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.

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Oil Companies Shut Down Wells Near Earthquake Swarm

A disposal well in northwestern Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A disposal well in northwestern Oklahoma.

After a swarm of earthquakes recorded near the town of Crescent, which peaked with a 4.5-magnitude temblor on Monday, state regulators asked a pair of oil companies to limit activity at three nearby disposal wells.

Monday’s quake caused light damage. Multiple people reported feeling it in Arkansas, more than 400 miles away

Oklahoma City’s Devon Energy Production and Arkansas-based Stephens Energy Group agreed to shut down the two wells nearest the shaking. Stephens also agreed to cut by half the amount of waste fluid pumped into a third well, says Corporation Commission spokesperson Matt Skinner. Continue Reading

“Oklahoma Wind Farm Construction Continues During Second Quarter”

Oklahoma is expected to add an additional 1,440 megawatts in wind energy, The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports.

Oklahoma added 150 megawatts of wind capacity in the second quarter, according to the association’s latest market report. The addition came from the Osage Wind project in Osage County hooking up to the electric grid. The project, owned by Enel Green Power North America Inc., supplies power to Missouri-based Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. In the state rankings, Oklahoma remained in fourth place, putting its total wind capacity at 3,932 megawatts. The U.S. had a total of 67,870 megawatts of wind capacity by the end of the second quarter, the association said.

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“Oil Industry Warns of Cost of Proposed Disposal Well Ban in Oklahoma”

A moratorium on disposal wells proposed by the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club and one state lawmaker “could create economic and environmental problems throughout the state,” representatives of the oil and gas industry say, The Oklahoman’s Adam Wilmoth reports.

“Wastewater injection has been safely conducted in Oklahoma for nearly a century, and it’s an important component of oil and natural gas development, which itself is a critical part of Oklahoma’s economy,” said Steve Everly, Energy In Depth’s senior advisor. “Critics have suggested that injection can simply be shut down in response to earthquakes, but they fail to recognize the costs — both economic and environmental — that Oklahomans would bear if that type of policy were implemented. Science is infinitely more complex than campaign slogans, so people should be skeptical of so-called solutions that are based more on anti-drilling advocacy than effective risk management.” A moratorium effectively would ban drilling throughout the area, including wells not linked to the earthquakes, the report stated.

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Stillwater Approves New Oil and Gas Rules, Industry Says They Might Violate New Law

Stillwater resident Tammy Mix's sons play on the sidewalk as a drilling rig peeks above the tree line behind her Stillwater home in 2014.

Tamara Mix

Stillwater resident Tammy Mix's sons play on the sidewalk as a drilling rig peeks above the tree line behind her Stillwater home in 2014.

After months of debate, drafting and deferring, the Stillwater City Council on Monday approved a stricter oil and gas ordinance.

The council unanimously approved the new rules, which were crafted with the input of residents, the energy industry and Senate Bill 809 — legislation that goes into effect in August preventing municipalities from enacting ordinances that ban fracking and other oil and gas activities, The Oklahoman‘s Adam Wilmoth reports:

The ordinance applies only to new wells. It imposes a 660-foot setback from the property line of “protected use” properties, including homes, churches, parks, schools, libraries and hospitals. It also forbids new structures being built within 400 feet of oil and gas wells put in after the ordinance becomes effective. Continue Reading

State Authorities Broaden Disposal Well Regulations in Earthquake-Prone Regions

Oklahoma oil and gas authorities are expanding regulations on disposal wells in earthquake-prone regions of the state. The orders, known as directives, were issued this week and broaden restrictions issued nearly four months ago. Continue Reading

“Norman Updates, OKs Oil, Gas Law”

The Norman City Council has approved a months-long update to the city’s oil and gas ordinance, which was written to comply with a new state law forbidding local governments from banning drilling, fracking and other oil and gas activities, The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports.

City staff began discussing updates to the oil and gas ordinance in late 2013. The city council discussed the proposals during study sessions in January, February and June.

Unless waived by the nearby property owner, wells in Norman aren’t allowed to be drilled within 600 feet of a home, business, church or school. They can’t be within 300 feet of any producing freshwater well. The city added several specific chemicals and substances to be tested in drinking water wells within a quarter-mile of disposal wells

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Years After Earthquake, Oklahoma College Still Shaken by Cracked Budgets and Broken Buildings

Abbot Lawrence points out cracks in

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Abbot Lawrence Stasyszen of St. Gregory's Monastery traces cracks in the walls of the monk's workshop, which was damaged in a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that struck the nearby city of Prague in November 2011.

The rate of earthquakes in Oklahoma appears to be accelerating, and the state is responding.

Lawmakers have scheduled capitol hearings and oil and gas regulators will soon issue stricter guidelines on disposal wells linked to the shaking. Future earthquakes are a big concern, but one Oklahoma institution is still dealing with the damage one quake caused nearly four years ago.

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