KGOU

Joe Wertz

Managing Editor for StateImpact Oklahoma

Joe has previously served as Managing Editor of Urban Tulsa Weekly, as the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Oklahoma Gazette and worked as a Staff Writer for The Oklahoman. Joe was a weekly correspondent for KGOU from 2007-2010. He grew up in Bartlesville, Okla., lives in Oklahoma City, and studied journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Ways to Connect

Mick Cornett speaks to his supporters after advancing to the Republican runoff primary election.
Joe Wertz / Oklahoma Engaged

Former Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett will face Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt in a runoff for the Republican nomination for governor. 

A sign advertises recreational and medical marijuana outside a dispensary in Colorado.
David Anderson / David Anderson

Pregnant women would be barred from obtaining a medical marijuana license if voters on Tuesday approve State Question 788, under proposed rules under consideration at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The draft rules would also restrict people on probation and those recently convicted of a felony from obtaining a commercial license.

A sign marks the entrance to a coal ash reclamation pit near Bokoshe in southeastern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is the first state in the nation to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval to manage its own coal ash disposal program. State and federal officials and utility companies said Oklahoma’s plan would improve oversight, but environmental groups like Earthjustice and the Sierra Club said the move protects industry and endangers public health.

U.S. Geological Survey

Previously unmapped faults in Oklahoma could be contributing to an intense uptick in earthquakes triggered by oil-field wastewater disposal, a new study suggests.

Eric Haynes of Ada, Okla., says poorly maintained roads and sidewalks are among the biggest issues his community faces.
Caroline Halter / KGOU

Oklahoma voters will pick their primary candidates on June 26 and weigh in on a state question about legalizing medical marijuana. The political heat will build through the summer with high-profile endorsements, big-money ad blitzes and campaign promises.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A district court judge has approved class-action status for a lawsuit accusing an Tulsa oil company of being responsible for damage caused by earthquakes.

StateImpact Oklahoma

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case about Native American territory and a 1999 murder that could broadly affect tribal sovereignty and state legal authority.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Sunday before Scott Pruitt’s confirmation hearing to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt stood on the stage of his hometown church, bowed his head, and prayed.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

As Donald Trump’s EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt is popular with conservatives for his aggressive rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations. He has also been strongly criticized for alleged ethics violations. But there’s another side of Pruitt that’s less well known.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday released an audit and other documents related to a corruption probe his office fought to keep secret.

The records stem from an investigation launched in 2011 of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust, which was set up to buy contaminated properties and relocate residents near the Tar Creek Superfund site, a former lead and zinc mine in northeastern Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Supreme Court

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday ruled a proposed state question that would ask voters to approve tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund education can move forward.

Here's how contentious the wind industry has become in Oklahoma: When a state representative discovered a GPS tracker on his pickup truck late last year, he immediately suspected the industry, in an allegation straight out of a political thriller.

"I pissed off a huge corporation," Rep. Mark McBride told a police officer, according to audio from a police body camera obtained by StateImpact Oklahoma. "You know anything about wind farms?"

McBride explained he may have been targeted because he was writing legislation to increase taxes on the wind industry.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Dewey County Courthouse is one of the newest in Oklahoma. The offices are spacious, and the courtroom has fresh carpet and shiny wood trim. County Commissioner M.W. “Junior” Salisbury is excited to play tour leader.

“I’m pretty proud of our little courthouse here,” he says. “I really, really am.”

Officials figured they would need 25 years to pay it off, but it took less than five. One major reason: wind farms.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators are expanding rules designed to reduce earthquake activity triggered by fracking. Updated guidelines released Tuesday by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission put new requirements on companies operating in two of the state’s most booming oil fields.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Environmental groups and concerned residents this week told federal officials the Oklahoma agency charged with protecting air, land and water lacked the resources and rules to manage a state-run plan to regulate coal ash.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After getting concessions, a group of small independent oil and gas producers is now endorsing a suite of tax increases and government reforms written by a group of business leaders known as the Step Up Oklahoma plan.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma experienced a dramatic drop in earthquakes in 2017 — a decline likely due, in part, to regulations limiting activity at oil-field disposal wells, scientists and experts say. New research suggests those regulations might be reducing some quakes more than others.

It’s been two years since state oil and gas regulators adopted a broad regional plan that limits the amount of wastewater pumped into disposal wells in quake-prone areas. The good news: It appears to be working. After peaking in 2015, earthquakes became a lot less frequent.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Federal and state authorities are investigating the cause of the deadly explosion and fire at a natural gas drilling rig in southeastern Oklahoma on Monday. 

Oklahoma Supreme Court

The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association on Wednesday filed two separate state Supreme Court challenges to a proposed state question that would ask voters to end industry discounts and impose a broad 7 percent tax on oil and gas production to fund teacher pay raises and early childhood education.

Mickey Thompson, founder and director of Restore Oklahoma Now, leaves the attorney general's office after filing paperwork for State Question 795.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Mickey Thompson has a manila envelope tucked under his arm as he walks towards the Oklahoma Capitol. If the paperwork doesn’t start a fight, it almost certainly will add fuel to one.

Inside the envelope is the handiwork of about 10 people over a couple of months that could clear a path for Oklahoma voters to do something most lawmakers won’t consider: Enact broad tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

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