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.

Ways to Connect

boy walking through rubble
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Since the deadly tornadoes that struck the state this spring, StateImpact has been taking a look at Oklahoma’s severe weather policy, and asking questions like: Why aren’t there more safe rooms in schools?

Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm
Provided / Continental Resources

Oil billionaire Harold Hamm, the CEO and Chairman of Oklahoma energy giant Continental Resources has been tapped to lead state Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s re-election campaign.

The Associated Press reports:

Pruitt described Hamm as a “dedicated businessman, visionary, and icon here in Oklahoma.”

OETA

StateImpact joined OETA journalists Dick Pryor and Bob Sands and Journal Record energy reporter Sarah Terry-Cobo for an Oklahoma Forum discussion about threats to the state’s air, land and water.

LLudo / Flickr Creative Commons

Moore, Norman and Oklahoma City are the primary polluters of Lake Thunderbird, a sensitive drinking water source classified as “impaired” by the Environmental Protection Agency, new data show.

State and municipal water and environmental authorities have been working on a plan to clean up the lake, colloquially referred to as “dirtybird” for its murky appearance and weird smell, which still hasn’t met Clean Water Act target dates from 30 years ago.

Cali2Okie / Flickr Creative Commons

There were 951 oil spills reported in Oklahoma last year, more than every other major energy state state except North Dakota, EnergyWire reports.

The news service has been trying to count the number of spills in the U.S. and measure their impact, but has been stymied by haphazard reporting of spills, which “are scattered amid databases, websites and even file drawers of state agencies across the country”

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma has experienced an increase in earthquakes in recent years, a phenomenon many geophysicists have linked to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.

The 5.7-magnitude quake that injured two people and destroyed 14 homes in November 2011 was Oklahoma’s largest on record and is likely the largest triggered by wastewater injection, a team of geophysicists concluded in a report released in March.

StateImpact Oklahoma

The federal government on Monday filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma Gas & Electric, accusing the electric utility of violating the Clean Air Act by improperly estimating the amount of emissions that could come from upgrades at two coal-fired power plants.

A copy of the government’s complaint, which was made through the Environmental Protection Agency, is included on StateImpact Oklahoma's website.

Olliehigh / Flickr Creative Commons

While the State of Oklahoma won the Supreme Court Water War with Texas, its in-state skirmish is still simmering.

This battle — between the state and the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations — is being waged within Oklahoma’s borders. But unlike the Red River water dispute, reports from the front lines of Oklahoma’s tribal water war are sketchy and scarce. The Associated Press’ Tim Talley explains news drought:

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Moore City Council on Tuesday delayed a vote on an ordinance that would strengthen construction standards to help reduce damage from tornadoes.

Finzio / Flickr Creative Commons

The count of kids with cavities is on the rise in Pottawatomie County, where no fluoride is added to the public water systems.

And pediatric health groups and a local dental association are sounding alarms, the Shawnee News-Star’s Madi Alexander reports:

FALLSROAD / Flickr Creative Commons

In the 1960s, survey teams of architects and engineers started hunting across Oklahoma for places to hunker down.

They found basements and tunnels, underground parking garages and well-built structures in municipal and private buildings.

At the time, Oklahoma’s big worry was an attack from Soviet Russia. That threat never materialized, but the state is targeted by tornadoes every year. And public shelter spaces are disappearing from the map.

President Obama speaking in Cushing, Oklahoma in March 2012.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

It’s hard to know where President Barack Obama stands on the Keystone XL pipeline project, which still awaits his approval.

Obama has rejected Transcanada’s permit for the Canada-to-Texas pipeline in the past, but championed parts of the project during a 2012 trip to the pipeline’s hub in Cushing, Oklahoma.

When the U.S. Supreme Court sided unanimously with Oklahoma in the courtroom war over water that flows into the Red River, Texas’ legal claim to the resource was greatly diminished.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The “Oklahoma Standard” is a phrase that describes how this state responds in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, like the tornado that ripped through Moore on May 20.

But that resiliency isn’t reflected in Oklahoma’s construction standards, which don’t factor for tornadoes.

U.S. Drought Monitor

The extreme drought blanketing Southwestern Oklahoma has taxed water resources in Altus and plagued farmers.

It’s hard to imagine a worse setting: A seemingly endless horizon of giant steel storage tanks holding 50 million barrels of crude oil, a spiderweb of pipelines, pumps, compressors and terminals, and a critical confluence of big corporations and international energy market money.

And a city of about 8,000 nearby.

Law enforcement has long feared the Cushing oil terminal would make an ideal target of terrorists, but what about a tornado? Just two weeks before the May 20 tornados devastated Moore, authorities held a worst-case-scenario F5 twister drill in Cushing.

Lauren Gardner stands near a family members house, which was destroyed by the tornado.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

StateImpact Oklahoma's Joe Wertz took cover in Moore on his drive home from KGOU Monday afternoon. Once the tornado passed, he immediately went to work reporting for Oklahoma's public radio stations and NPR.

Phil Masturzo / Akron Beacon Journal

A number of seismologists have concluded that the 5.7-magnitude earthquake that hit near Prague a year and a half ago was caused by injecting wastewater from oil and gas production deep underground.

Earthquakes in other states have been linked to disposal wells, but Oklahoma’s is the largest. Yet Oklahoma’s regulatory response has been one of the smallest.

Seismologists have linked wastewater disposal wells to earthquakes in at least a half-dozen states. On a geologic scale, the tremors are small. And the quakes — in states like Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, and Ohio — have all been smaller than the November 2011 quake that shook Oklahoma near Prague.

On Tuesday, Oklahoma and Texas will face off in the U.S. Supreme Court. The winner gets water. And this is not a game.

The court will hear oral arguments in the case of Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, et al. The case pits Oklahoma against Texas over rights to water from the river that forms part of the border between them. Depending on how the court decides, it could impact interstate water-sharing agreements across the country.

Keeping Up With Texas

Gov. Mary Fallin prepares to deliver her 2013 State of the State address, flanked by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, and House Speaker T.W. Shannon.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Chesapeake Energy has been pushing for a new law to undo a previous law the company helped write.

On Tuesday, the new law was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin — the first bill signed by the Governor during the 2013 legislative session.

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