Joe Wertz

Reporter

Joe Wertz is multi-platform reporter for StateImpact Oklahoma. He 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.

  • Email: stateimpact@kgou.org
  • Twitter: @joewertz

State Seismologist to WaPo: Oil Industry Has Tried to Influence Earthquake Research

Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Geological Survey seismologist Austin Holland.

Washington Post reporter Lori Montgomery traveled central Oklahoma and filed a story about Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm, an examination that included interviews from concerned residents, politicians and Sandra Ladra, who was injured in the 5.7-magnitude November 2011 earthquake and filed a lawsuit seeking damages from oil copanies she says are liable.

Montgomery also interviewed a cadre of university, federal and state scientists, who suggest at least some of the shaking has likely been triggered by disposal wells. A few lines, in particular, stood out: Continue Reading

Bills Filed to Stop Local Bans on Oil and Gas Production

Pedestal Oil first proposed drilling at Lake Hefner in 2011, but the plan met stiff opposition from several groups.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Hundreds gathered at a public meeting in Oklahoma City to hear about an oil company's proposal to drill near Lake Hefner.

Several bills filed for the upcoming 2015 legislate session rein in the power cities and counties have to regulate drilling and oil and gas production.

The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

At least eight bills have been filed that would stop cities and counties from banning drilling operations, including proposals from top leaders in the House and Senate.

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Oklahoma Supreme Court to Decide Lawsuit Over Earthquake Near Prague, Okla.

Seismologists say oil and natural gas disposal wells, like this one near Sparks, Okla., are likely triggering earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Seismologists say oil and natural gas disposal wells, like this one near Sparks, Okla., are likely triggering earthquakes in Oklahoma.

The state’s highest court will consider whether two oil companies can be held liable for injuries a woman suffered during the 2011 earthquake near Prague, Okla.

The 5.7-magnitude earthquake was the state’s largest recorded with modern instruments, and is the largest quake scientists have linked to disposal wells, a type of well oil and gas companies use to pump full of wastewater, a byproduct of oil and gas drilling.

The case is “expected to set a precedent for future earthquake claims,” The Tulsa World‘s Ziva Branstetter reports: Continue Reading

“Apex Will Sell Kingfisher Wind Farm that Drew Opposition From Some Nearby Landowners”

Apex Clean Energy’s 298-megawatt Kingfisher Wind farm under construction between Piedmont and Kingfisher will be sold to the First Reserve Corp, NewsOK reports.


The $425 million project, announced in 2012, has drawn criticism from some nearby landowners not happy about having a wind farm near their property. City officials in Piedmont deemed the project a “public nuisance” until a settlement was reached taking some planned turbine locations outside city limits. A group of landowners and the Oklahoma Wind Action Association sued Apex and several associated companies in federal court last year, claiming the Kingfisher wind farm would threaten their health and safety. Apex wants a judge to dismiss the case, saying any claims of harm were speculative.

Read more at: newsok.com

As Authorities Use Permit Process to Scrutinize Wells in Earthquake Country, Oil Industry Remains Silent

Oil-field workers tend to American Energy-Woodford's Judge South well in November 2014 well shortly after the Oklahoma Corporation Commission ordered it temporarily shut-in.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oil-field workers in November 2014 tending to American Energy-Woodford's Judge South well near Perkins, Okla., shortly after the Oklahoma Corporation Commission ordered it temporarily shut-in.

As earthquakes continue to rattle Oklahoma and scientists study links to oil and gas production, many Oklahomans want to know what, if anything, is being done to address the shaking.

An investigation by StateImpact shows that while authorities are quietly scrutinizing wells in quake-prone parts of the state, most of the companies that operate the wells are staying silent.

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“Kansas Geological Survey Links Earthquakes to Fracking Waste Disposal”

Waste fluid disposal from oil and gas operations “could be to blame for a sharp increase in earthquakes in south-central Kansas, according to a geophysicist with the Kansas Geological Survey,” the AP reports.


Rex Buchanan, director of the Kansas Geological Survey, stressed that it is likely disposal of the waste water, not the fracking itself, which causes seismic movement. “If someone were to say these earthquakes were caused by fracking, there might be one or two, but there is no evidence for it,” Buchanan said. “The issue of saltwater disposal is completely different.”

Read more at: www.kansas.com

Oklahoma Earthquake Rate is High, But Holding Steady

A panel of state geological surveys and oil and gas regulators at the National Seismic Hazard Workshop on Induced Seismicity, held in November at a conference center in Midwest City, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A panel of state geological surveys and oil and gas regulators at the National Seismic Hazard Workshop on Induced Seismicity, held in November at a conference center in Midwest City, Okla.

Oklahoma experienced more earthquakes than California in 2014, but the rate and severity of the shaking “has held relatively flat over the past 12 months,” The Oklahoman’s Adam Wilmoth reports.

“It looks like we’re at about the same rate now as we were last year at this point,” Oklahoma Geological Society seismologist Austin Holland said. “We’re continuing to see a high rate, but it looks like a steady rate at this point.”

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Engineering Students at Oklahoma Universities Anxious About Low Oil Prices

The price of crude oil has plummeted below $50 a barrel, and while there are varying opinions and analyses on whether the downturn will be short slump or a long slog, students in Oklahoma who are enrolled in engineering disciplines are starting to worry that low oil prices could affect their future job prospects.

Students in petroleum, chemical and mechanical engineering disciplines at both the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa are among those expressing concern, The Journal Record‘s D. Ray Tuttle reports: Continue Reading

“‘Kings When It’s Good:’ Oklahoma Braces For Possible Crude Crash”

NPR’s “Morning Edition” aired a version of our piece on how low oil prices are spurring economic worries in Oklahoma.


Fallin and other lawmakers are warning state agencies that low oil prices could stall the state economy. The crash could deepen a $300 million state budget gap. “The oil and gas industry is by far the largest single source of tax revenue to the state,” says Mark Snead, an economist and president of RegionTrack, which provides economic forecasting for state finance officials. He’s telling lawmakers to build their budget with $60-a-barrel oil in mind.

Read more at: www.npr.org

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