NTUKLos Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has tapped Long Beach’s own Uduak-Joe Ntuk to oversee natural gas drilling and other fossil fuel extraction activity throughout Los Angeles, his office announced Monday.

Ntuk, a Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) and University of Southern California (USC) alumnus set to start October 3, will fill a seat left vacant since the 1980s.

“Nothing is more important to me than the health and safety of everyone who lives, works, and plays in Los Angeles — and they deserve the peace of mind of having a dedicated expert focused on the challenges raised by the drilling and storage of fossil fuels,” said Mayor Garcetti in a statement. “Uduak-Joe Ntuk has the skills and background to work with our residents, industry, and regulators — to help manage oil and gas activities in our neighborhoods, and play a role in steering L.A. toward a cleaner, more sustainable future.”

Ntuk’s hiring came at the behest of City Council President Herb Wesson, who introduced a motion last February to hire a petroleum administrator. The motion passed under his watch, after administrators struggled to address the leaks at Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near Porter Ranch and Chatsworth. 

Residents in South Los Angeles and other areas have also complained about urban oil fields in recent years, saying the frequent movement of oil- or gas-hauling trucks places surrounding communities at risk.

Other councilmembers may see Ntuk’s selection as part of a potential movement on a plan to ban fracking in Los Angeles, which was stalled after city staffers said they did not have the necessary expertise to create the ordinance.

Ntuk will work immediately on negotiating renewals of expired franchise agreements with oil and natural gas pipeline companies, such as Southern California Gas Co. to pay fees and operate within Los Angeles, according to the Mayor’s Office.

“Today’s hiring of the city’s first Petroleum Administrator in decades is a victory for the health and safety of families across Los Angeles,” said City Council President Herb J. Wesson, Jr. “I’m proud to share this accomplishment with members of my community who partnered with me to make this vision a reality.”

“In an era with failing infrastructure, irresponsible neighborhood drilling and storage and rapidly-worsening negative climate impacts from Louisiana to Australia to North Korea, Los Angeles today signals its commitment to addressing fossil fuel issues both locally and globally by hiring a petroleum administrator. I applaud the strong leadership of Mayor Garcetti and Council President Wesson in getting him hired,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz.

Ntuk currently works for Long Beach as a petroleum engineer and lectures part-time in the Chemical Engineering Department at CSULB. In the past, Ntuk served as a Green for All fellow, Alliance for Climate Protection volunteer, and Startingbloc Fellow for the Institute for Social Innovation at the London Business School.

“It is an honor to serve as the City’s Petroleum Administrator,” said Ntuk. “I will focus on doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of L.A.’s communities, while taking a measured approach to the many complex issues raised by fossil fuel extraction in a large city.”

Above, left: Photo courtesy of Ntuk’s LinkedIn profile. 

City News Service contributed to this report.