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

“WATCH: Oklahoma Oil Tycoon Harold Hamm Criticizes Clinton During RNC Energy Speech”

Billionaire Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm sharply criticized environmental regulations in a pro-Donald Trump speech on energy policy at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night.


The Continental Resources CEO’s remarks came amid reports he would be named energy secretary if the Republican candidate is elected in November. Hamm is a supporter and one of Trump’s most important energy influencers. The fossil fuel mogul warned that presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would continue President Obama’s legacy of smothering oil and gas producers with punitive regulations. Hamm said electing Trump would reverse those government hurdles, untether the energy industry, and create millions of jobs.

Read more at: kgou.org

As Cities in Oklahoma Update Streetlights With LEDs, Doctors Warn About Road Ahead

Oklahoma Department of Transportation engineers are testing an LED interchange light tower in the parking lot of its Oklahoma City headquarters.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Department of Transportation engineers are testing an LED interchange light tower in the parking lot of the agency's Oklahoma City headquarters.

Cities across the state are hoping to cut down their electricity and maintenance bills by updating street and highway lights with new technology. LEDs save energy and money, but doctors say the lights could have unintended health and environmental consequences.


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“PSO Drops Distributed Generation Case”

Public Service Co. filed an application July 14 “to withdraw its proposed tariff for distributed generation sources such as rooftop solar or small wind turbines,” The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports.


PSO spokeswoman Tiffini Jackson said circumstances have changed since the initial application was filed.

“We believe collaborative efforts of the industry and other interested parties, in addition to the ability for a more in-depth review of data specific to distributed generation customers, present an opportunity for us to potentially present an even better approach,” Jackson said Thursday. “For these reasons, in the interest of making sure we get this right for all customers and to make the most effective and efficient use of time for everyone involved in the case, we are asking the commission to delay considering changes to our rate structures on distributed generation.”

Read more at: newsok.com

“Bittersweet Harvest: Weak Market Greets State’s Banner Wheat Crop”

Oklahoma had one of the best wheat harvests in years, but “tremendous yields” hit a poor market paying just $3.44 per bushel instead of the $5.48 paid out on the same day last year, The Oklahoman’s Jesse Pound Reports.


“We basically … had two crops in one [in 2016] because of the tremendous yields,” said Joe Neal Hampton, president and CEO of Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association in Enid. The Agriculture Department has the state with a yield of 40 bushels per harvested acre, which would be the best since the turn of the century.

Wheat prices have been low for a long time, and many farmers did not sell all of their crop last year, with prices depressed by international production. This year’s harvest is just being added to the pile, leaving storage tight across the southern plains, Hampton said.

Read more at: newsok.com

“State Budget Crisis Forces DEQ to Delay Cleanup Projects”

Oklahoma’s budget crisis has forced the state’s primary environmental regulator to delay cleanup projects across the state, KOCO’s Crystal Price reports.


Givens said that the following projects will be delayed as a result of the recent budget cuts: Pink tire dump cleanup, Catoosa tire dump cleanup, Hugo Water Treatment Plant improvements, Wagoner County road project, Oklahoma State’s University’s research on wastewater plants and septic assistance grants. Department officials said leaving the Pink tire dump unattended can pose a fire risk and the smoke can be hazardous.

Read more at: www.koco.com

How Oklahoma’s Giant Spring Wildfire Helped the Environment

Fire crews work to reduce wildfire danger by clear brush through a prescribed burn in northwestern Oklahoma in April 2016.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Fire crews work to reduce wildfire danger by clear brush through a prescribed burn in northwestern Oklahoma in April 2016.

Fire crews worked for nearly a week to contain a wildfire that started on March 22 and torched 574 square miles of land near the Oklahoma-Kansas state line, where it destroyed homes, killed livestock and damaged thousands of miles of fence.

But the Anderson Creek fire “cleared out more eastern red cedars in a week than local efforts to eradicate the invasive species could have accomplished in decades,” conservation experts tell the Associated Press. Continue Reading

“Oklahoma Quakes Decline Amid Curbs on Energy Industry’s Disposal Wells”

“The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has fallen 25% in 2016 compared with a year earlier,” the Wall Street Journal’s Erin Ailworth reports.


While the results represent only a few months of activity, Oklahoma officials and geologists say the state’s efforts appear to be working, and may be starting to reverse the earthquake trend—a development likely to be welcomed by citizens in drilling areas.

“Sometime since March or so, it has just slowed way down,” said Jeremy Boak, director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. “If it slows down much more, we could actually end up with fewer than in 2014.”

Read more at: www.wsj.com

Coal Ash Bedevils Oklahoma Town, Revealing Weakness of EPA Rule

Susan Holmes in the living room of her home in Bokoshe, Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Susan Holmes in the living room of her home in Bokoshe, Oklahoma.

This story was co-produced with the Center for Public Integrity.

Here in the land of wind-whipped, rolling plains, the gray dust, which sparkles in just the right light, seems inescapable. Residents of this town near the Arkansas line say they have spotted it on their grass, trees, ponds, barns, furniture and cars.

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Tribe Says Showdown Over Rural Permits Rooted in Politics, Not Water Pipes

J.C. Goodson stands in the warehouse of Rainmaker Sales in Shawnee, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

J.C. Goodson stands in the warehouse of Rainmaker Sales in Shawnee, Okla.

The State of Oklahoma and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation are clashing in court over the growth of a tribally controlled rural water district. The state is questioning the district’s legal status, but tribal leaders suspect the confrontation is about politics — not water pipes.

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“Earthquake Insurance is ‘Uncompetitive,’ Says Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner”

Oklahoma’s insurance commissioner has formally declared the state’s market for earthquake insurance is “uncompetitive.” The regulator says Oklahomans are unfairly limited when shopping for quake insurance.


One hundred and nineteen companies sell earthquake insurance in Oklahoma, but Commissioner John Doak says just four companies have controlled more than half the market in recent years. The commissioner says the industry has moved to raise rates and limit coverage as the shaking — linked to oil and gas activity — surged.

Read more at: kosu.org

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