Meet the secretive ‘mastermind’ behind Utah’s oil boom

Production in Utah's oil-rich Uinta Basin is at an all-time high. Texas oilman Jim Finley is credited with opening the floodgates.

A Bit Of A Ghost

The Utah’s oil boom: Jim Finley is a bit of a ghost. Outside of oil industry circles, few people have probably ever heard of the man. He rarely speaks in public.

Utah's oil boom

One exception was in October 2021. When Finley the CEO of Texas-based Finley Resources. Presented to a coalition of seven oil-producing counties in eastern Utah. Following his speech, coalition board members and staff applauded Finley for his investments in Utah’s oil-rich Uinta Basin, and thanked him for making time to speak. One person noted that he is a particularly difficult man to get hold of.

“Sometimes nobody knows where I am,” Finley said.

“On purpose,” someone else chimed in. Finley chuckled.

A Key Role

The Texas oilman has played a key role. In spearheading the kind of oil boom that has long evaded the remote basin. In just over a decade, he’s become one of the top producers in the Uinta. And is now playing an outsize role in shaping Utah’s energy future.

Finley has thrown his support behind a controversial rail line that would make it easier for him and the basin’s five other producers to export oil to out-of-state markets, while simultaneously boosting export capacity via trucking and existing rail. He has his fingers in every aspect of basin production, from drilling oil and mining sand for hydraulic fracturing to operating a transloading facility and a growing fleet of oil trains. Powerful political allies have helped him expand his empire, primarily by funneling public money toward infrastructure projects that benefit the oil sector.

Chris Kuveke, a researcher at BailoutWatch, a watchdog group that provided HuffPost with extensive research on Finley’s portfolio and operations, called Finley “the mastermind” of the basin’s current oil boom.

“He has a long history of using campaign finance and lobbying as influence to get his projects where he wants them to be,” Kuveke said. “And he knows what he’s doing. He has a serious track record of influencing the industry that he wants to grow, being a linchpin. And that’s what he’s doing in the Uinta.”


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