by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel
The state of Wyoming is considering the purchase of a vast swath of land along the Union Pacific Railroad corridor, including over 1 million acres of surface and 4 million acres of mineral rights. The valuable resource is now owned by Occidental Petroleum, since its 2019 merger with Anadarko.
The land, if purchased, would be owned by Wyoming’s State Board of Land Commissioners, a board that exists in all the Western states. They manage state trust lands, especially the state school trust lands, set aside at the time of statehood to earn money for public schools. The land boards can and do buy more land to benefit those trusts, but this deal has an unprecedented angle — not all of this land is in Wyoming.
Occidental’s holdings along that rail corridor cross into three states. Some 600,000 of those acres are in Utah, and 200,000 in Colorado. That has the attorneys general of both states hitting the books in their law libraries asking the question — can they do that?