Joe Wertz


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.

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Oklahoma Running Out of Room for Oil as U.S. Hoards Crude in Cushing Hub

A tanker truck pulling into a terminal at the oil hub in Cushing, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A tanker truck pulling into a terminal at the oil hub in Cushing, Okla.

A booming U.S. oil industry has led to near-record amounts of oil production, which has helped drive down oil prices. The energy industry has responded by storing crude instead of selling it at discount rates. That has created a unique situation in Oklahoma, where a major oil storage hub is on track to fill up — completely.

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“Crude Oil Storage at Cushing, But Not Storage Capacity Utilization Rate, at Record Level”

While record-breaking amounts of crude oil are being stored inside tanks at the oil hub in Cushing, Okla., the hub itself is not as full as it has been in the past — because the hub itself is growing.

As explained in a previous article, utilization can be difficult to calculate, because EIA’s reported inventory levels also include crude oil that is not in storage tanks. This larger inventory is in pipelines, and includes lease stocks (oil that has been produced but not yet entered into the supply chain), and crude oil in transit from Alaska (which only applies to inventories in the West Coast region). At a national level, including these volumes in storage utilization calculations tends to overestimate storage utilization. At a specific site such as Cushing, though, this is less of a concern because there are no volumes in lease stocks and no crude oil in transit from Alaska.

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Now Showing: Oil Downturn’s Effect on Oklahoma Employment Numbers

Rig Worker

Energy Tomorrow / Flickr

Oklahoma lost about 500 mining industry jobs between December and January, data from the Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission show.

Almost all in-state “mining” jobs are actually in oil and gas drilling, The Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports. And while the job losses haven’t yet affected the state’s unemployment rate, currently 3.9 percent, oil sector employment will likely take a big hit in the months to come, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s bulletin The Oklahoma Economist.

“Based just on these past basic relationships between oil prices and Oklahoma economic activity, it seems likely that mining employment in the state will decline significantly in 2015,” according to the bulletin. Continue Reading

“Oklahoma Hiring Freeze Shows No Letup in Oil States’ Fiscal Pain”

Oklahoma officials have instituted a hiring and salary freeze and is considering tapping reserve funds to help fill a $611 million budget hole fuled by tumbling oil prices.

While Oklahoma isn’t as vulnerable as some states to tumbling oil prices, it’s increasingly reliant on energy. The industry generates about 14 percent of household earnings, the most in data going back to 1969, said Mark Snead, president of RegionTrack, which provides analysis to the state tax commission.

“Oil is a big factor in Oklahoma’s budget because of the effect it has on the rest of the economy,” Shelly Paulk, deputy budget director, said in an interview. “So when you lose jobs out on an oil rig out in western Oklahoma, that’s income tax that’s not coming in. That’s sales tax that’s not coming in.”

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Local Officials Raise New Questions as Anti-Frack Ban Legislation Makes Progress

Volunteers watching the polls in November 2014 in Denton, Texas, before voters approved a citywide ban on hydraulic fracturing.

Photomancer / Flickr

Volunteers watching the polls in November 2014 in Denton, Texas, before voters approved a citywide ban on hydraulic fracturing.

As legislation written to prevent counties and municipalities from banning hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas activities advances through the Oklahoma House and Senate, some city leaders and their advocates say the measures go too far and could have unintended consequences.

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“U.S. Crude Oil Stockpiles Shoot up as Cushing Sets Record – EIA”

Booming production, low prices and softening worldwide demand has led to record-setting crude oil storage at the oil hub in Cushing, Okla., EIA data show.

Crude inventories rose by 9.6 million barrels in the last week, compared with analysts’ expectations for an increase of 3.8 million barrels. Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 2.865 million barrels, EIA said. The increase brings Cushing to an all-time record since the EIA began tracking the hub. Refinery crude runs rose by 136,000 barrels per day, EIA data showed. Refinery utilization rates rose by 0.3 percentage points.

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“Hamm Defends 2013 Meeting With Okla. Seismologist and OU President”

Continental Resources Chairman and founder Harold Hamm says his 2013 meeting with Okahoma’s state seismologist and University of Oklahoma President David Boren was to get information, not to pressure scientists to change findings related to earthquakes, EnergyWire’s Mike Soraghan reports.

“The insinuation that there was something untoward that occurred in meetings with Austin Holland is both offensive and inaccurate,” Hamm said in an email sent to The Oklahoman newspaper Friday. “Austin works for a state agency. Upon its founding, the Oklahoma Geological Survey had a solid reputation of an agency that was accessible and of service to the community and industry in Oklahoma. We hope that the agency can continue the legacy to provide this service.” At the time of the November 2013 meeting, Holland’s agency had joined the U.S. Geological Survey in saying that oil and gas activity might be a “contributing factor” in the swarm of quakes. In the months after those meetings, OGS returned to its previous position rejecting links between earthquakes and oil and gas activity.

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Amended Bill Would Prohibit Cities and Towns from ‘Effectively’ Banning Oil and Gas Activities

Demonstrators outside the Norman City Hall before a city council committee met to discuss changes to oil and gas drilling rules.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Demonstrators outside the Norman City Hall before a city council committee met to discuss changes to oil and gas drilling rules.

A proposed amendment to legislation limiting the power local governments have to regulate oil and gas operations expands the bill’s language to prevent cities and towns from enacting rules “effectively” banning drilling, fracking and related activities.

House Bill 2178 was authored by Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, who also wrote the amendment. I’ve highlighted the proposed changes below: Continue Reading

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