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

‘Polls, State Chamber Frown on Oklahoma Wind Tax Proposal’

Nearly 3/4 of Oklahoma voters oppose a half-cent tax on wind-generated electricity proposed by Gov. Mary Fallin, The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports a poll sponsored by a wind advocacy group shows. “The State Chamber also is voicing opposition to the plan.”

Polls, State Chamber frown on Oklahoma wind tax proposal

American Wind Action commissioned polls in January and earlier this month to see how Oklahomans viewed both wind energy and a proposed wind tax, which was unveiled earlier this month by Fallin in her executive budget as one measure to plug the state’s estimated $878 million shortfall. Continue Reading

Emails Show EPA Boss Pruitt Worked In Concert With Industry He Now Regulates

scott-pruitt2014-1_WEB

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Scott Pruitt shakes hands at the Oklahoma Capitol.

Emails made public Wednesday show newly confirmed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt coordinated with the fossil fuel industry and political groups to fight federal environmental regulations when he served as Oklahoma’s attorney general. Continue Reading

Pruitt Suggests New Direction for EPA in Address to Employees

Scott Pruitt addressed EPA's 15,000 employees in a short speech on Feb. 21, 2017.

EPA

Scott Pruitt addressed EPA's 15,000 employees in a short speech on Feb. 21, 2017.

Former Oklahoma Attorney General and new Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt addressed employees of the federal agency for the first time today.

Speaking at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., Pruitt told the agency’s 15,000 workers — some of which strongly opposed his nomination — he would listen to their ideas and encourage civil debate on key environmental issues. He indicated a narrow interpretation of the agency’s authority, saying the EPA’s oversight had to be “tethered” to statute.

Pruitt said he’d rebuild the EPA’s partnership with state regulators and he pledged to ensure the environmental rule-making process is open, transparent and objective. But, he said, federal regulators have an obligation to make sure those rules provide certainty for industry. Continue Reading

Senate Confirms Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as Nation’s Top Environmental Watchdog

Attorney General Scott Pruitt shakes hands at the Oklahoma capitol in February 2017.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Attorney General Scott Pruitt talks to state lawmakers at the Oklahoma capitol in February 2017.

The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, a federal regulatory agency the Oklahoma politician has built his brand fighting against.  Continue Reading

Judge Rules Against Oklahoma AG Pruitt, Orders Trump’s EPA Pick to Release Emails

Center for Media and Democracy attorney Robert Nelon, center,  outside a courtroom in Oklahoma City.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Center for Media and Democracy attorney Robert Nelon, center, outside a courtroom in Oklahoma City.

An Oklahoma County District judge on Thursday ordered Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office to turn over emails and other documents requested two years ago by a watchdog group. Continue Reading

‘Oklahoma Moves Up to Third Place in State Rankings for Wind Power’

The latest market report from the American Wind Energy Association comes as lawmakers start discussions over the future of state incentives for wind generation “and the possibility of a new tax on wind production proposed by Gov. Mary Fallin,” The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports.

Oklahoma moves up to third place in state rankings for wind power

Oklahoma added almost 1,200 megawatts of wind capacity in the last three months of 2016 as it leapfrogged California to take third place among the states for wind capacity. Continue Reading

Embezzlement Investigation in Oklahoma Adds to Questions About Oversight of Federal Beef Promotion Program

A worker corrals cattle into a chute at Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A worker corrals cattle into a chute at Oklahoma National Stockyards in Oklahoma City.

Federal authorities are investigating the alleged embezzlement of $2.6 million dollars from an obscure Oklahoma board that promotes the beef industry. The investigation and related lawsuits add to questions about oversight of a national program funded by fees charged to ordinary farmers and ranchers.

Continue Reading

Gov. Mary Fallin’s State Budget Proposal Includes New Tax on Wind Energy

Wind turbines line the horizon near Kingfisher, Okla.

mtneer_ma / flickr

Wind turbines line the horizon near Kingfisher, Okla.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday proposed a new 0.5 cent per kilowatt hour tax on wind-generated electricity.

The new wind production tax is part of Fallin’s 2018 executive budget, a document written to guide the Legislature as it struggles to fill an $870 million revenue shortfall and write bills appropriating money to hundreds of state agencies. In her budget, Fallin also suggests an early end to tax incentives for the wind industry. Combined, the two efforts are expected to generate $36.6 million in revenue.

If lawmakers adopt Fallin’s proposal, Oklahoma would be the second state to impose a tax on wind power, “and its tax would be the nation’s highest,” The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports:

The idea of taxing wind production has been floated before at the Capitol, including last year when some oil and gas executives also said state wind incentives were too generous. The Legislature did not take any action to curtail the wind incentives or enact a new tax last year. Continue Reading

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