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

Environmental Groups Fight State’s Effort To Regulate Coal Ash On Its Own

Environmental groups, activists and residents urged the EPA not to approve the state's plan to regulate coal ash at a public hearing in February 2018.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Environmental groups, activists and residents urged the EPA not to approve the state's plan to regulate coal ash at a public hearing in February 2018.

Environmental groups and concerned residents this week told federal officials the Oklahoma agency charged with protecting air, land and water lacked the resources and rules to manage a state-run plan to regulate coal ash.

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New Research: Limiting Volume And Depth Of Disposal Wells Key In Reducing Oklahoma Earthquakes

A tanker truck at an oil and gas production site in southeastern Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A tanker truck at an oil and gas production site in southeastern Oklahoma.

Oklahoma experienced a dramatic drop in earthquakes in 2017 — a decline likely due, in part, to regulations limiting activity at oil-field disposal wells, scientists and experts say. New research suggests those regulations might be reducing some quakes more than others.

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Authorities Investigating Oklahoma Rig Explosion, Deadliest U.S. Drilling Accident In Years

Inspectors and emergency crews surveying damage at Patterson-UTI's rig 219, which exploded and caught fire Jan. 22.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Inspectors and emergency crews surveying damage at Patterson-UTI's rig 219, which exploded and caught fire Jan. 22.

Federal and state authorities are investigating the cause of the deadly explosion and fire at a natural gas drilling rig in southeastern Oklahoma on Monday.  Five workers died in what appears to be one of the country’s deadliest onshore drilling accidents. Continue Reading

Industry Group Challenges Proposed Ballot Question To Raise Oil And Gas Taxes

The state's largest industry group has mounted a two-pronged legal challenge to the proposed SQ 795.

The state's largest industry group has mounted a two-pronged legal challenge to the proposed SQ 795.

The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association on Wednesday filed two separate state Supreme Court challenges to a proposed state question that would ask voters to end industry discounts and impose a broad 7 percent tax on oil and gas production to fund teacher pay raises and early childhood education.

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An Oilman Who Helped Write Energy Industry Tax Breaks Is Leading An Effort To Remove Them

Mickey Thompson, founder and director of Restore Oklahoma Now, leaves the attorney general's office after filing paperwork for State Question 795.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Mickey Thompson, founder and director of Restore Oklahoma Now, leaves the attorney general's office after filing paperwork for State Question 795.

Mickey Thompson has a manila envelope tucked under his arm as he walks towards the Oklahoma Capitol. If the paperwork doesn’t start a fight, it almost certainly will add fuel to one.

Inside the envelope is the handiwork of about 10 people over a couple of months that could clear a path for Oklahoma voters to do something most lawmakers won’t consider: Enact broad tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

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Q&A: A Look Ahead At The Stories StateImpact Is Following Into The New Year

StateImpact reporters preview the key health, education, energy and environment issues they'll be tracking in 2018.

StateImpact Oklahoma

StateImpact reporters preview the key health, education, energy and environment issues they'll be tracking in 2018.

Twenty-seventeen is wrapping up, but the growing group of reporters at StateImpact are following many important government policy issues that will carry on into the new year.

Senior Reporter and Managing Editor Joe Wertz brought the StateImpact team into the studio for a preview of their coverage in the year to come. Here are some excerpts from the conversation edited for clarity:

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Group Led By Long-Time Energy Leader Seeks Public Vote To Increase Oil And Gas Taxes

Mickey Thompson of Restore Oklahoma Now filing the paperwork for SQ 795, which would ask voters to increase taxes on oil and gas production to help fund education.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Mickey Thompson of Restore Oklahoma Now filing the paperwork for SQ 795, which would ask voters to increase taxes on oil and gas production to help fund education.

A group led by a long-time energy industry leader wants Oklahoma voters to approve an increase in taxes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

Currently, taxes on oil and gas production are discounted for the first three years making the effective tax rate somewhere around 3.2 percent. Mickey Thompson with Restore Oklahoma Now on Wednesday filed the paperwork for State Question 795 to increase that rate to 7 percent across-the-board. Continue Reading

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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