrosive chemical that if released in a catastrophic scenario could create mass casualties.) Mr. Ntuk was a member of an SCAQMD Proposed Rule 1410 "working group" that had no voting authority but was regularly briefed by AQMD staff on a proposed AQMD rule that, if approved by the AQMD Board, would phase out/ban continued use of MHF at the two refineries. Mr. Ntuk's "working group" membership was as a representative of the City of Los Angeles' Office of Petroleum and Natural Gas Administration. Spotted by LBREPORT.com at an AQMD meeting last year, Mr. Ntuk politely declined comment to us on the MHF issue stating that his presence was as a represent of the City of L.A. LB's policy-setting City Council took no position on the issue; Mayor Garcia (who doesn't set city policy) sent a letter stating that he personally supports a phase out of MHF. In September 2019, an SCQMD board majority voted to allow the refineries' continued use of MHF over the passionate dissent of L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn (LBREPORT.com coverage here.)
Mr. Ntuk was also publicly silent over a proposal by Beach Oil Mineral Partners (which includes Synergy Oil) to transfer to public ownership the lion's share of the Los Cerritos Wetlands, enabling public ownership/access to what had been the privately-owned Bixby oil field and facilitating removal of decades of its eyesore oil pipes/tanks. The proposal was conditioned on replacing old technology oil rigging/equipment with state of the art off-site slant drilling of over 100 new wells and created an unusual rift among LB area environmental advocates. The Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust and LB city officials supported the plan as an opportunity (that might not re-occur) to gain public control of the wetlands coupled with removal of its eyesore oil pipes and tanks. However a number of LB-area environmental activists opposed the plan citing a risk of oil spills amplified by the Newport-Inglewood fault (which bisects the wetlands) and calling the plan inconsistent with reducing reliance on fossil fuels. In Jan. 2018, the LB City Council voted 7-2 (Pearce, Gonzalez dissenting) to support the plan. LBREPORT.com coverage here.)
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