KGOU

Joe Wertz

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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Volunteer firefighters Christie Smith and David Thompson cool down after extinguishing a hotspot that flared east of Noble, Okla., in 2012. Scientists expect the risk of wildfire to increase as climate change-fueled droughts occur more frequently.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A new report from hundreds of experts and more than a dozen federal agencies is stark: Humans are likely responsible for the warmest period in modern civilization.

The consequences of this warming vary regionally, but scientists and researchers forecast significant effects in Oklahoma and other southern plains states.

Hugh Pickens / hughpickens.com

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s plan to spray chemicals and biological agents in simulated terrorist attacks at an abandoned school has alarmed residents and caused a stir on both sides of the Oklahoma-Kansas border.

Stormwater engineer Bill Robison snaps a photo of a flood-prone house the city is trying to buy from its homeowner.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In the aftermath of devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, communities across the U.S. are rethinking ways to control flooding and reduce hazards that could be worsened by urbanization and climate change.

Writing such plans is a complex, politically challenging process, but one city in Oklahoma has emerged as a national model for creating a flood-control program that works.

Bill Robison pulls over and parks his city-issued car on a tree-lined street in east Tulsa.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The first lawsuit filed against Oklahoma oil companies over earthquakes is now settled.

Sandra Ladra was injured by rocks that shook loose from her fireplace during the 5.7-magnitude temblor that struck near the city of Prague in 2011. The quake is one of the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma and was the first one scientists linked to wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.

Jerry Gutierrez steers his golf cart on a tour of his ranch near the Kiamichi River in southeastern Oklahoma. Gutierrez and other nearby residents urged the state not to approve Oklahoma City's permit to tap water from river.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma City’s decades-long quest for a permit to pump water out of southeastern Oklahoma is over. This week, state regulators approved a key part of the city’s $1 billion-plus project to meet the metro’s long-term water needs, but residents and water rights groups say the urban victory marks a milestone — not the end of the road.

Oklahoma City has water storage rights at Sardis Lake in southeastern Oklahoma. To get it, the city plans to divert water that flows from the lake into the Kiamichi River and pump it more than a hundred miles northwest to the metro.

A truck filled with chat transports mining waste to a nearby repository near Picher, Okla. Some of it is processed and reused for asphalt, while the most contaminated chat is taken to specially designed landfills for long-term storage. More than 180 truck
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Newly minted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt spent his first months on the job steering the agency away from climate change to focus, in part, on cleaning up contaminated sites around the country.

The former Oklahoma attorney general has directed a task force to create a top-10 list of locations that need aggressive attention — welcome news at Superfund sites like Tar Creek in the northeastern corner of the state.

Trainees in the control tower at Altus Air Force Base watch as a C-17 cargo plane taxis to the runway.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Developers recently announced plans to build the country’s largest wind farm in Oklahoma’s Panhandle. The industry is growing and turbine projects are expanding across the state. But wind energy developers are facing a new headwind: military air bases.

New Research Questions Forecasted Earthquake Slowdown

Aug 18, 2017
An oil well near a neighborhood in Yukon, Okla.
Becky McCray / Flickr Creative Commons

A new research paper suggests Oklahoma’s earthquake hazard might not taper off as quickly or as significantly as scientists previously predicted.

The energy industry practice of pumping toxic waste-fluid byproducts of oil and gas production into underground disposal wells is thought to be fueling Oklahoma’s earthquake surge. This activity peaked in 2015 and slowed due to regulations and low oil prices.

Bill Davis / Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

A temporary mass migration that could reach into the millions is expected as people across the United States relocate to catch a prime view of the country’s first coast-to-coast total eclipse in nearly a century.

Electricians complete last-minute work at Newfield's Barton Water Recycling Facility near Calumet, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A key part in solving the state’s earthquake crisis is the long-term management of an enormous amount of oil-field wastewater likely triggering the shaking. The energy industry is working to solve this billion-barrel-a-year problem, and one promising alternative to risky disposal wells is reusing wastewater instead of pumping it underground.

An earthquake of preliminary magnitude 4.2 hit central Oklahoma on Wednesday night, the U.S. Geological Survey said, the sixth earthquake to affect the area in just over 24 hours.

Four hours later, a less intense earthquake of a preliminary magnitude 3.5 struck the area in the early hours of Thursday.

Susan Holmes stands on the front porch of her home in Bokoshe, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The tiny community of Bokoshe is flanked by old mines, which companies are filling with thousands of tons of waste produced by the coal-fired power plant down the road.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, promoted investment in infrastructure in a day-long tour that included a stop at the Frederick Regional Airport.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A cornerstone of President Trump’s campaign and presidency is a $1 trillion proposal to rebuild U.S. infrastructure. The promise is a popular one, and could find bipartisan support across the country and in Congress. The infrastructure needs in Oklahoma illustrate why this issue is so appealing — and challenging.

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Oil’s Pipeline To America’s Schools

Jun 15, 2017
Illustration by Eben McCue

Jennifer Merritt’s first-graders at Jefferson Elementary School in Pryor, Oklahoma, were in for a treat. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, the students gathered in late November for story time with two special guests, state Rep. Tom Gann and state Sen. Marty Quinn.

A demonstrator holds up seven fingers to send a message to a House committee that lawmakers should remove discounts and incentives so all oil and gas wells are taxed at 7 percent.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma lawmakers have struggled for months to agree on a formula to patch a nearly $900 million budget hole and sign off on a plan that funds state agencies. To help pay for the budget plan, lawmakers are considering ways to squeeze more from taxes on oil and gas production, an option that has divided politicians and one of the state’s biggest industries.

 Lawmakers sit in the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget on Tuesday night.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lawmakers got their first peek at Oklahoma’s budget last night in a haphazard midnight session senior legislators described as the most disjointed in their career.

House and Senate committee members had mere minutes to review the proposed $6.9 billion dollar budget before voting on two versions of the state spending plan.

The bills are nearly identical. One would give teachers a $1,000 pay raise. Both deliver funding cuts for most state agencies. Sixteen agencies, including the Departments of Education and Transportation, are in line for flat budgets.

A long line of cattle are herded into a semi-trailer at Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A former accountant and compliance officer for the Oklahoma Beef Council faces federal bank fraud and false tax return charges after an probe into suspected embezzlement of more than $2.6 million.

Pete Brown of Kingfisher oil company Brown & Borelli and former Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett of Keener Oil and Gas speak out against legislation to expand horizontal drilling at a Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance media event.
Joe Wertz / State Impact Oklahoma

Oklahoma oil executives have argued for years over a new law that would let companies drill and frack longer horizontal wells in new areas.

Right now, companies with leases in non-shale rock formations can’t drill horizontal wells more than a mile long. This one-mile limit is frustrating many of the most active drillers in Oklahoma, who say companies, shareholders, mineral owners and the state’s tax coffers are missing out on millions in new development from booming oil fields. The potential is a promising political incentive, given the state’s nearly $900 million budget hole.

Researchers Nate Stevens and Hannah Rabinowitz calibrate a seismometer near Pawnee, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The strongest earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma may have been triggered by oil and gas activity that started and stopped years before the shaking, newly published research suggests.

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