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

Oklahoma Department of Transportation engineers are testing an LED interchange light tower in the parking lot of the agency's Oklahoma City headquarters.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Cities across the state are hoping to cut down their electricity and maintenance bills by updating street and highway lights with new technology. LEDs save energy and money, but doctors say the lights could have unintended health and environmental consequences.


Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, speaks during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Wednesday, July 20, 2016.
Mark J. Terrill / AP

Billionaire Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm sharply criticized environmental regulations in a pro-Donald Trump speech on energy policy at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night.

The Continental Resources CEO's remarks came amid reports he would be named energy secretary if the Republican candidate is elected in November.

Fire crews work to reduce wildfire danger by clear brush through a prescribed burn in northwestern Oklahoma in April 2016.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Fire crews worked for nearly a week to contain a wildfire that started on March 22 and torched 574 square miles of land near the Oklahoma-Kansas state line, where it destroyed homes, killed livestock and damaged thousands of miles of fence.

Outside Susan Holmes' house in southeastern Oklahoma, visitors are welcomed by an entryway lined with oxygen bottles and a machine that collects and concentrates oxygen from the air.

"I take two inhalers twice a day," Holmes says. "And I have a nebulizer that I use four times a day, and I use oxygen at night."

She says her asthma returned when she moved to Bokoshe, a decaying town of about 500 people that is flanked by old coal mines. The huge pits have now been filled with hundreds of thousands of tons of coal ash.

Susan Holmes in the living room of her home in Bokoshe, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma
Wheat farmer Fred Schmedt stands in one of his family's fields south of Altus, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Heavy rains delayed the 2016 wheat harvest in Oklahoma, but the yield could be better than recent years. Many farmers, however, are still making up losses from a drought that climatologists warn could be returning.

It’s a hot, dry and relatively windless day south of Altus in southwest Oklahoma. Eight to 11 inches of rain has fallen in the area over the last few weeks, and Fred Schmedt is on his cell phone trying to keep large trucks and tractor-trailers off his field.

Devon Tower in downtown Oklahoma City.
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Oklahoma oil and gas companies are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by members of an environmental group that seeks to reduce production waste that could be fueling a spike in earthquakes.

Gov. Mary Fallin speaking at the 2013 Governor's Energy Conference in Tulsa, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday signed into law legislation that banks boom-time tax revenues to cushion the state during energy downturns.

The Energy Revenues Stabilization Act was created through House Bill 2763, authored by Rep. John Montgomery, R-Lawton. The measure siphons off above-average tax revenues levied on corporations and oil and gas production and saves it in an account that can be tapped during state funding emergencies.

Oklahoma Water Resources Board project coordinator Jason Murphy samples water in the frigid Canadian River east of Oklahoma City.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After months of deliberation and closed-door meetings, lawmakers in the Oklahoma House and Senate are poised to cut a deal to fill a $1.3 billion shortfall and fund government for 2017.

The $6.8 billion presumptive budget agreement has been praised for preserving money for education, prisons and Medicaid, but some of the sharpest cuts are aimed at agencies that regulate industry and protect the environment.

The Blue Canyon Wind Farm near Carnegie, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Southwestern Oklahoma is in the middle of an airport boom, but the new airstrips weren’t planned to attract travel — they’re designed to repel wind farms.

Rural landowners worried about ruined prairie views and diminished property values are registering private airstrips to block construction of wind farms, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports.

oil pump jack
Paul Lowry / Flickr

A bill that would bank tax revenues to cushion the state budget during energy industry downturns awaits the governor’s signature.  

Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, listens to questions on the Oklahoma House of Representatives floor on May 27, 2016.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a $6.8 billion budget in the waning hours of the legislative session Friday. The bill was narrowly approved with a vote of 52-45 and now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin's desk for her approval.

Updated May 27, 4:43 p.m.

During floor debate, House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said the budget isn’t perfect, but it funds core services.

Columbus Oil Company owner Darlene Wallace in the field with a "stripper well," which produces two-and-a-half barrels of oil a day.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The deadline to fund state government is rapidly approaching, and legislators are struggling to bridge a $1.3 billion budget gap. One idea is to end a tax rebate for unprofitable oil and gas wells, but small oil and gas producers say their safety net shouldn’t be used to plug the state’s budget hole.

Revenue, Rebates

The Oklahoma House of Representatives is in session, and Darlene Wallace is blocking the ornate entrance to the main floor. She’s an obstacle, an oil producer — and she’s clutching a clipboard with the names of lawmakers.

An American Energy Woodford well near Perkins, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The oil boom minted millionaire executives and transformed Oklahoma City into a corporate energy hub, but industry tax breaks and funding cuts kept much of the prosperity from reaching public services, a new Reuters investigation shows.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Insurance companies moved to limit their exposure as Oklahoma’s earthquake rate exploded, according to an investigation by Reuters.

Examining thousands of pages of documents from the Oklahoma Insurance Commission, reporter Luc Cohen found the efforts by nearly a dozen insurance companies “often occurred at the expense of homeowners”:

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