Colorado regulators mistakenly send emails with disparaging oil/gas company names as they prepare to OK new rules

Just as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission prepares to vote Friday on several new rules, including much larger buffers from wells, a test email by the staff that used disparaging fake company names was mistakenly released to people in the industry.

As first reported by CBS4 on Wednesday, companies received test emails early Sunday with a list of hearings before the COGCC for companies that included the names “Snake Oil Inc.” and its law firm, “Blah, Blah, Blah.”

An email obtained by The Denver Post showed other names were “Bad Oil and Gas,” “Acme Company II,” “Here We Go Again” and “The Lorax.”

The Acme Corporation was a company in the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons that sold products that would backfire on the coyote. And “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss is a cautionary tale about the environment.

Megan Castle, COGCC spokeswoman, said in an email that to ensure that a new online filing system worked, the staff was practicing on an internal site, “which was accidentally shared with our stakeholders.”

“We apologize that some of the names used during this testing were not professionally chosen. The employees involved in this situation have had this addressed by their supervisors,” Castle said. “This unfortunate incident does not reflect upon the quality of work that has been and will be conducted by COGCC for all its customers. COGCC has more than 70 years of experience working with our industry partners in oil and gas operations. We are committed to continue to uphold the oil and gas regulations in a transparent, fair and legal manner.”

Gov. Jared Polis called the incident “completely unacceptable.”

“Whether you agree with everything the oil and gas industry does or not, in Colorado we treat everyone with honor, respect, and professionalism,” Polis said in a statement Thursday.

Polis said he’s confident in the leadership of COGCC Chairman Jeff Robbins and Director Julie Murphy and knows they will make sure employees understand their responsibility to the oil and gas industry and its workers.

The release of the emails comes the same week as the COGCC is set to give final approval to a series of sweeping changes to state oil and gas regulations, some of which have met strong opposition from the industry.

Among the rules the commission is expected to vote on Friday are protections for wildlife, a ban on routine venting and flaring of natural gas from wells and other equipment and a 2,000-foot setback between new wells and homes and schools.

The COGCC is overhauling the rules to implement Senate Bill 181, passed by the legislature in 2019 to make protecting public health, safety and the environment the priority when managing oil and gas.

Dan Haley, CEO and president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association trade group, declined to comment on the email. He said in an email that COGA is focused on the final days of the rule-making sessions.

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