California’s chief regulatory agency for oil and natural gas development has been renamed going into the new year, with a focus on public health, safety and environmental issues within the energy sector. 

The newly named California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) replaced the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. 

CalGEM, created last year by Assembly Bill 1057, comes as the state’s once robust oil and gas industry is steadily shrinking while low-carbon energy sources are growing.

DOC Director David Shabazian said the division’s mission has evolved since it was founded more than 100 years ago and now is focused on protecting public health, safety and the environment while guiding the state to a “low-carbon future.”

CalGEM is charged with reducing and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions; requiring increased financial protections from onshore operators on the integrity of their operating and idle wells; and mandating additional documentation on changes in well ownership.

CalGem chief Udauk-Joe Ntuk said the division will not only expand its focus, but “concurrently oversee energy production in a manner that aligns with the state’s clean energy and climate goals.”

Ntuk noted that California remains one of the nation’s largest oil-producing states, even with a steady drop in volumes over the past 35 years. In 1985, total production was 424 million bbl, compared to a preliminary final total for 2018 of 161.8 million bbl.