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 and Gas Activity Likely Caused Widely Felt Western Oklahoma Earthquake, Study Suggests

Graphic showing stress change after the 5.1-magnitude earthquake that struck near Fairview in February 2016.

American Geophysical Union

Graphic showing stress change after the 5.1-magnitude earthquake that struck near Fairview in February 2016.

Wastewater injection into clusters of high-rate disposal wells likely triggered a 5.1-magnitude earthquake that struck western Oklahoma in February 2016, new research suggests.

The earthquake near Fairview produced a large blast of seismic energy that spawned a series of widely felt aftershocks. The quake is now considered one of the largest ever linked to the oil industry practice of pumping toxic water produced during drilling into underground disposal wells, U.S. Geological Survey research geophysicist William Leck and a team of federal and university scientists write in a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters. Continue Reading

Support for State Question on Farming Rights Seems to be Slipping, Poll Suggests

Wheat Thresher

Ben Allen / KOSU Radio

Support for State Question 777, which would make farming and ranching a constitutional right in Oklahoma, has slipped in recent weeks, according to a SoonerPoll survey commissioned by The Oklahoman.

Two weeks ago, the phone and and internet survey of likely Oklahoma voters found support for SQ 777 at 49 percent. Support now stands at 37 percent, the paper’s Ben Felder reports.

Forty-nine percent said they were against the state question and 14 percent remain undecided. Continue Reading

The Legal Complications of Oklahoma’s State Question to Constitutionally Protect Farming

Goats on a farm near Covington, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Goats on a farm near Covington, Okla.

State Question 777 would create a constitutional right to farm and ranch in Oklahoma, giving the agriculture industry unique protection from the state legislature. The ballot question concerns livestock and crops, but legal experts say the statewide measure will likely come down to lawsuits and courts.

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EPA Recommends Disposal Moratorium in Oklahoma’s Most Earthquake-Prone Areas

20160906 - pawnee quake pics125_WEB

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say Oklahoma oil and gas regulators should “consider a moratorium” of waste-fluid disposal in its most seismically active areas.

The suggestion was made in the federal agency’s annual review of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s oversight of disposal wells, which Energy Wire’s Mike Soraghan obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request: Continue Reading

‘September Flooding Leaves Otoe-Missouria Water Cloudy’

Mid-September rains in Kansas flooded Arkansas River tributaries, pulling soil and silt into the Otoe-Missouria’s water source below Kaw Lake. The filters in the tribe’s 23-year-old treatment plant “filters “weren’t designed to handle the influx,” the Journal Record‘s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports.

September flooding leaves Otoe-Missouria water cloudy

A water quality inspector with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality was doing a routine inspection on Sept. 22 and measured water cloudiness 34 times higher than allowed. DEQ water quality specialist Jennifer Alig said it was unclear whether the highly cloudy water was sent through the pipes and to customers, so it was important that the agency act quickly.

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‘DOJ Subpoenas Chesapeake Documents’

Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy has been “named in several lawsuits alleging underpayment of royalties and defended cases in Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas,” the Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports.

DOJ subpoenas Chesapeake documents

The Justice Department is also seeking information on how the company acquires and classifies its oil and gas properties. The company also received subpoenas from the U.S. Postal Service and state agencies for information on its royalty payment practices. Continue Reading

Why a Remote Corner of Oklahoma’s Panhandle Might Be The Perfect Place to Throw a Star Party

An amateur astronomer looks at chart on a red-filtered computer monitor at the 2016 Okie-Tex Star Party near Oklahoma's Black Mesa State Park.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

An amateur astronomer looks at chart on a red-filtered computer monitor at the 2016 Okie-Tex Star Party near Oklahoma's Black Mesa State Park.

The Oklahoma Panhandle is empty and hard to get to. The region attracts few people, very little industry and none of the light pollution that accompany both. It’s a remote location that’s earning a national reputation as the perfect spot to stare deep into space.

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‘Why The Oil and Gas Industry is Not Giving to Trump’

Donald Trump is the keynote speaker at the annual Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh this week, but the energy industry isn’t opening its wallets to the Republican nominee. In a typical they election they would, reports StateImpact Pennsylvania’s Susan Phillips: “So what’s going on here?”

Why the oil and gas industry is not giving to Trump

Among the many oddities in this election, the 2016 Republican candidate for president has gotten peanuts from one of the GOP’s most reliable donor base.

Industry employees contacted by StateImpact did not want to speak on the record. But it could be that they just don’t know what they’ll get with a Trump White House.

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Heavy Fundraising on State Question 777 Suggests Right-to-Farm is High-Stakes Political Issue

Farmers Wayne and Fred Schmedt watch a combine harvest wheat on their fields near Altus, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Farmers Wayne and Fred Schmedt watch a combine harvest wheat on their fields near Altus, Okla.

Oklahoma voters will decide in November whether to change the state constitution with new language protecting the agriculture industry.

Informally known as the right-to-farm amendment, State Question 777 raises a lot of legal, environmental and economic questions. A StateImpact analysis of state campaign finance data shows the issue has attracted more direct donations than any other ballot question, suggesting right-to-farm is high-stakes Oklahoma politics.


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‘Quake Frequency Declines, Seismic Energy in Oklahoma Increases’

Though the rate of earthquakes “has declined from its peak,” the 5.8-magnitude earthquake near Pawnee has made 2016 the most seismically active year on record “as measured by seismic energy release,” Oklahoma Geological Survey Director Jeremy Boak tells the Enid News‘ Sally Asher.

Studying seismicity: Quake frequency declines, seismic energy in Oklahoma increases

ENID, Okla. – As “Earthquake!” became a household term in Oklahoma, the temblors normally associated with California or Japan produced more questions than answers. Scientists across Oklahoma are working to learn more about why the Sooner State is moving and shaking.


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