KGOU

Joe Wertz

Managing Editor 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

Gabriel Pollard / Flickr Creative Commons

The Tennessee Valley Authority on Thursday announced is would retire six coal-fired power plants in Alabama and replace two in Kentucky with a new natural gas plant.

TVA CEO Bill Johnson cited stricter environmental regulations and a “flat demand” for electricity, NPR’s Scott Neuman reports.

Amanda and Keith Erwin, of Edmond, say they're learning to live with near-daily earthquakes. The Erwins have written letters to both of their state lawmakers asking them to investigate.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Keith Erwin says they remind him of the artillery he used to hear growing up near the Fort Sill Army base in Lawton. His wife Amanda says the earthquakes sound like thunder.

“The chandelier was swinging, and the walls were rumbling, the bed was rumbling,” Amanda Erwin says.

That’s when the game starts.

“We just turn and look at each other … what do you think it was? A 2.5? Nah … that had to have been a 3.0,” Keith Erwin says.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma/Oklahoma Geological Survey/Google

Editor's Note: This post has been updated 11/11/13 to include the most recent earthquakes that occurred over the weekend.

More than two-dozen small earthquakes shook central Oklahoma, including several temblors that were 3.0-magnitude or higher, which people can generally feel. No damage or injuries have been reported.

The tremors are the latest in a swarm of quakes the U.S. Geological Survey says may be linked to waste fluid disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry. The swarm began in 2009, and has included more than 200 magnitude 3.0 or greater temblors. The “unusual” earthquakes don’t appear to be natural, and led USGS seismologist Bill Leith to issue a warning of increased quake hazards throughout central Oklahoma.

Mark Fischer / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court in June sided with Oklahoma, ruling the interstate Red River water compact did not entitle Texas to water within Oklahoma’s borders.

well site
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Central Oklahoma is still experiencing a “significant rise” in magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes, and federal and state seismologists are collaborating to study possible links to disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry, the U.S. Geological Survey says.

Oklahoma Educational Television Authority / YouTube

StateImpact reporter Joe Wertz was a guest on OETA’s Oklahoma News Report last week to discuss his report on how wind farms interfere with weather radar.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Supporters of the oil and gas industry ‘blasted’ environmental regulations and a campaign against fossil fuels at an Oct. 17 energy policy conference in downtown Tulsa, the Tulsa World’s Susan Hylton reports.

Conference speakers included Bob Tippee, editor of the Oil & Gas Journal, who assailed President Barack Obama’s “extremist” environmentalist supporters, and William Yeatman, an energy policy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who went after federal regional haze rules.

Christopher Elliott / Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to review six petitions relating to the federal government’s regulation of greenhouse gasses.

But the high court consolidated the cases, and will only review a single question that pertains to all of them.

SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston reports:

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is now No. 6 in the nation in wind-generated electricity capacity, and last week the state helped set a wind power record for the entire region.

Wind farms are multiplying and expanding in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and throughout the Great Plains, where the nation’s wind energy potential is concentrated.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Thousands of federal workers in Oklahoma were furloughed because of the budget stalemate in Washington, D.C., including those in charge of operating and maintaining dozens of campsites and parks run by the U.S. government.

dead fish in dry riverbed
OakleyOriginals / Flickr Creative Commons

Tulsa has been spared the worst effects of Oklahoma’s drought, which has been concentrated in western and southwestern regions of the state.

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

A Love County disposal well was shutdown last week after a state seismologist suggested it might have triggered a swarm of damaging earthquakes that shook the area for weeks in September.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt prepares to greet Gov. Mary Fallin at the 2013 State of the State address at the state capitol.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is at war with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which he says is overstepping its authority. He’s sued the federal agency and testified to Congress about its abuses.

The most visible battles have been over coal regulation, but the fight is about power — not power plants.

Red dots indicate schools without shelters. Green dots are schools with shelters.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The results of a statewide survey released Thursday show 62 percent of Oklahoma’s 1,804 public schools don’t have storm shelters, and only 15 percent have shelters built to withstand the 250 mph winds of an EF5 tornado, like the ones that swept through central Oklahoma in May 2013.

StateImpact has mapped the data from the survey, the first statewide accounting of public school storm shelters, which was conducted by Bar None Consulting for the Oklahoma Legislature’s use in an interim study.

350.org / Flickr Creative Commons

A Sept. 21 protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline attracted 74 people who walked a portion of the pipeline’s proposed route, The Journal Record reports.

Provided / State of Oklahoma

Geophysicists have linked Oklahoma’s largest earthquake to an injection well used by the oil and gas industry, and there is growing concern among many seismologists that underground disposal of oilfield waste fluid can trigger quakes or make it easier for faults to slip.

Wastewater disposal wells have been linked to quakes in a half-dozen other states. Oklahoma’s regulatory response has been more passive than most, StateImpact reported in May.

Retired Col. Michael Teague, Secretary of Energy and Environment, stands in front of a dam at Lake Eufaula.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Traditionally, Oklahoma’s governor has relied on advice from separate officials representing energy and the environment.

But in July, Gov. Mary Fallin moved to combine the two offices into one. “Strong energy policy is strong environmental policy,” Fallin said in a statement accompanying an executive order creating the new Secretary of Energy and Environment cabinet secretary post.

In the 1930s, the Dust Bowl ravaged crops and helped plunge the U.S. into an environmental and economic depression. Farmland in parts of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas disappeared.

After the howling winds passed and the dust settled, federal foresters planted 100 million trees across the Great Plains, forming a giant windbreak — known as a shelterbelt — that stretched from Texas to Canada.

Now, those trees are dying from drought, leaving some to worry whether another Dust Bowl might swirl up again.

An Experiment That Worked

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Many Oklahomans are excited about the promise of wind energy, and the state is moving up the national ranks in wind power capacity.

But some are turning their backs on wind turbines, and the struggle highlights the challenges of regulating renewable energy.

When Tammy and Rick Huffstutlar bought their home and acreage 35 years ago, they were excited about living on a farm. But for the last year, Tammy says she’s been living in the middle of an industrial park.

Global Energy Network Institute

Oklahoma has a lot of wind energy potential, and the state’s overall capacity for wind-powered electricity generation is growing.

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