Dec 13, 2013 The Associated Press

Big drug bust in Cheyenne

CHEYENNE -- The Laramie County Sheriff's Department says officers have seized a total of nearly 40 pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine following the arrest of a local man last month.

Federal prosecutors have charged 53-year-old Phillip Martin of Cheyenne with possession of 500 grams or more of methamphetamine following his Nov. 26 arrest. A federal magistrate has ordered him detained.

A press release from the sheriff's office Thursday states officers first found nearly 9 pounds of meth and cocaine in Martin's vehicle. It states a later search of his residence turned up 29 pounds of meth and another pound of cocaine, along with 25 guns and $18,500 in cash.

Cheyenne lawyer Terry Harris represents Martin and has declined comment on the prosecution.

Industry ready to back well tax

CASPER -- The Petroleum Association of Wyoming is willing to support raising a special tax on oil and gas production to help pay for an ambitious plan to plug and clean up potentially thousands of orphan coal-bed methane wells in the Powder River Basin of northeast Wyoming, the organization's president told state lawmakers Thursday.

Wyoming is faced with remediating at least 1,220 and as many as 4,400 idle and abandoned wells in the wake of the basin's sputtering coal-bed methane boom. The smallest number is more than six times as many wells as the state has plugged over the past decade.

A plan requested by the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee and released by Gov. Matt Mead's office this week outlines four-, five- and seven-year scenarios to finish the job. Bonds that companies have deposited with the state to reclaim wells don't nearly cover the highest estimated costs.

Committee members on Thursday discussed raising the conservation tax, a mill levy assessed on oil and gas production that supplies the bulk of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission budget. The state agency's responsibilities include cleaning up orphan wells not located on federal land or mineral rights.

"If they need to raise the mill levy, we support doing that," Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming and a former legislator, told the committee.

The commission has authority to as much as double the conservation tax. That would bring in an additional $5.5 million a year based on current revenue. Mead's just-released proposed budget also would direct $3 million in existing commission funds to orphan wells.

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