CHEYENNE — The state’s five elected officials have officially moved forward on bidding for the Occidental Petroleum Land and Minerals purchase.
The company bought the property and other Wyoming assets as part of its $38 billion acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum last August.
The Houston-based company is selling land and mineral rights covering 7,800 square miles, an area bigger than Connecticut. The bid was due Wednesday and could top $1 billion.
Proponents say the land could provide a better return than some current state investments.
The proposed purchase first became public following a surprise announcement at the start of the 2020 Legislative session. At that time, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said he was seeking legislative involvement in the purchase, which lawmakers speculated could be paid for using the state’s “rainy day fund.” Gordon vetoed a bill setting parameters and creating a more public process for the purchase, which included holding public meetings in the counties containing the land.
The proposed purchase has been in the news for a considerable length of time. However, Wyoming’s five elected officials are the ones making the decision at this point on whether the state will offer a bid. They – governor, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer, attorney general and superintendent of public instruction – held a meeting on Monday and decided they would move forward on the bid. Andrew Graham, WyoFile, has been on top of this purchase from day one. He reported this week “The state of Wyoming signed a contract in late April with banking giant Barclays to pay it $2.5 million to evaluate the purchase of 1 million surface acres and 4 million mineral acres from Occidental Petroleum.
Governor Gordon used a good portion of his Wednesday press conference to address this purchase. Some of the details released prior by WyoFile’s Graham was Barclays’ fee would be based on the success of the purchase. If the amount goes up to the $1.5 billion amount, Barclays pay, originally set at $2.5 million could receive up to $8 million. Some legislators and others throughout the state are objection not only to this arrangement, but to the purchase itself and the fact the Legislature has basically been left out of the equation.
Gordon devoted a large portion of his Wednesday press conference to building support for this purchase. He specifically said, after questioning, the purchase would hurt the tax base of Uinta, Sweetwater and Carbon Counties as these are the three counties in which the massive piece of land lies in Wyoming. He further added, these lands would be taken off of the property tax rolls for theses counties and they would also lose the ad valorem taxes. He didn’t give a dollar-figure for these cuts for the counties.
During the earlier meeting this week, representatives from Rock Springs questioned the amount the city would loose in tax money if the purchase went through.
During the press conference Wednesday, Gordon said the purchase would be considered an investment and the state would have to decide on whether the return would be good for the state.
In addition, as the process continues, Gordon said the state would hold three public hearings, one in Uinta, Sweetwater and Carbon as they are the counties ultimately affected dollar-wise if the purchase would be finalized.
Gordon was also questioned on how this amount of money could be spent when the state is in such a shortfall for revenue on the budget.