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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Attorney General Scott Pruitt talks to state lawmakers at the Oklahoma capitol in February 2017.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, a federal regulatory agency the Oklahoma politician has built his brand fighting against. 

Pruitt has led a coordinated legal effort to fight the EPA through the courts, an alliance with other Republican attorneys general that’s made him popular among conservatives. The confirmation sends a strong signal that Congressional Republicans share with President Donald Trump a vision of diminished federal oversight of the fossil fuel industry.

Center for Media and Democracy attorney Robert Nelon, center, outside a courtroom in Oklahoma City on Feb. 16, 2017.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

An Oklahoma County District judge on Thursday ordered Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office to turn over emails and other documents requested two years ago by a watchdog group.

In the ruling against Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, judge Aletia Haynes Timmons said the agency violated state transparency laws.

A worker corrals cattle into a chute at Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Federal authorities are investigating the alleged embezzlement of $2.6 million dollars from an obscure Oklahoma board that promotes the beef industry. The investigation and related lawsuits add to questions about oversight of a national program funded by fees charged to ordinary farmers and ranchers.

On a brisk and busy January morning at the Oklahoma National Stockyards, cattle arrive for auction in trailers pulled by pickup trucks — and leave in double-decker cars towed by semis.

Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma attorney general, gestures as he speaks at a news conference in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 8, 2013.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

The Center for Media and Democracy on Tuesday filed an open records lawsuit against Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, accusing the Trump administration’s pick to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of failing to provide public access to emails and other documents for more than two years.

 

Empty chairs in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee mark Democrats' boycott of a vote to advance the nomination of Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
C-SPAN

With no Democrats in the room, U.S. Senate Republicans on Thursday voted unanimously to approve the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Republicans in the Environment and Public Works Committee voted to suspend committee rules to defeat a two-day boycott by Democrats who say Pruitt is unfit to serve as the nation’s top environmental regulator.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifying at a Jan. 18 confirmation hearing on his nomination as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
C-SPAN

 

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Wednesday faced hours of questioning at a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on his qualifications to run the Environmental Protection Agency. The public vetting of president-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the federal government’s largest environmental regulator highlighted sharp and long-standing divisions between environmentalists and industry.

The six-hour hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee split largely along political lines.

A live stream of this confirmation hearing is available via C-SPAN.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been among the most controversial picks for Donald Trump's Cabinet. In part, that's because the Environmental Protection Agency nominee has said things like this:

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt speaking about energy self-sufficiency at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March 2016.
American Conservative Union / C-SPAN

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, walked back a legal fight to clean up rivers polluted by chicken manure after accepting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions linked to the poultry industry, campaign and court records show.

Oklahoma lawmakers are staring into a budget hole that's nearly $900 million deep — and they might not be able to cut their way out of it. Legislators are considering tax increases to help fund state government, and one idea is gaining traction: hiking taxes on gasoline and diesel.

An abandoned gas station near Edmond, Oklahoma.
Michael Kesler / Flicker/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Oklahoma lawmakers are staring into a budget hole that’s nearly $900 million deep — and they might not be able to cut their way out of it. Legislators are considering tax increases to help fund state government, and one idea is gaining traction: Hiking taxes on gasoline and diesel.

State taxes on motor fuel haven’t been touched since 1987. There are a lot of similarities between the situation then and what Oklahoma lawmakers now face: An economy shaken by low oil prices and dwindling revenue streams to fund state government.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators on Tuesday released details on new guidelines created to reduce earthquakes triggered by hydraulic fracturing in two of the state’s most-booming oil and gas fields.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt arrives at Trump Tower in New York on December 7, 2016.
Andrew Harnik / AP

Donald Trump wants Scott Pruitt to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Oklahoma attorney general is a fierce ally of fossil fuel companies and one of the EPA’s biggest opponents. The nomination draws a sharp line dividing industry and environmentalists that could test the limits of another big fight: state sovereignty.

A Republican president created the EPA. Using words and phrases that, today, might jeopardize his career before it ever left a state GOP primary, Richard Nixon urged Congress to sign off on what he called his “environmental agenda.”

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Trucks lined up at a disposal well in northwestern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s oil and gas regulator for the first time will issue guidelines designed to reduce earthquake activity linked to hydraulic fracturing.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt at the state capitol in 2016.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

President-elect Donald Trump has picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Earthquake damage in downtown Cushing after a 5.0 magnitude temblor struck the city November 6, 2016
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Attorneys are asking a district court judge to approve a class-action lawsuit against oil and gas companies after a 5.0-magnitude earthquake rattled near the town of Cushing in November. 

Monthly wastewater injection into disposal wells in the Arbuckle formation from 2000 to July 2016. A team of Stanford scientists found earthquake rate changes follow changes of the injection rate with a time delay of several months.
Science Advances

Scientists may have a promising seismic forecast for Oklahoma over the next few years: A lot less shaky with a smaller chance for damaging earthquakes.

Newly published research bolsters a growing body of scientific findings linking the state’s earthquake boom and the underground injection of large amounts of wastewater from oil and gas production, but suggests the shaking could taper off after 2016.

Donald Trump campaigning at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From board rooms to drilling rigs, much of the U.S. fossil fuel industry has been counting down the days until President Barack Obama turns over the keys of the White House. Donald Trump doesn’t officially take the wheel of the nation’s energy policy for a couple of months, but Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry says its prospects have already improved under the president-elect.

A drilling rig in northwestern Oklahoma's Mississippi Lime oil and gas play.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma legislators are under pressure to fund teacher raises and pay for health insurance coverage, workers comp, criminal justice initiatives and state prisons from a pool of money that could be $600 million short of what’s needed.

Earthquake damage at a home in rural Pawnee County, September 3, 2016.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Attorneys are asking a judge in Pawnee County to approve a class-action lawsuit against oil and gas companies after the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the area in September.

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