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

Woodward County, Oklahoma, is one of the most climate-skeptical counties in the United States, according to estimates from the Yale Project on Climate Communication. 

CNN columnist John Sutter recently visited the oil-patch county — where nearly one-third of the county’s 21,000 residents don’t believe climate change is occurring — on a simple expedition:

An oil and gas operation in Logan County, Okla., in 2015.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma oil and gas authorities on Monday ordered the operators of 23 disposal wells in two counties to reduce the amount of wastewater pumped underground.

Gov. Mary Fallin meets with a worker at a July 2015 event commemorating Oklahoma Gas & Electric's new solar farm in Oklahoma City.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is synonymous with energy. It’s a major oil and gas state and one of the country’s leaders in wind power. But Oklahoma has been slow on solar energy, and experts say that’s because of state policy — not the sun.


Lawmakers, local business and community leaders, and workers in hardhats on July 27 gathered beneath a tent to celebrate the opening of a new solar power project in west Oklahoma City.

The guest of honor, Gov. Mary Fallin, arrived in an electric Nissan Leaf and made a few short remarks.

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

After a swarm of earthquakes recorded near the town of Crescent, which peaked with a 4.5-magnitude temblor on Monday, state regulators asked a pair of oil companies to limit activity at three nearby disposal wells.

Monday’s quake caused light damage. Multiple people reported feeling it in Arkansas, more than 400 miles away

The 5.7-magnitude earthquake that struck near Prague, Okla., in November 2011 mortally wounded two century-old towers at St. Gregory’s University — a small catholic university and monastery that has become one of the most visible illustrations of Oklahoma’s earthquake surge. 

The shaking occurred nearly four years ago, but the university and monastery are still struggling with physical and financial damage.

Tammy Mix's sons play on the sidewalk as a drilling rig peeks above the tree line behind her Stillwater home.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After months of debate, drafting and deferring, the Stillwater City Council on Monday approved a stricter oil and gas ordinance.

The council unanimously approved the new rules, which were crafted with the input of residents, the energy industry and Senate Bill 809 — legislation that goes into effect in August preventing municipalities from enacting ordinances that ban fracking and other oil and gas activities, The Oklahoman‘s Adam Wilmoth reports:

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

Oklahoma oil and gas authorities are expanding regulations on disposal wells in earthquake-prone regions of the state. The orders, known as directives, were issued this week and broaden restrictions issued nearly four months ago.

Abbot Lawrence Stasyszen of St. Gregory's Monastery traces cracks in the walls of the monk's workshop, which was damaged in a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that struck the nearby city of Prague in November 2011.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma appears to be accelerating, and the state is responding.

Lawmakers have scheduled capitol hearings and oil and gas regulators will soon issue stricter guidelines on disposal wells linked to the shaking. Future earthquakes are a big concern, but one Oklahoma institution is still dealing with the damage one quake caused nearly four years ago.

The team at Reveal produced a nifty video on Oklahoma’s earthquake surge that shows, with entertaining visuals, the science of “induced seismicity” — the scientific mechanism that explains how disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry can trigger earthquakes.

The video, produced by Ariane Wu, was based on a reporting collaboration between myself and Reveal’s Michael Corey

oil pump
Sarah Nichols / Flickr

Gov. Mary Fallin signed controversial legislation in May outlawing municipal bans on fracking and other oil and gas activities. Officials in some communities are re-examining their local drilling ordinances to comply with the law, which goes into effect later this summer.

One city in southeastern Oklahoma, however, isn’t budging.