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'Snake Oil Inc': Colorado Agency Mistakenly Sends Email To Oil & Gas Companies Calling Them Derogatory Names

DENVER (CBS4) - The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is apologizing after sending an inappropriate email ridiculing the very companies it regulates. CBS4 has learned that staff members at COGCC were testing a new e-filing system when they inadvertently sent an email to hundreds of oil and gas workers across the state.

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The email called the companies they work for names that you don't expect from people who are supposed to be fair and unbiased.

The email arrived early Sunday morning with a list of oil and gas companies that had upcoming hearings. The names of the companies included "Snake Oil Inc.," it's law firm "Blah Blah Blah" and its cause or case number "666" -- a designation for the devil.

Other names included "Acme Company," "Bad Oil and Gas," "Really Rich," "Here We Go Again," and "The Lorax" -- a Dr. Seuss character that warns about environmental destruction.

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"As our entire economy is struggling, that they have time to make jokes and horrible comments about the hard working women and men in our industry, it's just sad," said Chelsie Miera, who represents oil and gas companies on the Western Slope.

She says if state employees thought it was a joke, operators and workers don't find it funny. The email comes in the middle of hearings to overhaul the regulatory framework for industry.

"There's been no acknowledgement that this even happening in those meetings," said Miera.

A follow up message said only that "the emails were sent in error."

Miera says she's concerned that they came from people who control the fate of the industry.

"This unfortunately just really highlights the level of bias that we are dealing with. These are the staff that deal with our permit applications. They're also ones who go out and do our inspections and issue corrective actions. They're the ones who help draft these regulations that we're going through. I expect more from my 2 and 4 year old. We're working through pre-K and what is and isn't okay. This is black and white not okay."

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A spokesperson for COGCC released a statement late Wednesday afternoon saying,

"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. 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."

CBS4 reached out to Gov. Jared Polis' office. The governor initially had no comment. After the story aired, Polis released this statement:

"This is 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. I have confidence in Chair Robbins and Director Murphy's leadership and know that they will be taking this opportunity to make sure all employees at COGCC understand their responsibility to the oil and gas industry and its workers."

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