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DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s energy regulator is hearing testimony this week against the K.P. Kauffman Company, an oil and gas firm accused in a series of spills and leaks that were not cleaned up in a timely manner in northern Colorado.

The state’s top energy regulator, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, is holding a three-day trial to examine the five most serious allegations against the company, including spills and leaks on Weld county farms. The COGCC will consider whether the company, known as KPK, “has engaged in a knowing and willful pattern of violation.

KPK, which is headquartered in Denver, could suffer millions in fines or lose their license to operate in Colorado.

Kauffman ‘unable to operate in Colorado safely’

The allegations, detailed in Notices of Alleged Violation, include ignored flow line leaks, oils spills and lax clean-up efforts.

During opening arguments Tuesday, COGCC attorney Caitlin Stafford told commissioners that “Kauffman is unable to operate in Colorado safely.”

Stafford called the company unreliable, incapable and impactful. Stafford cited notices of alleged violations from COGCC and pictures that show the company failed to act when notified of spills or leaks. They also consistently failed to properly dispose of contaminated soil during cleanup efforts.

John Jacus, an attorney for KPK, reminded the court that KP Kauffman is a family-owned business with 150 employees that has operated in Colorado for 37 years. Jacus questioned COGCC’s enforcement of the case during opening arguments. 

“Staff seeks extraordinary relief from this operator,” Jacus said, arguing to the the commission that putting companies out of business is not just.

Commissioners heard evidence and testimony Tuesday from a state inspector who said the company put workers, inspectors, residents and people passing by the property at risk.

A 16-year Kauffman employee also testified about the company’s response protocol when answering an emergency.

Commissioners will decide enforcement action

Commissioners will decide on which enforcement measures to take against the company. 

Gov. Jared Polis appointed the commission’s five full-time members last year as part of Senate Bill 181, the industry’s historic safety legislation passed in 2019.

According to COGCC’s web page, “SB 19-181 ensures that oil and gas development and operations in Colorado are regulated in a manner that protects public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife resources. “