Oil

Wednesday, Feb 19 2014 05:34 PM

State appoints new top regulator over local oilfields

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    By Contributed photo

    Dan Wermiel is the new district deputy of the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources' District 4, which includes Kern County.

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BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

A geologist with experience overseeing underground injection work in Bakersfield oilfields has been appointed Kern County's top oil regulator.

When he reports to work May 1, Dan Wermiel, 61, will become the third man since 2011 to lead the district that produces more than 70 percent of the state's oil. His salary will be $9,806 per month.

Oil industry representatives applauded Wednesday's announcement that Wermiel has been appointed district deputy of the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources's District 4, which consists mostly of Kern County.

"Our focus is getting permits, and I think it takes an experienced person. He's an experienced person, so we feel confident there will be continuity there," said Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association trade group.

The district deputy position has been vacant since Burt Ellison left the job in late October, blaming state bureaucracy for his early retirement. Ellison took over after his predecessor, Randy Adams, was put on paid suspension in April 2011 and ordered back to work three months later. The reason for Adams' suspension was never disclosed publicly, and he left the division in October 2011.

On Wednesday, Ellison called Wermiel a good motivator and geologist, and "an extremely nice man."

"It's such a critical position," said Ellison, who now works as a senior geologist for Bakersfield oil producer E&B Natural Resources Management Corp. "He's gonna do very well."

He added that Wermiel's appointment "says that the Bakersfield district office is just as important as any of the higher positions in Sacramento, that it needs solid leadership."

Wermiel currently serves as DOGGR's technical program manager, a supervisorial position covering numerous duties, including engineering and research, administrative services, monitoring and compliance with state laws, and underground injection work such as waste disposal.

After graduating from the University of Miami, Wermiel earned a master's degree in geology at Arizona State University. He worked in oil and gas exploration and development in Colorado before going to work in 1986 as a petroleum geologist at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.

In 2009, he joined DOGGR as a field engineer in the Sacramento district. He moved to Bakersfield to manage District 4's underground injection program in 2011 before returning to Sacramento to work in the division's headquarters.

State Oil and Gas Supervisor Tim Kustic, the head of DOGGR, said Wermiel's experience as a state regulator and petroleum geologist allowed him to moved rapidly through the ranks at the division.

"Dan is certainly the most flexible member of the management team," Kustic noted in a press release.

Wermiel did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

But in DOGGR's news release he stated, "I spent almost two years in Bakersfield, so I'm familiar with District 4 operations. I'm looking forward to this opportunity and to continuing to advance the regulatory priorities of the division."

District 4 produces 71 percent of the state's oil and 33 percent of its natural gas.

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