County joins federal lawsuit, examines Bank of the West

EVANSTON — During the Tuesday, Sept. 4, work session, the Uinta County Commission discussed the possibility of severing ties with Bank of the West and the county signing on to a lawsuit against the federal government for owed PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) funds.

Uinta County Treasurer Terry Brimhall and Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson spoke with the commissioners about the possibility of severing ties with Bank of the West following a recent announcement that Bank of the West would no longer support energy projects, such as coal, oil and gas, that were not actively involved in a transition to green energy sources.

Brimhall said several other Wyoming counties had severed relationships with the bank following the announcement. While Uinta County does not have long-term investments with Bank of the West, she said credit cards, payroll and accounts payable do go through that bank.

Employees with the Evanston Bank of the West branch are reportedly “quite adamant” that if an energy company is even working on green energy the institution will still work with them, but Brimhall said the statement issued by Bank of the West makes it “pretty clear” they are not going to work with companies not involved with clean energy. Howieson said Bank of the West is “essentially saying they will provide no funding, loans or promotion if companies are not involved with clean energy.”

Brimhall said in Uinta County, coal, oil and gas account for approximately 37 percent of the tax roll. Commission chair Eric South said he feels that’s an underestimate because those industries account for a big percentage of other business and tax collections as well.

“My recommendation is that we pull out as well,” South said. “I’m pretty adamant about that. We need to send that message.” Commissioner Wendell Fraughton agreed.

Commissioner Craig Welling said he agrees philosophically, but added, “We have five financial institutions. It’s important to consider the ramifications of a financial institution leaving the county.”

Pictured:  Uinta County Commissioners Craig Welling and Wendell Fraughton review documents during the Tuesday, Sept. 4 commission meeting. (HERALD PHOTO/Sheila McGuire)


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