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: joe@stateimpactoklahoma.org
  • Twitter: @joewertz

Power Struggle: The Oil and Gas Boom and an Outbreak of Earthquakes in Oklahoma

Lawrence Stasyszen, abbott of St. Gregory's Abbey, stands inside the monastery's condemned workshop in Shawnee, Okla. The monastery and associated college are still reeling from millions in damage from a 5.7-magnitude quake that struck in 2011.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lawrence Stasyszen, abbott of St. Gregory's Abbey, stands inside the monastery's condemned workshop in Shawnee, Okla. The monastery and nearby college are still reeling from millions in damage from a 5.7-magnitude quake that struck in 2011.

In 2014, Oklahoma had more than three times as many earthquakes as California, and this year, the state is on track for even more. A lot of them are small, but some towns are seeing a quake almost every day, and seismologists warn that large and damaging earthquakes are becoming more likely.

The government in the Sooner State has only recently acknowledged the scope of the oil and gas industry’s role in the problem.

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“Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. Embarks on 2.5-megawatt Solar Pilot Project”

OG&E’s $7.5 million test project near Mustang has two sites, one with 2,000 fixed solar panels; the other with about 8,000 panels that track the sun, Paul Monies reports.


Scott Milanowski, OG&E’s director of engineering, innovation and technology, said the south site is equivalent to about 100 homes with solar panels; the north site would be about 400 homes. OG&E drew criticism from some renewable energy advocates last year after it supported legislation to end a 1977 law that forbade utilities in Oklahoma from charging more to solar users. Senate Bill 1456 allows regulated utilities to ask regulators to establish a new rate structure for users of distributed generation from rooftop solar or small wind turbines. Utilities argued the change was needed so distributed generation users were paying their fair share of grid-connection costs. Critics contend it was a defensive move intended to stave off competition from fast-growing solar generation.

Read more at: newsok.com

“Lawton May End Cloud Seeding Contract”

City officials in Lawton are deciding whether to cancel a recently signed contract for cloud-seeding.


Councilman Keith Jackson says the decision about whether or not to keep the program is going to be made at the next City Council meeting. The current recommendation on the agenda for the meeting is to cancel the cloud seeding contract immediately. If that decision is made, the surcharges and fees on the water bill will also end.

Read more at: www.kswo.com

Oil Executive Says He Didn’t Try to Get Earthquake Scientists Fired

Harold Hamm in April 2012 at TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People In the World gala in New York City

Jemal Countess / Getty Images for TIME

Harold Hamm in April 2012 at TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People In the World gala in New York City

Harold Hamm, the billionaire founder and CEO of Continental Resources, denies a report that told a University of Oklahoma dean he wanted scientists dismissed who were researching links between oil and gas production and Oklahoma’s exponential increase in earthquakes.

In emails obtained by Bloomberg’s Benjamin Elgin, Larry Grillot, then the dean of OU’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, wrote to colleagues after a meeting with the oil executive: “Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed,” Grillot wrote, referring to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, a state agency operated through the university.

Hamm and Continental declined comment to Bloomberg, but the oilman disputed the report in a story by different reporter, Adam Wilmoth of The Oklahoman:

“All that was false. It’s incorrect,” Hamm said. “Nobody asked for anybody to be removed. Nobody has been let go. Nobody was asked to be let go.”

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“Oklahoma Property Tax Exemption Program Benefits Power Plants, Wind Farms”

Senate Bill 498, which ends a five-year property exemption for new wind farms on Jan. 1, 2017, is headed to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk, The Oklahoman reports.


Lawmakers dropped electric power plants from the ad valorem tax exemption program in 2009. But with the rapid expansion of wind farms for electricity generation in the past few years, elected officials are again taking a closer look at the property tax incentive. Wind developers claimed $32 million in property tax exemptions in 2013, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. That was about half of the $64 million total, which also includes exemptions claimed by manufacturing plants, data centers and distribution facilities.

Read more at: newsok.com

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