State still considering land purchase despite budget shortfalls

Governor Mark Gordon addresses the state of Wyoming discussing the COVID-19 pandemic. April 8, 2020.
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) -- Governor Mark Gordon's office confirmed it is still considering the purchase of land from Occidental Petroleum. The information is also available on the Governor's FAQ page for the potential purchase.

Michael Pearlman, the Communications Director said the state is still continuing to review the potential for the land purchase. On May 1, the State entered into a contract with an investment bank (Barclays) to provide guidance and analysis of the potential purpose.

The announcement that the state would be considering the purchase of one million surface acres and four million mineral acres came at a press conference during the 2020 Budget Session at the Wyoming State Capitol. When asked how much it would cost the state, Governor Gordon said, "It would be a lot of money." Staff members later specified the acreage that was being looked at, but because the land hadn't been appraised they could not give estimates on how much it would cost. On the Governor's FAQ page there is a section that points out, "This potential sale is far from a done deal."

At the beginning of June, the Governor sent out a release that he was instructing state agencies to make deep cuts, "in response to Wyoming’s significant revenue shortfalls." Agency directors are supposed to identify and explain programs to cut by July 1. The Governor said the cuts would likely lead to some employees losing their jobs.

“Wyoming depends on energy production to fund its government and has for decades,” the Governor said. “ But our coal revenues are down 25 percent and will continue to decline. Projected oil revenues have dropped more than 50 percent in three months. Gas is selling for 1970-level prices and there is no new production. Compounding this, sales tax revenues (also largely driven by mineral development) are in steep decline.”

Michael Pearlman said in an email, "As he did before the pandemic, the Governor believes the Occidental land purchase offers the state an opportunity to augment its investment income. If it appears after careful analysis that the purchase would be a benefit for the state, it will continue to be considered. Until the analysis is complete, it would be premature to speculate how the state might proceed with funding the purchase of the land, though certainly, the impacts of the pandemic and the state's financial condition will weigh into that decision.

For the FAQ page, you can go to https://governor.wyo.gov/media/news-releases/2020-news-releases/faqs-for-occidental-land-purchase.

For questions, please email grace.foulk@gray.tv.