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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Environment
10:02 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Why Oklahoma’s Attorney General Is Using Coal To Fight The EPA

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt
Credit Oklahoma Attorney General's Office

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is no fan of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and filing lawsuits against the federal agency has become a signature of the state’s chief legal adviser.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
9:14 am
Thu August 22, 2013

As Oklahoma’s Oilfield Booms, State Tax Breaks Follow

Toolpusher and rig manager Darrin Silcot walks the perimeter of a Triad Energy horizontal drilling operation near Alva, Okla.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The energy industry fuels Oklahoma’s economy, and the state is flush with active rigs and plentiful oil and natural gas production.

Oklahoma’s oilfields are booming, as are state tax credits for drilling, which is leading some to question whether it’s sound fiscal policy to incentivize a thriving industry.

Joe Wertz visits and oil well site to help explain differing opinions on taxpayer support for drilling.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:46 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

New Secretary of Energy and Environment Has No Oil Experience, Says Oklahoma Oil Lobby

Col. Michael Teague
Credit Oklahoma Governor's Office

Gov. Mary Fallin on Aug. 16 appointed Col. Michael Teague as secretary of energy and environment.

Fallin’s choice for the cabinet position — which was created by combining the vacant offices of secretaries of energy and environment — was immediately criticized by the president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, the state’s largest industry trade organization.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:36 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

How Hugo Lake Lost Its State Park Status

Fishing near Hugo Lake park, which lost its state park status in June 2013.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Tourism Commission on June 26 voted to strip Hugo Lake of its state park status, citing low attendance.

The commission acted “quietly,” but State Sen. Jerry Ellis (D-Valliant) responded loudly, The Journal Record’s M. Scott Carter reports:

On Aug. 2, Ellis sent a letter to Republican Gov. Mary Fallin asking that the Tourism Commission reconsider the status of the park using factual information.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
12:31 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

OKC’s Tab For Tapping Sardis Water Could Be $1 Billion

Sardis Lake
Credit Olliehigh / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma City already depends on water from southeastern Oklahoma, but the 60-inch, 100-mile pipeline from Lake Atoka ain’t enough.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
1:16 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Sierra Club Sues OG&E, Claims Coal Boiler Mods Violated Federal Clean Air Act

The first page of the Sierra Club's lawsuit against OG&E.
Credit Provided / The Sierra Club

The Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., the state’s largest electric utility, alleging the company violated the federal Clean Air Act by modifying a coal burner at its Muskogee power plant without “planning for increased levels of air pollution and failing to obtain a permit from state regulators.”

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StateImpact Oklahoma
8:06 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Months Later, Oklahoma’s Salt Fork River Fish Kill Is Still a Mystery

The mysterious Salt Fork fish kill is worrying residents, river-goers and anglers like Baron Owens, whose dad lives on a stretch of the river near Ponca City.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

A summer fish kill in north-central Oklahoma is worrying anglers, river-goers and nearby water users.

The Salt Fork River die-off was massive and, still months after it was reported, mysterious. Researchers and state authorities say they still don’t know who or what the killer is.

Two fish kills were reported to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, records show. The first one on June 3, upstream near Lamont; the second on June 17, near Tonkawa. The two fish kills are likely related, so state authorities are investigating them as one event, officials from the DEQ, state Department of Wildlife Conservation and Corporation Commission tell StateImpact.

Listen to the story from Joe Wertz.

“In the areas that overlapped during the kills, there is absolutely zero aquatic life other than turtles,” says Spencer Grace, a state game warden stationed in Kay County.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:41 pm
Tue August 6, 2013

Oil and Gas Helped Fuel Record Year for Oklahoma Tax Revenue

Oklahoma's economic recovery continues with oil and gas revenue.
Credit CALI2OKIE / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Over the last 12 months, the state has collected $11.3 billion in tax revenue — an all-time high, State Treasurer Ken Miller said Monday.

The record tax receipt — $12.6 million higher than the previous record set in December 2008 — is an indication that Oklahoma has recovered from the Great Recession, Miller said.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
11:11 am
Fri August 2, 2013

Twister Truths: Does The Tornado Risk Peak After The School Day Ends?

Wooden crosses at the Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore stand in memory of the seven students killed during the May 20, 2013 tornado.
Credit SFC Kendall James / U.S. Department of Defense

Editor's Note: This is part one in StateImpact Oklahoma's "Twister Truths" series where we use data to kick the tires on the conventional wisdom underlying severe weather policy in Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, state and local emergency authorities emphasize individual shelters in peoples’ homes over communal shelters in schools or other civic buildings. As we reported here, almost all the federal disaster funding the state receives has been directed to rebates for the construction of residential shelters and safe rooms.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
8:48 am
Thu August 1, 2013

Is Oklahoma’s Severe Weather Policy Grounded In Fact Or Folklore?

Gavin Hawkins walks through the rubble after the May 20, 2013 tornado in Moore.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Since the deadly tornadoes that struck the state this spring, StateImpact has been taking a look at Oklahoma’s severe weather policy, and asking questions like: Why aren’t there more safe rooms in schools?

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