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

U.S. Geological Survey

The U.S. Geological Survey on Monday released for the first time maps that forecast regions that could experience damage from human-triggered earthquakes. Oklahoma has the highest risk for potential shaking, researchers say.

Panhandle residents pouring over maps showing possible routes for the Plains and Eastern Clean Line Project, which, if approved, would funnel wind power from Oklahoma to the southeastern U.S. power grid.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The U.S. Department of Energy on March 28 cleared the way for construction of a 700-mile transmission line project designed to carry Oklahoma wind power to the southeastern U.S. electricity grid.

The $2.5 billion Plains and Eastern Clean Line is different than the typical AC power lines that crisscross the U.S. It’s a high-voltage direct-current line, which is more expensive to build but loses less electricity over long distances.

New Source Energy Partners is headquartered at 914 N. Broadway Ave. in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

It’s been more than 18 months since the start of the energy downturn that saw the price of oil dip to about $30 dollars a barrel.

It’s slowly starting to rebound, and it’s led to bankruptcies, a few success stories, and even some variables that have nothing to do with market forces.

Last week New Source Energy Partners filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The small company based in an office along Broadway in Oklahoma City’s Automobile Alley had a credit cut in October that took its borrowing base from $49 million to $24 million.

A SandRidge Energy well in northwestern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission unanimously voted Tuesday to approve new rules specifying how agency staff and disposal well operators will settle disputes over regulatory actions issued to reduce earthquakes.

Continental Resources founder and CEO Harold Hamm, second to the left, at the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association's office in Oklahoma City.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma legislators are considering eliminating some tax credits and incentives for businesses to help plug a $1.3 billion budget gap. The state’s fiscal crisis has led some oil and gas leaders to push lawmakers to end incentives for the wind industry.


Oklahoma City Police Department Chief Bill Citty during a press conference.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact OK

Oklahoma City police released new details Monday about the fiery single-car crash that killed former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon one day after his federal indictment.

Investigators say the energy executive and part-owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder was driving 78 miles-per-hour when he struck a concrete overpass the morning of March 2.

Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma House on Monday voted to approve legislation clarifying and confirming the authority of state oil and gas regulators to take actions designed to stop industry-linked earthquakes.

Jack Romine stands near a makeshift chimney state inspectors installed over an abandoned, leaky well that was discovered near his home in Bartlesville, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma has hundreds of abandoned oil and gas wells, the byproduct of a century of petroleum production. Left unrepaired, many of these wells can endanger people and the environment. The state has a fund to plug abandoned wells, but some of that money has been diverted due to budget cuts.

Jack Romine discovered natural gas without spending a dime on exploration, drilling or production.

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The Chisholm View wind farm near Hunter, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill in May 2015 ending a program that afforded many wind developers a five-year exemption on property taxes. The measure, Senate Bill 498, authored by Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, was projected to save the state $500 million over 10 years by sunsetting an ad valorem exemption on Jan. 1 2017.

Employee Gene Howell and co-owner Ross Ledbetter at Reeder's Auto and Tire in Midtown Tulsa, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Crashing crude oil prices are fueling big bargains for American motorists, who are driving away with tanks full of inexpensive gasoline. Today, the national average is $1.71 for a gallon of regular unleaded. Oklahoma could be one of the first places in the country to see gas prices dip below $1 a gallon.

A shiny black Mercedes pulls up near a pump, the bell rings and Ross Ledbetter tells the driver to pop the hood.

“It’s showing full,” he shouts. “You have a concern?”

A SandRidge Energy well in northwestern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Sierra Club filed a federal lawsuit today against three Oklahoma energy companies over earthquakes linked to oil and gas production.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District in Oklahoma City, accuses Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy and New Dominion of operating wastewater injection wells that have contributed to a massive spike in earthquakes in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Lawrence Stasyszen, abbott of St. Gregory's Abbey, stands inside the monastery's condemned workshop in Shawnee, Okla. The monastery and nearby college are still reeling from millions in damage from a 5.7-magnitude quake that struck in 2011.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In 2014, Oklahoma had more than three times as many earthquakes as California, and this year, the state is on track for even more. A lot of them are small, but some towns are seeing a quake almost every day, and seismologists warn that large and damaging earthquakes are becoming more likely.

The government in the Sooner State has only recently acknowledged the scope of the oil and gas industry’s role in the problem.

seismic readout
Great Beyond / Flickr

A strong earthquake rocked Oklahoma Saturday morning. The U.S. Geological Survey's initial estimate places the quake at a magnitude 5.1, while the Oklahoma Geological Survey estimates 4.8.

Why State And Federal Agencies Record Different Oklahoma Earthquake Numbers

Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologists and representatives from the Corporation Commission lead a public meeting on earthquakes held in March 2015 in Medford, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A former research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey says agency leaders and other state officials fostered a culture of hesitation and reluctance to act on science suggesting the state’s earthquake boom was linked to oil and gas activities.