Map

This map shows the 1 million acres of surface land (in pink) and 4 million mineral acres (in blue) the state’s top officials want to buy from Occidental Petroleum.

CHEYENNE — Occidental Petroleum announced that it is negotiating with a bidder for the millions of acres of land grant properties offered for sale earlier this year in southern Wyoming, and that bidder is not the state of Wyoming. Since negotiations are ongoing, the situation could change, according to a press release.

The land for sale included roughly 1 million acres of land and 4 million acres in mineral rights. The announcement by Occidental is not final, so a press release from the Governor’s Office said the state will keep its bid confidential at this time, until there is a final sale or Wyoming withdraws its bid.

Gov. Mark Gordon stressed that the state participated in the bid process to pursue a once-in-a-generation opportunity to purchase land for the public and diversify Wyoming’s investments.

”I thank everyone who has supported this bid and provided feedback as we pursue this bold opportunity, which could be the biggest land purchase in state history,” Gordon said. “We believe our bid positions Wyoming to generate additional investment revenue and would keep taxes low into the future. I greatly appreciate the willingness of Occidental to work with the state of Wyoming as a bidder.”

Those in the Governor’s Office said they do not know the identity of the leading bidder, nor the amount of the bid.

COUNCIL RESPONDS

The Powder River Basin Resource Council expressed optimism on Tuesday that Wyoming’s bid for millions of acres of land and mineral rights has apparently failed.

“Luckily, Wyoming seems to have dodged a bullet, and escaped what was shaping up to be a very costly investment mistake – sinking maybe a billion dollars of public money into land and minerals. This ill-conceived use of our state’s ‘permanent’ investment funds would have broken an elementary investing rule of sovereign wealth funds, by doubling down on Wyoming’s primary source of existing revenue. And that mistake would have been magnified in this economy where our foundational revenues are sinking fast,” said Bob LeResche, Powder River Board member, in a press release.

“We remain concerned that there has never been transparency from the state in this process. The administration and a few insiders hatched this idea behind closed doors, and the governor vetoed legislation that required public review. The only reason we know what little we do is that the public, organizations such as Powder River, and the press forced disclosure of how a few politicians and bureaucrats were intending to spend Wyoming’s Permanent Mineral Trust Fund. It is unfortunate that the government has wasted so much time and so much money on this speculative deal.”

The press release added now the “government can concentrate on its real job, such as diversifying our economy, slowing the plunge in our revenues, and revising our unsustainable tax structure.”

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