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‘A little too cordial’

2014

While regulators were developing rules for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, they also appeared at a number of public meetings organized by WSPA to calm public fears about the controversial extraction technique. Before a gathering with farmers, officials with WSPA and the Department of Conservation coordinated their presentations.

“My plan for tonight is to give a very brief talk on our views of the safety of fracking,” wrote Tupper Hull, a WSPA vice president.  “Are you OK with that?”

“It sounds fine,” replied Jason Marshall, the conservation department’s deputy director. “I WILL have to say something about how we are the regulator and not the advocate, but it’s what you’d expect.”

“I think you SHOULD present yourself as the regulator,” Hull wrote. At an earlier meeting, he said, “Some folks thought the Department seemed a little too cordial with oil. Be hard on us.”

2015

In February, lawmakers held an oversight hearing on fracking and pressed Steven Bohlen, the new oil and gas supervisor, about whether there were significant amounts of the carcinogen benzene in fracking fluid. No, he said firmly. The chemical was a natural byproduct of the extraction process.

“An outstanding job,” an oil industry lobbyist wrote to Bohlen after the hearing. “Your efforts are certainly not going unnoticed.”

“I … look forward to digging our way out of this mess together,” Bohlen replied.

2016

In September, Marshall enrolled in a leadership training course. As part of the course he asked a handful of oil industry representatives to evaluate him in an anonymous survey. “I am hoping that through your candid assessment of me,” he wrote, “I will be able to identify areas to improve my leadership skills as well as capitalize on strengths I may not perceive.”

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