CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A major oil company has acquired a 5,000-acre ranch southeast of Cheyenne that less than two months ago belonged to U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis and her family, records show.
A limited liability company held the Lummis Ranch South Camp for six weeks before transferring it to Houston-based EOG Resources, formerly known as Enron.
EOG is ramping up oil drilling in southeast Wyoming, targeting the deep Niobrara shale and Codell sand foundations with potentially dozens of new wells south and east of Cheyenne. And it has begun drilling at least four Niobrara oil wells on the former Lummis property five miles southeast of Cheyenne, according to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission website.
Lummis is a member of the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee and is closely involved in oil and gas development issues before Congress. Petroleum interests donate to Lummis' campaigns more than any other industry, and top EOG officials contributed to her 2010 re-election campaign.
Public records suggest a third-party transfer between the Lummises' ownership of the Lummis Ranch South Camp and EOG.
The Lummis family's Arp and Hammond Hardware Co. transferred the Lummis Ranch South Camp property to a limited liability company March 20. Six weeks later, on May 1, Cheyenne-based Frontier Plains, LLC, transferred the ranch to EOG, according to documents on file with the Laramie County Clerk's Office.
Lummis' spokesman, Joe Spiering, provided few specifics when asked about the transactions other than that the first involved a land exchange. Lummis has a minority interest in her family's ranching operations and the March 20 transaction was a value-for-value land exchange that resulted in no profit or loss, according to Spiering.
"New agriculture land has been acquired in this exchange. Other replacement property is yet to be determined," Spiering wrote.
"As a life-long rancher, I am a fierce proponent of production agriculture in the state of Wyoming. I look forward to continuing to be a steward of land that I love in the state that I love," Lummis said in an emailed statement through Spiering.
Lummis and her husband are longtime residents of a home in Cheyenne, according to Spiering.
Asked if EOG and Frontier Plains, which shares the same address as a Cheyenne law firm, have any relationship, Spiering said Thursday he forwarded the question to Lummis, who did not respond either through Spiering or directly to The Associated Press.
EOG spokeswoman K Leonard did not return phone messages seeking comment.
Lindsay A. Woznick, a partner with the Hirst Applegate law firm who is listed as Frontier Plains' sole official on the Wyoming Secretary of State website, also didn't return phone messages.
Neither transaction transferred mineral rights, which county clerk's records show belong to 23 entities and individuals in varying shares. The top two are Willow Street Parters, LP, of Houston, Texas, (37 percent) and John C. Harms, of Littleton, Colorado, (23 percent). Neither Lummis nor her husband, Al Wiederspahn, is on the list of royalty interests.
Ahead of the land exchange, a ranching real estate broker, Hall and Hall, listed the Lummis Ranch South Camp for $8.1 million. The mostly treeless ranch sprawls over rolling grassland and includes a modest, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a detached garage.
Oil and gas industry political action committees have donated $44,000 to Lummis' campaign so far this election cycle, more than any other industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Two EOG officials have donated to Lummis: Frederick Plaeger II gave $250 and Gary Thomas gave $500 to her 2010 campaign, campaign finance records show. Currently Plaeger is vice president for government relations and Thomas senior vice president for operations for EOG.
As a public elected official, Lummis should explain in more detail how the transactions occurred, said Dan Neal, director of the Equality State Policy Center government watchdog group.
"People are naturally going to be interested in what's happening with that property. To me, this just part of the scrutiny that goes along with being a public official," Neal said.
This year, Torrington corrections officer Jason Senteney is challenging Lummis in the Republican primary. No Democrats have stepped forward to challenge Lummis yet.