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

Rush of Small Wind and Solar Installations as Regulators Prepare for Fee Requests

A worker installs a rooftop solar panel.

Green MPs / Flickr

A worker installs a rooftop solar panel.

Customers wanting to generate power from small wind turbines and solar panels without being assessed fees rushed to make sure such installations were fully operational by Saturday, Nov. 1.

The deadline was imposed by Senate Bill 1456, which “requires utilities to account for potential costs those customers impose” on electric utilities, The Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports: Continue Reading

“Oklahoma Judge Dismisses Earthquake Lawsuit”

Sandra Ladra in August filed the lawsuit against the operators of Lincoln County water disposal wells, claiming they caused the 5.6-magnitude earthquake that shook near Prague, Okla., in November 2011 “that caused rock from her fireplace to land in her lap and injure her knee,” The Oklahoman’s Adam Wilmoth reports.


Judge Cynthia Ferrell Ashwood said the district court does not have jurisdiction, and that the case should instead be handled by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.“The court further finds that this court would be required to decide issues that are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission,” Ashwood wrote. “As a result, this court finds that it does not have jurisdiction to hear this case.”

Read more at: newsok.com

Hearing on Disposal Well Rules Exposes Gaps in State’s Earthquake Response

Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, questions Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague at an interim study and hearing about earthquakes and disposal well oversight held in October 2014.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, questions Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague at an interim study and hearing about earthquakes and disposal well oversight held in October 2014.

Oklahoma’s earthquake surge is unrelenting. The shaking is rattling residents and cracking the foundations of homes.

The quakes have also strained state agencies, which are struggling to keep up with the ongoing swarm while simultaneously developing a longer-term plan to analyze and address factors that might be triggering the earthquakes.

Continue Reading

Debate About Competition and Cost at Senate Panel on Wind Incentives

Frank Robson, a wind farm opponent and property developer from Claremore, Okla., at an Oct. 21 Senate hearing on tax incentives for the wind industry.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Frank Robson, a wind farm opponent and property developer from Claremore, Okla., at an Oct. 21 Senate hearing on tax incentives for the wind industry.

Members of the state Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on Tuesday from the wind industry and a representative of a group of property owners pushing for stricter regulation of wind farms.

The Senate study centered on the cost-benefit of tax credits and incentives used by the wind industry. Supporters said Oklahoma’s incentives attract projects that might otherwise be built in other states with similar wind potential, including sites in Kansas, Nebraska and Texas. Continue Reading

“Turbine Turmoil: Landowners Still Worried About Wind Farm Effects”

A second public hearing on what role the Corporation Commission should have in regulating the wind energy industry was held Oct. 15, and included discussions about “siting, landowner notification and decommissioning,” the Journal Record reports.


However, the meetings aren’t designed to create rules. The study sessions are intended to establish recommended guidelines for statutes should the Legislature give the OCC authority over wind farms. The agency has authority to establish decommission policies when wind farms are retired. Tonya Hinex-Ford, energy coordinator for the OCC Public Utilities Division, said that based on submitted comments, people disagree on whether the agency should have more or less power for turbine siting. In addition, many who spoke were concerned about how utility-scale wind farms would affect wildlife and potential health effects from noise. Some residents previously told the OCC about flickering shadows inside homes caused by turbines’ spinning blades.

Read more at: journalrecord.com

Rumbles of New Scrutiny as Quakes Continue to Surge in Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin and Michael Teague, Secretary of Energy and Environment, talk to reporters at the Governor's Energy Conference in 2014.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin and Michael Teague, Secretary of Energy and Environment, talk to reporters at the Governor's Energy Conference in 2014.

Oklahoma’s earthquake surge and possible links to oil and gas activity have been studied in scientific papers, discussed at heated town-hall meetings and explored regulatory hearings.

The quakes are now triggering some rumblings at the state Capitol.

Continue Reading

“Map: Which States Get Hurt Most by Plummeting Oil Prices?”

The price plunge poses economic risks for states that are particularly dependent on oil drilling — particularly Wyoming, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Alaska, and Texas.


Here’s the bottom line: “[F]alling oil prices would cause overall employment losses in Wyoming, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Alaska, Louisiana, Texas, West Virginia, and New Mexico, with the greatest percentage losses in the first three.” This sort of boom and bust is hardly unprecedented. Between 1979 and 1982, global oil prices increased tenfold thanks to decreased output after the Iranian Revolution. Texas, a major oil-producing state, benefitted hugely — growing at a torrid 7.5 percent annual rate during that time. But then prices crashed in 1982, and Texas’ economy crashed along with it, falling into a deep two-year recession.

Read more at: www.vox.com

How a Wind Farm is Helping Save the Family Farm in Western Oklahoma

Monte Tucker, left, stands with his son and dad on the family's farm near Sweetwater, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Monte Tucker, left, stands with his son and dad on the family's farm near Sweetwater, Okla.

In the ongoing debate about Oklahoma’s wind industry and whether it needs stricter regulation, two types of property owners have been the most vocal: those who hate the idea of turbines next door, and those eager to lease land to a wind company.

But there’s a voice that’s been largely absent from the discussion so far: Landowners who have wind farms and like them.

Continue Reading

“Property Rights Group Tells Legislators Oklahoma Wind Farm Tax Credits Are Unsustainable”

Millions in tax subsidies to wind power companies could grow to become “unsustainable,” a property rights group told legislators last week.


Using Oklahoma Tax Commission records, Rick Mosier, of the Oklahoma Property Rights Association, discussed the growth of Oklahoma zero-emission tax credits. These are awarded to wind power companies based on how much electricity they generate. More than $40 million of these credits were awarded in 2012. Beginning this year, qualifying companies can get 85 percent of the credit in a check from the state even if they have no tax liability.

Read more at: newsok.com

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