EVANSTON — Uinta County received a $2.5 million payment on Dec. 29, from back taxes owed by the Ryckman Creek natural gas processing facility, following purchase of an 80-percent stake of the facility by Spire Energy. Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson said in an email to the Herald that the payment was for unpaid taxes from 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Howieson said this payment was expected and due and satisfies the vast majority of outstanding taxes owed by Ryckman Creek, leaving only a second payment for 2017 taxes that is due in May. The funds received will be distributed among the 13 mill levy holders impacted by the facility’s location, including the county general fund, Uinta County School District No. 1, Uinta County Library, BOCES, and the county conservation, weed and pest, and fire districts, among others.
The litigation process surrounding the unpaid taxes following the company’s bankruptcy filing had been ongoing for an extended period of time, and the parties finally agreed on a settlement back in September. Howieson said the process was extensive, resulting in a huge pile of paperwork, and had required her appearance before the Bankruptcy Court in the District of Delaware, as well as retention of co-counsel to address bankruptcy issues.
“The good news,” said Howieson, “is that an established, long-term and effective company came in and determined to invest in the facility. They want to improve and expand upon it and utilize it to not only support their holdings in the Midwest, but move into the Rocky Mountain and Western regions.”
According to the company’s website, Spire Energy currently serves 1.7 million customers in Missouri, Mississippi and Alabama, and has quadrupled enterprise value to $5 billion in the last five years.
After the Herald left messages with Spire Energy, company representative Jenny Gobble responded via email.
“A Spire Midstream subsidiary acquired an 80 percent ownership interest in Ryckman Creek Resources,” Gobble said. “This aligns with our strategy to grow our natural gas business, including infrastructure investment.
“At Spire, we have more than 160 years of experience delivering natural gas services,” Gobble continued, “and we’ve owned and operated natural gas storage facilities for more than 65 years. We’re really good at this. We know how to make this facility successful.”
Howieson said details surrounding the payment will be discussed further at the Jan. 16 Uinta County Commission meeting.
Gobble said that six local employees were laid off, but that the company plans to grow and expand once the business is stabilized.
"As a part of the bankruptcy agreement, not everyone was retained," she said. "Although not a part of the agreement, we felt it was the right thing to do to offer severance to the six employees in Uinta County who no longer work for the company. Long term, we plan to grow the company, investing in and operating Ryckman Creek in a way that allows us to provide top-notch service to customers. As Ryckman Creek grows, employment opportunities will follow."