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Mineral Extraction Companies Owe Wyoming Counties More Than $42 Million


Mineral extraction companies owe Wyoming counties more than $42 million in back taxes, fees, and penalties, according to a new report from the Powder River Basin Resource Council. The publication looked at 12 counties in Wyoming from 2006 to 2016.

Hesid Brandow, an organizer for the PRBRC and one of the initial researchers and authors of the report, said recent bankruptcies are a main contributor to the missing funds, but there are also structural issues. For instance, Brandow said severance tax collection to states occurs on a monthly basis while for counties, the interval can be up to 18 months. 

Brandow said that money is necessary to pay for critical services in counties.

"If you’re in a county where you have these deficits, you might be looking at fewer snow plows on the road, you might be looking at fewer patrol officers, cities may have to cut back on their personnel," Brandow said. 

She added the funds are also important to the state education system. In Campbell County, 75 percent of ad valorem taxes, or taxes on mineral production, go to the school system. That number varies county to county.

If mineral companies won't pay, many counties can’t afford collection efforts. The report proposes several policy solutions, including decreasing the lag time from mineral extraction to county collection. 

"We would also love to see a funding pool established to assist counties in bankruptcies, because right now as it stands counties are on their own to figure it out," Brandow said.

Brandow said every citizen would benefit from clearing up and reforming the mineral tax delinquency issue.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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