Oklahoma

Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: 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 Authorities Order Fixes After Diesel Spill in Ada

After this quarry near a U.S. Silica sand mining operation was mined out, clear blue aquifer water filled it in.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

A quarry near Ada filled with water from the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has ordered city officials in Ada to make a series of fixes to ensure the community has clean drinking water after 2,000 gallons of diesel spilled on the ground near city water wells in April of 2015.

DEQ’s orders include stricter sampling, testing and monitoring of wells, the construction of barriers to guard against spills and requiring the city to find an alternative source of drinking water if the wells aren’t usable, the Ada NewsEric Swanson reports: Continue Reading

The Oklahoma Oil Billionaire Shaping Donald Trump’s Bid to Win on Energy Issues

Donald Trump at a campaign stop at the Oklahoma State Fair in September 2015.

Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Donald Trump at a campaign stop at the Oklahoma State Fair in September 2015.

Donald Trump is wooing energy-state voters by promising a presidency that will champion coal, promote drilling and free frackers from federal regulations limiting oil and gas development.

If the Republican candidate’s energy platform sounds like it was written specifically for fossil fuel companies, that’s because an Oklahoma oil billionaire helped craft it.

Continue Reading

With Water Settlement Inked, Tribes Now Selling The Details Back Home

Members of the Choctaw Nation gather at the Hugo Community Center to hear details on the new water deal from attorney Michael Burrage.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Members of the Choctaw Nation gather at the Hugo Community Center to hear details on the new water deal from attorney Michael Burrage.

After five years of confidential negotiations, the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations have reached an agreement with the State of Oklahoma over water in southeast Oklahoma. The deal has been praised by state leaders as a historic accord that ends the tribes’ lawsuit that blocked Oklahoma City’s plan to pump water out of the region. But the deal still has to be sold to tribe members in that part of the state.

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Why Some Cities Are Lining Up to Fight Against Ballot Question on Right-to-Farm

The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission and audience members listen to a presentation on right-to-farm at the April 19 meeting in Tahlequah, Okla.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission and audience members listen to a presentation on right-to-farm at the April 19 meeting in Tahlequah, Okla.

City leaders in Edmond adopted a resolution urging citizens to reject State Question 777. Their counterparts in Choctaw appear likely to do the same, and the Norman City Council has booked a presentation from an organization fighting against the question, which would amend the state constitution to include the “right-to-farm” and prevent lawmakers from passing legislation impeding farming, ranching and agriculture.

Choctaw Mayor Randy Ross told the Journal Record’s Brian Brus why he’s urging his residents to vote no on SQ 777 when they vote in November:

City leaders aren’t as interested in aspects of the ballot issue related to agriculture as they are in residents’ water resources and zoning, he said. The question has been framed by its proponents as protecting a right to farm; Ross sees it as a protection of local governance. Continue Reading

Inside the Landmark State and Tribal Agreement That Ends Standoff Over Water in Southeast Oklahoma

Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby at a news conference announcing the water deal.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby at a news conference announcing the water deal.

After five years of court proceedings and confidential negotiations, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations have reached an agreement with the state over control of water in southeast Oklahoma. Continue Reading

“Coming of Age During a Bust: Energy’s Next Generation of Workers Enter During Turbulent Times”

“The industry may not be currently hiring petroleum engineers,” but energy companies are hiring, the director of the University of Tulsa’s school of energy tells the Tulsa World’s Casey Smith. “They’re telling students to think outside of the box.”


The misperception that there are no jobs at all in energy comes from the steep drop in oil prices over the past two years. West Texas Intermediate crude oil was trading for more than $100 per barrel in mid-2014, but by early 2015 the commodity was going for less than $50. The price didn’t stop dropping, hitting less than $30 early this year before beginning to climb again.
Similar price drops throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s led young workers to leave or stay away from the industry. That lost generation still affects the industry as a whole today. If those young workers hadn’t been scared away, they would be a wealth of technical talent today.

Read more at: www.tulsaworld.com

“Environmental, Generation Projects to Hit Bills as OG&E Lays Out Regulatory Calendar”

Customers of the state’s largest electric utility will pick up the tab for environmental compliance projects and plant upgrades over the next few years, The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports.


Aside from a pending $92.5 million rate increase before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, OG&E plans to file another rate case in November 2017 and one by November 2018. The utility also has regulatory cases planned in Arkansas, where it has 66,000 customers … If approved in full, the rate increase would boost monthly residential bills by more than $7. More than a dozen parties intervened in the case and suggested rate increases from $6 million to rate decreases of $48 million.

Read more at: newsok.com

Why Small City Has Little Say Over Natural Gas Plant Under Construction in Middle of Town

A natural gas compressor plant in northwestern Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A natural gas compressor plant in northwestern Oklahoma.

Linn Energy needs a new compressor plant to serve customers in the SCOOP and STACK, hot oil and natural gas plays with very little infrastructure in place to collect and pump natural gas to existing pipeline systems.

But the plant is being constructed in the middle of the City of Tuttle, and due to Oklahoma’s 2015 anti-frack ban law that limits local governments’ ability to regulate oil and gas activity, there is very little officials like City Manager Tim Young can do about it, The Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports:

Young has fielded residents’ concerns about noise from operations and about heavy truck traffic.

“I tell residents the city of Tuttle cannot tell an oil and gas company where to drill, so it’s best to work with the company and work within the existing statutes,” he said. “That leaves us with little ability to regulate the industry.” Continue Reading

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