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. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

President Obama and delegates from nearly 200 nations are gathering in Paris to hammer out an agreement to rein in global climate change

World leaders are acknowledging their countries’ contributions to climate change, and are making commitments to improve the environment. But there’s an army of Republicans pushing against Obama’s Paris plan, and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma is one of its generals. 

The Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott speaks during Tuesday's protest on the steps of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission as other demonstrators hold signs voicing opposition to OG&E's demand charge proposal.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

About 30 demonstrators gathered outside the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Tuesday.

Holding yellow umbrellas and chanting “Don’t Block The Sun,” the protesters spoke out against a proposal by Oklahoma Gas and Electric to include a demand charge on the bills of rooftop solar customers.

An Eagle Energy Exploration disposal well site in May 2015, where workers plugged-back an Arbuckle disposal well regulators said was drilled too deep.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Researchers studying Oklahoma’s energy industry-linked earthquake surge and state regulators eager to quell the shaking have circled the wagons around a specific class of wells companies fill with wastewater and other fluid byproducts of oil and gas production.

Tanker trucks unloading oil at a Phillips 66 terminal in Cushing, Okla., home to the largest commercial crude oil storage in the U.S.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Phillips 66, a refiner with 700,000 barrels of storage capacity in Cushing, Okla., “has overhauled how it plans for earthquakes, a sign U.S. energy companies are starting to react to rising seismicity around the world’s largest crude hub,” Reuters’ Liz Hampton reports.

The changes include new protocols for inspecting the health of crude tanks, potentially halting operations after temblors, and monitoring quake alerts.

Bison on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northeastern Oklahoma live a quiet life. Most come into contact with humans just once a year. November is a noisy time when fur flies, calves whine and hooves stomp. The chaotic scene is critical to keeping the herd healthy.

An oil and gas operation in northwestern Oklahoma's Mississippi Lime formation.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

As SandRidge Energy struggles with $4.6 billion in debt and a faltering stock price that’s threatening its listing on the New York Stock Exchange, the Oklahoma City oil and gas company is facing another problem: Earthquakes and new regulations designed to slow the shaking:

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Oklahoma oil and gas authorities on Tuesday ordered cutbacks at disposal wells in north-central Oklahoma.

The restrictions come after a barrage of earthquakes near the town of Medford.

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

Environmental groups are threatening to file a federal lawsuit against four Oklahoma energy companies over earthquakes linked to oil and gas activity.

Scientists say the industry practice of pumping oil and gas waste fluid underground is likely responsible for Oklahoma’s earthquake boom.

Mike Moeller, senior director of mid-continent assets for Enbridge Energy.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s boom in man-made earthquakes has become a national security threat. It’s easy to understand why.

The ground is shaking near Cushing, Oklahoma, home to the largest commercial crude oil storage center in North America, where big money is made storing and moving crude. The massive oil hub is connected to dozens of pipelines and lined with hundreds of airplane hangar-sized tanks currently holding an estimated 54 million barrels of oil.

Workers in an oil field near Seminole, Okla., in 1939.
Russell Lee / Library of Congress

An upsurge of earthquakes linked to the oil and gas industry continues to rattle Oklahoma, but new research suggests most of the significant earthquakes recorded in the state over the last century also were likely triggered by drilling activity.

The oil hub in Cushing, Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

State oil and gas regulators on Friday expanded limits on disposal wells near Cushing, Oklahoma. The shutdowns and volume limits come amid renewed worry about earthquake activity near one of the country’s largest crude oil storage hubs.

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma's coal and natural gas-fired Northeastern generating station in Oologah, Okla.
@ Tom Nickell / Flickr

The Obama Administration recently announced stricter limits on ground-level ozone, a smog-causing pollutant closely monitored by environmentalists and the fossil fuel industry.

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators in August 2015 ordered oil and gas companies to sharply limit waste fluid injection at disposal wells, including this one, Equal Energy's Goodnight SWDW No. 5 in Logan County.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Marjo Operating Co. Inc. is the first oil and gas operator to challenge regulatory actions issued by state regulators attempting to curb an ongoing surge of earthquakes linked to the industry.

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

U.S. Sen. James Lankford is introducing a bill to remove an expired wind energy incentive from the federal tax code.

The federal Production Tax Credit for wind energy expired in December 2014, but since it’s part of the tax code, lawmakers can extend it by bundling it with legislation to extend other tax credits and incentives. That has happened as recently as July, when a Senate committee voted to extend the PTC as part of a $95 billion bundle of incentives.

University of Oklahoma professor Bob Nairn stands on a bridge overlooking Tar Creek, which is contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, iron, lead and zinc from decades of mining.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Tri-State Mining District in northeastern Oklahoma’s Ottawa County was once the world’s largest source of lead and zinc. The mines had closed by the 1970s, butpernicious pollution still plagues what is now known as the Tar Creek superfund site.