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

A water line for hydraulic fracturing crosses an oil-field access road in Woods County, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A federal judge in Wyoming this week delayed the start of new rules for fracking on federal lands, issuing a temporary stay to give the federal government more time to explain how it developed the rule, The Hill and Casper Star-Tribune report.

Oil-field workers lining up a section of pipe at a disposal well plug-back operation in Grant County, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The vast majority of Oklahoma’s recent earthquakes occurred in areas where the energy industry pumped underground massive amounts of waste fluid byproducts of oil and gas production, scientists write in a new paper published Thursday.


A combine crew from South Dakota harvests wheat near Altus in southwest Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

May 2015 was Oklahoma’s wettest month on record. The historic rainfall washed away an economically draining drought that haunted parts of the state for five years. For many wheat farmers in southwestern Oklahoma, however, the record rainfall is too much, too late.

To find a farmer in the wide, unbroken prairie of southwest Oklahoma, scan the horizon and look for clouds — of dust. In a field five miles south of Altus, Fred Schmedt peers through the haze and watches a gray-and-black combine pull alongside a tractor with a grain cart.

Schmedt grins as the bin fills.

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.

OG&E's coal-fired power plant in Muskogee, Okla.
Granger Meador / Flickr

An Oklahoma Corporation Commission Administrative Law Judge recommended state regulators reject several “major portions” of Oklahoma Gas & Electric’s proposal to recover environmental compliance costs.

University of Oklahoma graduate students near Wellston, Okla., installing a seismometer to study central-Oklahoma's earthquake swarm
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A series of peer-reviewed papers published June 2 in The Leading Edge detail new research on disposal well-triggered earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Oil-field workers use sledgehammers to unstick a pipe at the George saltwater disposal well near Wakita in northwestern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Two burly men armed with sledgehammers take turns bashing a khaki-colored steel flange fastened to a pipe in the middle of a soggy, gravely lot near Wakita in northwestern Oklahoma.

Oklahoma City residents packed a public meeting about an oil company's proposal to drill near Lake Hefner, a city water supply. Residents were concerned about water and air pollution, truck traffic and noise, and earthquakes.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Legislature is sending a message to towns, cities and counties: Don’t try to ban fracking.

Oklahoma legislators were inspired by the November 2014 voter-approved city fracking ban enacted in Denton, Texas. And, like their counterparts in Texas, they were determined to make such action illegal.

Gov. Mary Fallin and other state leaders observe a PowerPoint presentation of revenue projections.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Today, Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation ending a pair of tax incentives used by wind energy developers. The bills will end the use of an exemption that has ballooned alongside the state’s booming wind industry.

The governor’s signature on Senate Bills 498 and 502 means companies building wind farms after 2016 won’t be eligible for a five-year property tax exemption and another incentive written for manufacturers pumping money into property or employees. The property tax exemption was popular with wind developers, who used it to claim thirty-two million dollars in 2013.

Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm at the 2012 Time 100 gala.
David Shankbone / Flickr

Harold Hamm, the billionaire founder and CEO of Continental Resources, denies a report that he told a University of Oklahoma dean he wanted scientists dismissed who were researching links between oil and gas production and Oklahoma’s exponential increase in earthquakes.