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.

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Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm
Provided / Continental Resources

Harold Hamm, the billionaire founder and CEO of Continental Resources told a University of Oklahoma dean he wanted scientists dismissed who were researching links between oil and gas activity and this state’s earthquake surge, Bloomberg’s Benjamin Elgin reports.

Boats meet in the middle of Tom Steed lake in southwestern Oklahoma in May 2014. Under normal lake conditions, the rocks in the foreground would be submerged.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A soggy April and a slow-moving storm system that dumped record rainfall has drenched Oklahoma’s drought. The rain is welcome, but officials and experts warn the relief could be fleeting.

Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm
Provided / Continental Resources

Harold Hamm, the founder, chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, says he requested a meeting with a state seismologist to get information, not to “bully” a scientist tasked with studying an earthquake surge that has been linked to oil and gas activity.

EnergyWire’s Mike Soraghan reports:

A Devon Energy disposal well near Stillwater, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission in March ordered the operators of nearly 350 disposal wells to prove their operations weren’t allowing waste fluid to be pumped into a rock formation known to produce earthquakes.

The Corporation Commission has not provided comprehensive records or data related to the operators’ responses to the March directives despite multiple requests by StateImpact. Today, the commission issued a statement that provides a snapshot of the industry’s response to the directives:

The Oklahoma Geological Survey recently revised its formal position on Oklahoma’s exponential surge in earthquake activity, acknowledging for the first time in a official public statement that most of the seismic activity recently recorded in the state was linked to oil and gas activity.

On the May 1 episode of Oklahoma News Report, Joe Wertz talked with OETA host Dick Pryor about the earthquake situation and what the formal acknowledgement means for the state going forward, and also detailed efforts by the U.S. Geological Survey to forecast the hazard posed by oil and gas-related earthquakes.

seismic readout
Great Beyond / Flickr

The Oklahoma Geological Survey on April 21 acknowledged Oklahoma’s ongoing earthquake surge is “very likely” triggered by wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry, a formal recognition that comes after years of scientific research that reached similar conclusions.

Disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry are ‘very likely’ responsible for the recent surge of earthquakes in Oklahoma, the state seismologist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey said Tuesday.

Dust Bowl survivor Pauline Hodges traveled to the Oklahoma Capitol to speak at an event commemorating the 80th anniversary of the "Black Sunday" dust storm.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

On April 14, 1935, a rolling mountain of dust and sand swept through Oklahoma, choked out the sun and filled homes with dirt piles so high residents had to clean their homes with shovels.

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon near the town of Forgan in Oklahoma’s Panhandle. Pauline Hodges was five at the time. She and her mother were visiting a neighbor when her friend’s father ran up to the backdoor.

The Blue Canyon wind farm near Carnegie, Okla.
Joe Wertz / KGOU

State legislators and wind industry representatives are close to a deal that would end two tax incentives and preserve a third, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

Under the tentative agreement, a five-year property tax exemption for new wind farms would end after 2016, but a zero-emissions tax credit would remain in place. Another incentive that isn’t used much by wind developers, the investment tax credit, would end Jan. 1, 2017.