Joe Wertz

Digital Reporter 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.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
7:36 am
Thu July 24, 2014

Why Oklahoma’s Wind Energy Future Could Be Shaped By Osage County

Bob Hamilton, director of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska, Okla.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is moving up the national ranks in wind-generated electricity. But as wind farms expand into northeastern Oklahoma, developers are facing a team of unlikely allies: oil interests and environmentalists.

Wind farm developers encounter opposition wherever projects are planned, but the debate in Oklahoma is perhaps most magnified in Osage County, where there’s a confluence of money, government and prairie politics.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:04 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Oklahoma Officials May Reconsider Keeping Oil Train Info Secret

Sam Beebe Flickr Creative Commons

In the wake of deadly derailments, fiery explosions and dangerous spills, the federal government in May ordered railroads to share with state authorities more information about some crude oil shipments.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
3:44 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Four More State Parks At Risk As Budget Cuts And Low Revenue Loom

Credit Christopher Caldwell / Flickr Creative Commons

Four state parks in northeastern Oklahoma could be sold off, leased out or closed due to state budget cuts and low park revenue.

Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation hasn’t made a final decision on three of the parks, but is considering selling or leasing Disney/Little Blue Area at Grand Lake, Snowdale Area at Grand Lake and Spring River Canoe Trails.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:25 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

Oklahoma Agrees To Keep Oil Train Shipments Secret

Flames and smoke are seen in an May 2014 oil-train derailment along Virginia's James River.
Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. Flickr Creative Commons

Surging oil production in states like North Dakota has outpaced pipeline capacity, and the energy industry has turned to railroads to transport oil from fields to refineries.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
6:36 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

High-Rate Disposal Wells Could Have Triggered Oklahoma Earthquakes, New Study Suggests

The "Chambers" disposal well in southeast Oklahoma City.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

This year, Oklahoma has had more earthquakes than California. There is a growing body of scientific research that suggests oil and gas production is fueling this increase in seismic activity.

new paper published today in the journal Science, suggests a small number of wastewater wells used in drilling operations could be responsible for many of the quakes.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
7:40 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Town Hall Turns Testy As Oklahomans Seek Action And Answers On Earthquakes

Shaken residents line up inside Edmond's Waterloo Road Baptist Church to voice concerns and ask representatives from the Corporation Commission and the state Geological Survey questions about recent earthquakes.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahomans rattled by a surge of earthquakes on Thursday packed a contentious town hall meeting in Edmond and demanded answers and action from public officials.

There was booing and shouts for regulators to impose a moratorium on wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry, which scientists have linked to Oklahoma’s exponential increase in earthquake activity.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
7:10 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Study: Climate Change Challenges Oklahoma’s Temperature-Sensitive Economy

Future temperature changes pose serious risks to the climate-sensitive agricultural and energy industries in Oklahoma and other Great Plains states, a new study on the business and economic effects of climate change concludes.

Oklahoma's average summer temperature range is expected to increase from 81.7-83.58°F to 87.0-93.51°F from 2020 to 2099, the report predicts.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
12:26 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Legal Challenge To New Drilling Incentive Could Raise Big Constitutional Questions

A legal challenge to a recently signed bill authored by Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman could have wide-ranging effects.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

A controversial bill setting the effective tax rate on new oil and gas wells was one of the capstones of the 2014 legislative session.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
5:43 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

To Get Permit In Earthquake Zone, Disposal Well Operator Agrees To Extra Monitoring

Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

An oil company seeking to build a disposal well in earthquake-prone Logan County has agreed to record additional pressure and volume measurements to get a permit from the state’s oil and gas regulator.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Thursday voted 2-0 to approve the disposal well for Kansas-based Slawson Exploration. Commissioner Dana Murphy abstained from the vote “saying she wanted to wait until more seismic data was available,” The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

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The Salt
3:46 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Oklahoma's Extreme Drought Has Wheat Farmers Bracing For Worst

Fred and Wayne Schmedt say the drought has withered their wheat plants down from an average height of 24 to 30 inches to just 6 to 8 inches.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oaklahoma

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 6:27 pm

Rainfall totals in southwest Oklahoma are more than 3 inches below normal. And that means that the wheat crop grown in brothers Fred and Wayne Schmedt's farm is several inches shorter than normal as well.

Laughter is key to surviving as a farmer here. Fred Schmedt looks out on his field, then down at his legs and laughs at how short the wheat stalks are.

"What would you call that, high-shoe-top high?" he says. "In a normal year — a really good year — it'd be thigh-high. So we're looking at plants that are 6 to 8 inches tall versus 24 to 30 inches tall."

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