CASPER, Wyo. — An Oklahoma company is suing at least three Wyoming counties, two energy companies and a bank over a tax dispute dating back to 2009.
Tripower Resources LLC filed suit in Campbell County District Court in late March after Campbell, Crook and Converse counties each listed the company as tax delinquent in late August. According to each county's treasurer, the company is on the hook for about $885,000 in production taxes from about 12 wells.
But Tripower says many of the taxes owed aren't its responsibility. The company — which produces oil and gas in Oklahoma and has no other operations in Wyoming — says it owns the properties because a past debtor defaulted on a company-to-company loan.
"We’re not responsible" for the past taxes, company President John Gibbs said. "I guess they figure they can't get anything out of the guys that owe it, so they go after the guys with resources."
The counties, meanwhile, say they have the power to place liens on oil and gas wells that can survive transfers in ownership.
"If someone else begins operating wells and profiting from them, they pay the tax," Converse County Treasurer Joel Schell said.
The taxes owed date to 2009 and include at least three companies.
Tripower loaned $3.5 million to Reserve Energy Corp. and Wildfire Partners Inc., in 2008, according to court documents. The companies agreed to repay the amount by February 2009, but instead defaulted on the agreement.
Tripower took over a controlling stake in the wells in 2010, but taxes for 2009 and 2010 were still due to the counties. Each of the three counties finally placed liens on all future production in August, naming Tripower as a delinquent party and effectively blocking the company from operating the wells fully until all debts are paid.
The liens total about $750,000 in Converse County, $70,400 in Campbell County and $62,600 in Crook County.
Gibbs said his company is hoping the court will release his company from responsibility for the 2009 and 2010 owed taxes so it can move on.
The company also wants a $75,000 Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission bond and a $25,000 Bureau of Land Management bond previously in Wildfire or Reserve's name to be released back to them. The money is being held by ANB Bank in Casper.
TriPower is also seeking damages from the breach of its contract with Reserve and Wildfire, although court documents don't say how much the company will seek.
Phone numbers for neither Reserve nor Wildfire could be found.
"We’re just wanting the court to look at the facts and say, 'Hey, here’s what happened,'" Gibbs said. "It has nothing to do with us."