This is a guest post by Larry Wolfe, an energy and natural resources attorney in Cheyenne. I’ll be inviting guests with extensive subject matter expertise to offer their take on current events and other important policy decisions facing Wyoming. I understand no single person has all the right answers, and I believe the best answers for Wyoming’s circumstances will come only if we listen to many voices, not just mine. – Amy
It would be the biggest government land purchase since the federal government bought Alaska in 1867.
And the good ole’ boys club is vying to make the billion dollar deal without any serious public input.
I’m talking about the Occidental land purchase – Wyoming’s bid for the purchase of one million acres of surface land and four million acres of mineral rights from Occidental Petroleum Corporation.
Gov. Gordon vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have provided for a more public process. Now, he’s opted to treat the Occidental land purchase as an investment, which doesn’t require legislative oversight.
The land parallels I-80 from northeast Colorado into Utah. Gordon touts the recreation potential of the land and the diversity of potential revenue from grazing, wind and solar. On the surface, diversifying revenue and adding to Wyoming’s impressive inventory of public lands sounds great. But like this land deal, my concern is not about what’s on the surface. Most of this land will likely be leased, locking the public out of expanded recreation access, and it’s unlikely we have the funding to effectively manage that land. Ultimately, whether this is a good investment or not hinges on demand for oil and gas.
Wyoming’s advisors on this investment are a who’s who of oil tycoons. The price of oil has plunged 40 percent since January, including a first-ever drop into negative territory.
The Occidental land purchase looks like doubling down on the same revenue sources that have shriveled up and left Wyoming high and dry, facing a $1.5 billion shortfall in the next two years. And Wyoming’s investment strategy during the last decade’s bull market has already left the state billions short of the performance of other states.
But my worry about this being a bad bet is just conjecture, because the even bigger problem is an administration that has left the public, and its representatives, out of the process of a decision that could hugely realign our savings at a time when we may most desperately need stability.
As your representative, Amy will fight to pull back the curtain, let in the light and make sure you have a say in the future of your state.