While the Wyoming Leg- islature passed House Bill 158 to change payments of ad valorem taxes to monthly beginning in 2023, before it even takes place, JonahEnergy, LLC., is asking Sub- lette County to exempt it.
Commissioners considered the written request during their April 7 meeting.
In a letter from Jonah Vice President Paul Ulrich, he asks Sublette County Com- missioners to rely on a section of the bill that allows a company to be exempted and pay taxes on the previous schedule.
“The newly enrolled act also provides for counties, section F, to enter into an agreement independently with a taxpayer to provide an exemption from the Enrolled Act,” Ulrich states in the letter. “This sec- tion is critical as it demonstrates the un- derstanding of the Legislature that in some cases a taxpayer in good standing should not be required to shoulder additional un- necessary financial burden.”
He argues Jonah deserves the consid- eration because, “It is a taxpayer in good standing.” The company paid $118 million in tax revenue to Wyoming in 2019 – $30 million in ad valorem taxes.
“Our entire investment is in Wyoming,” Ulrich said. “We formed Jonah Energy in 2014 with the purchase of Encana’s Jonah Field and NPL assets and further commit- ted to Sublette County by investing in the
purchase and operation of Linn Energy’s assets. We are dedicated to Sublette County and Wyoming.”
Ulrich told commissioners during the meeting by video that the company is merely asking to keep the past pay sched- ule, but provide addition guarantees, such as a first lien, that are a better protection for the county.
Sublette County Treasurer Emily Paravi- cini discouraged the special consideration, saying the bill passed to protect counties, which bear the brunt when a company goes into bankruptcy.
Sublette County Assessor John Para- vicini also cautioned the commissioners, saying giving one company a break opens the county up for “asks” from every other company.
“We are already seeing companies be- come very creative in their reporting,” John Paravicini said.
Emily Paravicini said on April 7 alone, commissioners would sign five Notices of Valuation Changes handed down by the state – two for Jonah – that impact the county for hundreds of thousands of dollars that must be repaid because the companies did not self-report correctly.
“On behalf of the 200-plus employees of Jonah Energy, we appreciate your dedica- tion to Sublette County and look forward to working with you on an agreement that
provides us the necessary stability and you the necessary protection measures,” Ulrich adds in his request.
Commissioner Mack Rawhouser ac- knowledged Jonah’s contribution to the county, saying the company has been pay- ing the county’s bills for years. He said he is willing to have the county attorney and possibly another attorney specializing in taxes review the Legislature’s provisions.
“These are tough times and everybody needs everybody else,” Rawhouser said.
Commissioners approved having the county attorney look into the offer.
Ulrich pointed to several companies in the northwest part of the state that have left counties high and dry with back taxes unpaid when they filed for bankruptcy. He said that forced the Legislature to take action that penalizes companies in good standing
“I would hope the citizens of Sublette County know there are better ways to
protect our development and our county,” Ulrich said.
In other actions:
• Commissioners authorized Shad Coo- per to make additional expenditures as needed for the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Commissioner Joel Bousman encour- aged those expenditures to be kept as sepa- rate line items, because a majority of the expenses going back to January could be reimbursed by Federal Emergency Man- agement Agency.
• Commissioners renewed insurance with One Beacon.
• Commissioners approved an increase in costs of $7,194.50 to reconfigure the White Pine communications tower to ac- commodate WyoLink equipment.
• A five-person Centennial Committee was appointed.
• A budget transfer was approved for $36,756.26 to correctly represent refunds, repayments and utility rebates.