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

“Company Withdraws Lake Hefner Oil Drilling Proposal”

After vocal opposition that culminated in a rowdy public meeting on Dec. 18, Pedestal Oil has withdrawn its proposal to drill near Oklahoma City’s Lake Hefner.

In a statement, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett thanked Pedestal for recognizing the importance of Lake Hefner to the community. Cornett also thanked those who contacted his office and shared their views. City officials say public feedback to the unsolicited proposal was overwhelmingly against it. The proposal was still in the early stages of the public consideration process.

Read more at: www.pennenergy.com

Oklahoma City Residents Question Lake Hefner Drilling Plan at Contentious Public Meeting

A rowdy crowd of concerned residents shouted at city officials and questioned representatives of an oil company at a Thursday night meeting about a proposal to drill near Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City. Continue Reading

StateImpact’s Biggest Stories of 2014 and a Preview of Reporting for the Coming Year

Brothers and business partners Fred and Wayne Schmedt stand in their family's wheat field near Altus in southwest Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Brothers and business partners Fred and Wayne Schmedt stand in their family's wheat field near Altus in southwest Oklahoma.

StateImpact racked up thousands of miles traveling across the state this year, filing more than 40 full-length radio features and hundreds of web posts on how government energy, environmental and economic policy affects ordinary Oklahomans. And many of those stories involve issues that are ongoing.

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“Donations from Devon PACs, Executives Fill GOP Campaign Coffers”

“Devon Energy’s political action committee and executive chairman have poured nearly $1 million since 2006 into the campaign funds of GOP candidates for state offices and party committees supporting them,” the Tulsa World reports.

Among the top individual recipients during that time is Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whose campaign received the maximum $5,000 contribution from Devon Energy’s PAC this year, even though Pruitt was re-elected months later with no opponent. The contribution came in April, about two weeks after Pruitt wrote a letter to the EPA protesting the agency’s plans to study fracking. Connections between Pruitt and Devon Energy Corp., a $32 billion energy company based in Oklahoma City, were the focus of national attention following a recent New York Times investigation.

Read more at: www.tulsaworld.com

Lawmaker to Propose Legislation Changing Tax Incentives for New Wind Farms

The 147-megawatt Weatherford Wind Energy Center.

Travel Aficionado / Flickr

The 147-megawatt Weatherford Wind Energy Center.

Oklahoma Representative Earl Sears, is planning to file legislation modifying tax credits and incentives used by wind energy developers.

The legislation by Sears, R-Bartlesville, would only affect new wind projects and would target three tax credits used by the wind industry: Zero Emission Energy Generation, the five-year ad valorem exemption for manufacturers and other firms, and investment tax credits, eCapitol’s Shawn Ashley reports:

“In my opinion,” said Sears, R-Bartlesville, “those tax credits are very lucrative and must be reviewed on behalf of the taxpayers.”

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Mapped: Oklahoma’s Dams and the Potential Hazards They Pose

Explore Oklahoma’s dams with StateImpact’s interactive map detailing their age, type, owner, hazard classification and reported failures.

Oklahoma has the fifth-largest dam inventory in the United States. Ownership of the 4,700 dams is largely split between government agencies and private entities, including individual owners and other organizations like homeowner’s associations.
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“Injection Wells in Faults Could Trigger Earthquakes, Devon Executive Chairman Says”

Speeking Wednesday to the Tulsa Rotary Club, co-founder and executive chairman of Devon Energy Larry Nichols acknowledged injecting drilling wastewater “into a fault zone could cause an earthquake to happen sooner.”

When asked whether the government and industry should gather data to study the issue more, Nichols said: “Whether the injection of the water into the water-disposal well actually causes it or not doesn’t really matter. It might, and so don’t inject water into a disposal well where there’s a fault zone.”

Read more at: www.tulsaworld.com

Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt Says ‘Alliance’ With Energy Industry Wasn’t Secret

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt shakes hands at the state capitol after the annual State of the State address.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt shakes hands at the state capitol after the annual State of the State address.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt confirmed Monday that he has worked with the energy industry to push back against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda, but denied how The New York Times characterized those efforts, which were detailed in a story published over the weekend.

Pruitt’s alliance with energy companies isn’t a secret at all, basically. The Oklahoman‘s Randy Ellis reports:

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How Low Oil Prices Could Block an Oklahoma Tax Cut


Katsrcool / flickr

Gov. Mary Fallin in April 2014 signed into law a measure designed to gradually lower Oklahoma’s top income tax rate to 4.85 percent from 5.25 percent.

But those income tax cuts only go into effect if Oklahoma’s revenues rise, and the slumping price of crude oil — $63.57 per barrel of West Texas Intermediate at the time of this posting — could block the tax-cut trigger, The Oklahoman‘s Rick Green reports:

Collections from the gross production tax on oil and natural gas dropped below prior year collections in November for the first time in 19 months, down by $3.72 million or 5.3 percent. However, this reflects production from September, when oil was $93 a barrel. It is now about $66, so tax collections are expected to drop further. Oil hit a peak of $106 in June.

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