Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

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.

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

Wind Regulation Bill Moves Forward With Industry’s Blessing

A wind farm near Weatherford, Okla.

Travel Aficionado / Flickr

A wind farm near Weatherford, Okla.

Legislation adding siting restrictions and reporting requirements to new wind energy developments passed a House committee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 808 is now the primary wind regulation bill for the 2015 legislative session, replacing the similarly worded House Bill 1549, Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, tells The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies:

Senate Bill 808 would stop any wind turbines from being erected within 1.5 nautical miles of an airport, public school or hospital. It also would require developers to submit information to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission within six months of when they plan to begin construction on a wind farm. Continue Reading

Oil Executive’s Meeting With Oklahoma Seismologist: Conversation or Intimidation?

Austin Holland with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, seated in the center, at a capitol hearing on Oklahoma's earthquake surge.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Austin Holland with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, seated in the center, at a capitol hearing on Oklahoma's earthquake surge.

In November 2013, Oklahoma state seismologist Austin Holland was called into a meeting with University of Oklahoma President David Boren and Continental Resources Chairman and oil billionaire Harold Hamm, EnergyWire’s Mike Sorgahan reported earlier this month.

Boren serves on Continental’s board of directors, Hamm is a major OU donor, and Holland works at a state agency, the Oklahoma Geological Survey, which is housed at the university and has a central role in researching an earthquake swarm scientists say is likely triggered by oil and gas activity.

In past interviews, Holland has complained of the oil industry’s attempts to “influence his work,” and in a new Bloomberg story he describes the meeting with Boren and Hamm as “just a little bit intimidating.” Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

“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.

Read more at: www.eia.gov

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.”

Read more at: www.bloomberg.com

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.

Continue Reading

“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.

Read more at: www.reuters.com

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