Commissioners hire law firm to represent interests in Westmoreland bankruptcy case

At the Oct. 23 commssion meeting, the Lincoln County commissioners signed an agreement with the Law Office of Ken McCartney, P.C., to represent Lincoln County’s interests in the Westmoreland Coal Company Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Westmoreland Coal Company officially entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 9. Westmoreland affiliate Westmoreland Resource Partners, LP (WMLP) simultaneously filed for relief under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

The company announced that in order to restructure, Westmoreland is working with a group of lenders to continue financial operations while in bankruptcy court in Houston, Texas. These operations include paying taxes and wages and ensuring employee benefits.

According to an August 2018 publication by the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Westmoreland’s annual ad valorem taxes levied on mineral production to Lincoln County average around $9 million.

The report stated that Sublette County faces a similar situation in the wake of Vanguard Natural Resources’ bankruptcy. Sublette County has secured $2 million of the mineral tax debts, but is still attempting to collect an additional $2 million that the county is owed. Although the state of Wyoming collects ad valorem taxes on a monthly basis, individual counties in the state may receive those taxes as late as 18 months after the mineral extraction.

The state legislature’s Joint Interim Revenue Committee has discussed a bill that would align the county collection timetable with the state, making it easier for counties to collect ad valorem taxes in a timely manner.