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

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.

well site
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Earthquakes have been increasing in Oklahoma and other states throughout the mid-continent, and many seismologists think this increased seismicity is linked to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry.

A new corporate governance law sought by Chesapeake Energy now awaits Gov. Mary Fallin’s signature.

Final approval from the state Legislature came Wednesday. The measure — House Bill 1646, authored by Rep. Fred Jordan, R-Jenks — reverses 2010 legislation that mandated staggered elections of directors at certain public companies, a corporate governance strategy designed to prevent a boardroom takeover.

lighthouse at Lake Hefner
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In many ways, the history of Oklahoma is a story of water. Our geography is drawn by rivers and streams. And our cultural legacy is informed by drought.

History, money and consumption have shaped Oklahoma water policy. Here’s a look at the role each part plays in the plan policymakers are writing to protect what former governor and U.S. senator Robert S. Kerr called, the state’s “most blessed resource.”

Justin Johnston crouching by sludge pump
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The city of Konawa will fix two wells and build new water lines with a state grant issued last week, the Ada News reports:

The grant, from the state’s Rural Economic Action Plan program, will be used to extend the well casing and build an elevated platform for the pumps and controls on two of the town’s nine water wells, and to construct seven-tenths of a mile of water lines, blueprints show.

Pages