The Republican candidate running to join the Texas oil and gas regulatory agency has run afoul of state environmental rules and is embroiled in a series of lawsuits accusing him of fraud in the oil patch.
Jim Wright, owner of an oilfield waste services company, says he has done nothing wrong and that he’s the victim of a Democratic Party smear job.
If nothing else, South Texas court filings and public records showing more than $180,000 in state fines levied against Wright point to the fractiousness of the oilfield.
Wright, who lives on a ranch outside Orange Grove, 35 miles northwest of Corpus Christi, faces Democrat Chrysta Castañeda, a Dallas oil and gas attorney and engineer, in November for a spot on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission.
At the center of the disputes is DeWitt Recyclable Products, a company Wright started nearly a decade ago near Cuero to take oily muds and other drilling site byproducts and recycle them into crude oil, diesel fuel and cleaned-up dirt.
James McAda, who has run an oilfield services company for more than three decades and is fighting Wright in court, said he is owed more than $200,000 by Wright.
“I think a man who wants to do that kind of job should be following the rules of the agency that he’s going to help run,” McAda said. “This wasn’t just some little small type infraction violation; this was a pretty major deal involving disposal of waste.”
“I’m a dedicated Republican voter, but I don’t think Jim Wright is the man for the job,” he added.
Another company that had sued Wright over cleanup issues, Tidal Tank, settled with him after his March primary victory.
In a separate case, oilfield services firm Petro Swift LLC of Kerrville has accused Wright, his partners and DeWitt Recyclable Products of failing to pay for construction work the Kerrville company did at the Cuero-area site.
Petro Swift attached a lien to the property, but company officials accuse Wright of “fraudulent transfers” of the property through different companies to avoid payment.
Petro Swift co-owner Travis McRae told the American-Statesman that going after Wright was “like chasing a ghost through the woods.”
He said Wright owes Petro Swift about $205,000 on the original bills, plus at least $70,000 in attorney’s fees.
“If the guy can’t follow the rules of his own permits — if he doesn’t have respect for rules that are assigned him that he has to comply with — what makes anyone think he’s going to try to enforce rules when he holds that office?” McRae said.
McRae described himself as a “hardcore conservative, Republican all the way down the ticket.”
But, he said, “I’m not voting for Jim Wright.”
“I always thought the Democratic side is anti-oil, anti-fracking, so let’s have a Republican on the Railroad Commission,” he said. “In this particular case, based on personal experience, I don’t want that dude running anything — even if that means voting Democratic.”
We’ve seen these allegations before, and there’s not a lot of new factual information in this story. The main difference is these quotes from two people who know Jim Wright from being in the same industry and would normally vote for him as the Republican candidate for RRC, except they know who he is and won’t vote for him as a result. I’m not so naive as to think that the negative opinion of two Republicans in an election where we might see upward of ten million votes is in any way a factor in this race. But the differences between the two candidates is a factor in Chrysta Castaneda’s favor, as her recent poll indicated, and thus it’s why she hopes to raise enough money to get that message out. The next time you happen to talk politics with one of your less-engaged friends, this is the kind of race you should make them aware of. It’s the best chance we have.