Oklahoma

Environment, Education, Energy: 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: joe@stateimpactoklahoma.org

What Scientists Say A Warming Climate Might Mean For Oklahoma

Volunteer firefighters Christie Smith and David Thompson cool down after extinguishing a hotspot that flared east of Noble, Okla., in 2012. Scientists expect the risk of wildfire to increase as climate change-fueled droughts occur more frequently and last longer.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Volunteer firefighters Christie Smith and David Thompson cool down after extinguishing a hotspot that flared east of Noble, Okla., in 2012. Scientists expect the risk of wildfire to increase as climate change-fueled droughts occur more frequently and last longer.

A new report from hundreds of experts and more than a dozen federal agencies is stark: Humans are likely responsible for the warmest period in modern civilization.

The consequences of this warming vary regionally, but scientists and researchers forecast significant effects in Oklahoma and other southern plains states.

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In Tulsa, a National Blueprint for Managing Floods as Cities Grow and Climate Changes

Stormwater engineer Bill Robison snaps a photo of a flood-prone house the city is trying to buy from its homeowner.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Stormwater engineer Bill Robison snaps a photo of a flood-prone house the city is trying to buy from its homeowner.

In the aftermath of devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, communities across the U.S. are rethinking ways to control flooding and reduce hazards that could be worsened by urbanization and climate change.

Writing such plans is a complex, politically challenging process, but one city in Oklahoma has emerged as a national model for creating a flood-control program that works.

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Landmark Earthquake Lawsuit Settled, Former State Scientist Testifies About Industry Pressure In Another

A disposal well in northwest Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A disposal well in northwest Oklahoma.

The first lawsuit filed against Oklahoma oil companies over earthquakes is now settled.

Sandra Ladra was injured by rocks that shook loose from her fireplace during the 5.7-magnitude temblor that struck near the city of Prague in 2011. The quake is one of the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma and was the first one scientists linked to wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry. Continue Reading

A River of Uncertainty Lingers As State Approves OKC’s Permit For Southeastern Oklahoma Water

Jerry Gutierrez steers his golf cart on a tour of his ranch near the Kiamichi River in southeastern Oklahoma. Gutierrez and other nearby residents urged the state not to approve Oklahoma City's permit to tap water from river.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Jerry Gutierrez steers his golf cart on a tour of his ranch near the Kiamichi River in southeastern Oklahoma. Gutierrez and other nearby residents urged the state not to approve Oklahoma City's permit to tap water from river.

Oklahoma City’s decades-long quest for a permit to pump water out of southeastern Oklahoma is over. This week, state regulators approved a key part of the city’s $1 billion-plus project to meet the metro’s long-term water needs, but residents and water rights groups say the urban victory marks a milestone — not the end of the road.

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Guarded Hope At Oklahoma’s Abandoned Mine As EPA Promises Focus On Contaminated Sites

Rebecca Jim, executive director of the L.E.A.D Agency, at the nonprofit's headquarters in Miami, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Rebecca Jim, executive director of the L.E.A.D Agency, at the nonprofit's headquarters in Miami, Okla.

Newly minted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt spent his first months on the job steering the agency away from climate change to focus, in part, on cleaning up contaminated sites around the country.

The former Oklahoma attorney general has directed a task force to create a top-10 list of locations that need aggressive attention — welcome news at Superfund sites like Tar Creek in the northeastern corner of the state.

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Oklahoma Latest Front As Military and Wind Developers Fight For Open Sky

Trainees in the control tower at Altus Air Force Base watch as a C-17 cargo plane taxis to the runway.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Senior Airman Yazmine Nanasca watches as a C-17 cargo plane taxis to the runway from her perch in the control tower at Altus Air Force Base.

Developers recently announced plans to build the country’s largest wind farm in Oklahoma’s Panhandle. The industry is growing and turbine projects are expanding across the state. But wind energy developers are facing a new headwind: military air bases.

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New Research Questions Forecasted Earthquake Slowdown

A team from U.C. Santa Cruz and the Oklahoma Geological Survey cast doubt on a predicted decline in Oklahoma earthquakes in a paper published in Science Advances.

Science Advances

A team from U.C. Santa Cruz and the Oklahoma Geological Survey cast doubt on a predicted decline in Oklahoma earthquakes in a paper published in Science Advances.

A new research paper suggests Oklahoma’s earthquake hazard might not taper off as quickly or as significantly as scientists previously predicted.

The energy industry practice of pumping toxic waste-fluid byproducts of oil and gas production into underground disposal wells is thought to be fueling Oklahoma’s earthquake surge. This activity peaked in 2015 and slowed due to regulations and low oil prices.

A November 2016 study by Stanford University geophysicists predicted fewer earthquakes and less-damaging shaking would soon follow, but newly published research is less optimistic.  Continue Reading

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