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
11:58 am
Thu March 13, 2014

As Wind Energy Moves Into Eastern Oklahoma, Resistance Turns Political

Joe Bush, owner of a ranch near Shidler, Okla., has signed agreements to lease land for two wind farms. Bush worries a 2014 bill that would impose a moratorium on some wind-energy projects would prevent the wind farms from being built.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is one of the country’s top wind-energy producers, and companies want to build more turbines across the state.

For many landowners, wind farms can be a financial windfall. But as wind energy moves into regions unaccustomed to turbines, opponents have taken the fight to the state Capitol.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
3:09 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

New Study: Oklahoma’s Largest Earthquake ‘Potentially Triggered’ By Smaller Disposal Well Quake

A disposal well in Northern Oklahoma.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oil and gas industry-related waste water injection may have triggered a cascading sequence of earthquakes that culminated in Oklahoma’s largest earthquake ever recorded, the 5.7-magnitude temblor that struck near Prague in November 2011, a new peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Researchsuggests.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
3:17 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Oklahoma Moves Up the Ranks By Adding More Wind Energy To Its Electricity Mix

Credit Gabriel Pollard / Flickr Creative Commons

Wind energy accounted for 14.8 percent of the electricity generated in Oklahoma in 2013, an American Wind Energy analysis of data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency show.

Oklahoma now ranks No. 7 nationally, a step up from the No. 9 ranking the state earned in 2012 when wind power comprised 10.5 percent of the state’s energy mix, according to the wind industry trade group.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
10:09 am
Thu February 27, 2014

The Reason Toxic ‘Releases’ Are Up In Oklahoma, And Why It’s Not That Scary

Toxic waste from New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin is brought by rail to Oklahoma, where it's treated and stored at the Lone Mountain Landfill.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

New data from the federal government show a drop in the amount of toxic chemicals being released into the nation’s air, water and land. In Oklahoma, however, so-called toxic “releases” have soared.

But it’s not as scary as it sounds.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
3:08 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Small And Large Drillers Square-Off Over Well-Spacing Rules

Credit Meredithw / Flickr Creative Commons

Horizontal drilling has revolutionized the energy industry, and helped unlock oil and gas trapped in tight shale formations that had, for decades, eluded petroleum producers.

But Oklahoma’s oil and gas rules were established when traditional, vertical drilling was the norm. Balancing the regulatory needs of horizontal drillers and vertical drillers — especially those producing in the same formation — can be tricky.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:32 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Why An Oil Boom Is Sometimes Bad For Business

Credit Sarah Nichols / Flickr Creative Commons

The shale gas drilling boom has been a blessing to energy states like Oklahoma, which has low unemployment and an economy that, thanks in part to oil and gas production, was insulated from the worst effects of the Great Recession.

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Oklahoma News
12:10 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

VIDEO: Oklahoma Earthquake Swarm On ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’

Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm was the subject of a segment on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” last night. Host and commentator Maddow discussed the loud, explosive “booms” that accompany the shallow quakes — a phenomenon reported in Oklahoma and Texas — and, with her signature snark, suggested a way to curtail the shaking, which many seismologists say is linked to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:31 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Oklahoma Senate Passes Bill Giving State More Authority To Regulate Wind Farms

Credit Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is a major wind-energy state, but some landowners and communities have turned their backs on turbines.

Some oppose wind farms for purely aesthetic reasons, or because they feel fields of turbines will hurt their property value. Turbine noise and “shadow flicker” are big complaints, too, and some people have raised safety questions about ice being thrown from turbine blades, and how the turbines would fare in severe weather.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
11:56 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Oklahoma’s Earthquake ‘Swarm’ In One Chart

Magnitude 2.0 and greater Oklahoma earthquakes from 1990-2014.
Credit EQ Charts

EQ Charts has created a really great visual of Oklahoma’s earthquake “swarm.” The chart was built with data from the U.S. Geological Survey, and shows quakes of 2.0-magnitude or greater. Most people can feel earthquakes that are 3.0-magnitude or greater.

Earthquakes have increased exponentially in Oklahoma, a phenomenon federal and university seismologists have linked to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
10:11 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Cleanup Of Hazardous Oklahoma Refinery Site Went Unfunded Until People Moved In

Tyler Lane pulls up a wooden marker covered with oily sludge in the land behind his Bristow home. Lane uses stakes and rope to keep his two children out of the oiliest, most dangerous parts of his property, which sits atop the abandoned Wilcox Refinery, Oklahoma’s newest Superfund site.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

You can’t see it from street, or when you look out the window of Glen Jones’ parents’ house, but the Wilcox Refinery is still here. Parts of it, anyway.

In December 2013, the abandoned refinery complex near Bristow became Oklahoma’s newest federal Superfund site. The Wilcox Refinery closed more than 50 years ago, but lead and other toxic chemicals remain, and residents are uneasy about the long cleanup ahead.

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