Joe Wertz

Digital 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.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:52 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Most County Commissioners Expected To Support Rock And Gravel Tax Proposal

An Oklahoma gravel pit.
Credit photoFlounder / Flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers in limestone-rich south-central Oklahoma have, for years, pushed for a new tax on companies mining for rock and sand.

Those efforts have failed, but the fight will be revived in the 2014 legislative session. Johnston County Commissioners have formally endorsed an organization that will lobby for a tax on sand, silica, gravel and other aggregates, The Oklahoman‘s Adam Wilmoth reports:

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:33 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Accidents Rising, But State Law On Digging Near Pipelines Unenforced And ‘Riddled’ With Exemptions

Signs warn excavators to call before digging near underground pipelines, but many entities are exempted from such rules. And no state agency has the authority to punish those who cause digging-related pipeline accidents.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Most pipeline accidents in Oklahoma are caused by digging, and the state’s rate of digging-related pipeline accidents — which have resulted in eight deaths and 10 injuries — is on the rise.

But Oklahoma’s pipeline law is “riddled with exemptions and lacks an enforcement mechanism,” which could mean intervention from the federal government, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

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StateImpact Oklahoma
12:46 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Oklahoma’s ‘Slow But Steady’ Transition To CNG-Powered Government Vehicles

Gov. Mary Fallin at a March 2013 press conference in the parking lot of the capitol, which marked the delivery of CNG-powered Dodge Ram pickups for the state's fleet.
Credit Provided / Gov. Mary Fallin's Office

“Oklahomans talk a good game when it comes to compressed natural-gas powered vehicles,” the Tulsa World‘s Randy Krehbiel writes.

Gov. Mary Fallin has been particularly aggressive in pursuing CNG vehicles, and joined with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in a well-publicized effort to pressure major car manufacturers to make more CNG-powered models.

So how much progress are Oklahoma governments making on converting fleets to CNG vehicles?

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:53 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

It’s Cold, But Here Are 3 Other Reasons Oklahoma is Running Short on Propane

Credit K.G. Hawes / Flickr Creative Commons

About 400,000 mostly rural Oklahomans rely on propane to heat their homes, and demand for the fuel has skyrocketed along with prices, which are more than 50 cents higher than last year.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesdayissued an executive order easing licensing requirements for propane truckers to address the shortage. Fifteen other states have issued similar orders.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:31 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Oklahoma House Speaker Wants To Make Horizontal Drilling Tax Break Permanent

A rig hand on a Triad Energy horizontal drilling operation near Alva, Okla. Company CEO Mike McDonald says he likely wouldn't have drilled the well with out a tax break Oklahoma's House Speaker has proposed making permanent.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon will author legislation to make permanent an oil and gas industry tax break for horizontal drilling.

The incentive lowers gross production taxes from 7 percent to 1 percent for the first 48 months of production, and was installed in the ’90s to encourage the then-experimental type of drilling. Now days, most oil and gas wells in Oklahoma are horizontally drilled, and critics say the incentives are unnecessary.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
11:46 am
Mon January 6, 2014

How Train Accidents Involving Northern Plains Crude Affect Oklahoma’s Oil Industry

A series of explosive train accidents has renewed concern about the safety of transporting crude oil by rail, especially the type of crude extracted from the Northern Plains.

The most recent accident was the the fiery crash that occurred on Dec. 30 in North Dakota. No one was injured, but dramatic fireballs erupted when the train with more than 100 cars collided with another train carrying grain in the small town of Casselton.

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Energy
5:01 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

A Sharp Rise In Earthquakes Puts Oklahomans On Edge

Chad Devereaux cleans up bricks that fell from his in-laws' home in Sparks, Okla., in November 2011, after two earthquakes hit the area in less than 24 hours.
Sue Ogrocki AP

Originally published on Fri January 3, 2014 6:29 am

For the past three decades, Oklahoma averaged about 50 earthquakes a year. But that number has skyrocketed in the past few years. In 2013 — the state's most seismically active year ever — there were almost 3,000.

The quakes are small, and they're concentrated in the central part of the state, where the Erwins live.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:29 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

‘Widespread Destruction And Panic’ Anticipated After Major Earthquake In Oklahoma

Credit StevenSmith1 / Flickr Creative Commons

An earthquake “swarm” has been rattling Oklahoma since 2009. Most of the shaking has been small, but the phenomenon has left many Oklahomans feeling uneasy.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:17 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

From Guymon To Poteau And Beyond: The Biggest StateImpact Stories Of 2013

Logan Layden talks with Kiowa historian 'Joe Fish' DuPoint about the potential impact of limestone mining on Longhorn Mountain in August 2013.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The StateImpact team traveled about 10,000 miles in 2013 to interview Oklahomans about how government policy affects their lives.

Our reporting took us to all corners of Oklahoma, across the border into Texas, and to the nation’s capital and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Listen to the Radio Story

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StateImpact Oklahoma
8:05 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Hazy Guidance Over Fracking Water Lines Confounds Commissioners And Cowboys

A water line for hydraulic fracturing traverses an oil and gas access road in Woods County.

Hydraulic fracturing and modern oil and gas drilling use a lot of water, a commodity that’s in short supply in northwestern Oklahoma’s booming oilfield.

To get their water, energy companies lay temporary pipelines atop private property, but a county commissioner and a class-action lawsuit are raising questions about the common practice.

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