GOP Texas Railroad Commissioner candidate wants to regulate oil & gas companies — one of them is his

by | Aug 13, 2020 | Energy, Policy

There is a glaring conflict of interest with Jim Wright, the Republican candidate running for Texas Railroad Commissioner, the state agency responsible for regulating the oil & gas industry and mining in the state. 

On Wednesday, Texas Democrats circulated a news release detailing 255 logged violations of Wright’s company, DeWitt Recyclable Products. The inspections and violations were issued by the Texas Railroad Commission and date back to 2016, two years after his oilfield waste disposal company was founded. 

Most striking, 50 of the violations for Wright’s company are for the unpermitted disposal of oil and gas wastes at his company’s facility in DeWitt County. 

It’s clear why owning a waste disposal facility  —  one of only 24 facilities in Texas permitted to receive oilfield waste — could be problematic for someone running for a spot in the three-person Railroad Commission. The agency is ultimately responsible for the regulation and enforcement of oil & gas companies that must adhere to pages and pages of Texas administrative code.

But inspections and violations aside, Wright’s company is also engaged in a slew of litigation that presents even more problems for his candidacy. One such lawsuit was profiled in great detail by the Houston Chronicle this week. The report explains how Wright’s waste disposal company, which he sold Watson Energy Investments (but remained listed as the president) was shut down by the Texas Railroad Commission.

“Shortly after the facility was shut down, Watson Energy Investments fell behind on its payments to Wright,” the Chronicle’s Sergio Chapa reported. “He excercised an option in the contract to take control of the facility. In a lawsuit filed in March against his former business partners, Wright maintains that Watson still owes him $495,000 of payments from sale and another $180,000 in crude oil royalties.” 

According to the Chronicle, Wright is seeking a permit for another oilfield waste recycling company and has promised to recuse himself if elected. 

Wright is also engaged in two other ongoing lawsuits, one involving two storage tank companies and another with a construction company. Texas Democrats are accusing Wright of seeking office to avoid his financial problems. 

“These acts disqualify my opponent from serving as Railroad Commissioner,” Chrysta Castañeda, Wright’s Democratic opponent, said in a prepared statement. “If Jim Wright can’t follow the rules the Railroad Commission is sworn to uphold, Texans cannot trust him to represent them as their Commissioner.”

Photo: USDA NRCS TexasWikimedia Commons

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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