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

“Hugo Lawsuit Against Severn Trent Alleges Fraud”

The city of Hugo and its water authority “filed a lawsuit alleging its former drinking water contractor perpetrated fraud, acted negligently, created a public nuisance and breached its contract, among other things,” The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports.

Jantzen alleged in the 39-page petition that Severn Trent Environmental Services breached its contract by not providing properly treated drinking water to Hugo-area residents. The company didn’t properly maintain the water treatment plant or request money for equipment upkeep. The lawsuit also alleges the company submitted inaccurate monthly reports to the state environmental regulator.
Severn Trent Environmental Services’ actions were grossly negligent, heinous, reckless, willful and wanton, according to the petition.

Read more at: journalrecord.com

“Justice Department Drops SandRidge Energy Investigation”

The Oklahoma City energy company said Friday the U.S. government has “dropped its grand jury investigation of possible antitrust violations in the purchase or lease of land, oil or natural gas rights from 2012 and prior years,” The Oklahoman’s Adam Wilmoth reports.

SandRidge previously disclosed that in December 2013 it received a subpoena from the Justice Department concerning the federal investigation. In April 2015, the Justice Department told the company the grand jury in the western district of Oklahoma was involved.

The same federal grand jury last month indicted former Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon on charges of conspiring to rig bids for oil and natural gas leases in northwest Oklahoma. Those charges were dismissed after McClendon died in a car crash a day later.

Read more at: newsok.com

“Oklahoma Corporation Commission Votes to Turn Down OG&E’s Rooftop Solar Tariff Plan”

“The Oklahoma Corporation Commission voted 3-0 Tuesday against a plan by OG&E to change the way it calculates the bills for rooftop solar users, directing the utility to fully explore the issue in its pending rate case,” The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports.

The order came almost two weeks after the commission indicated it wasn’t happy with its options in the distributed generation tariff brought by OG&E. The utility filed the case under Senate Bill 1456, which allows regulated utilities to charge a different rate to rooftop solar users if they aren’t paying their fair share of grid costs. During deliberations on March 30, the commission indicated that OG&E’s use of 2010 cost data to make its case for a new distributed generation tariff was problematic.

Read more at: newsok.com

“Blake Production Appeals Fine Over Acid Spill to State Supreme Court”

Blake Production Company is appealing a pollution enforcement case stemming the “largest frack-acid” spill in Oklahoma history, The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports.

Walker appealed the proposed fine and contempt charge, alleging three service providers should also be held liable for the spill. He argued before OCC Administrative Law Judge Michael Decker the contractors knowingly provided faulty equipment.
Walker told The Journal Record he disagreed with the OCC’s final order, which found the contractors weren’t liable for the spill. He said he didn’t appeal the decision to remove one contractor, Cascade Integrated Services, from the proceedings

Read more at: journalrecord.com

The Transportation Department’s New Plan for Inspecting Bridges After Earthquakes

A flowchart from ODOT's new manual on inspecting bridges after earthquakes.

A flowchart from ODOT's new manual on inspecting bridges after earthquakes.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has changed its post-earthquake bridge-inspection plan after a year-long study showed no structural damage from seismic activity.

Under the new plan, which went into effect April 1, ODOT will only inspect bridges after magnitude 4.7 or greater quakes. Regions where bridge inspections are required will expand as earthquake intensity increases: Continue Reading

Why Oklahoma’s Earthquake Risk Could Be Lower Than USGS Forecast Suggests

Earthquake activity cracked a wall of a workshop used by monks at St. Gregory's Abbey in Shawnee, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A wall of a workshop used by monks at St. Gregory's Abbey in Shawnee, Okla., shows cracks from nearby earthquake activity.

The U.S. Geological Survey on Monday released new maps and models showing Oklahoma has the highest risk for potential shaking from human-triggered earthquakes.

The first-of-its-kind report was based on information on the frequency and intensity of earthquakes throughout the country, but the analysis didn’t include data on the injection of wastewater, the oil-field practice scientists have connected to the upsurge of shaking in Oklahoma and other states.

The USGS report also does not “include changes to policies or wastewater injection rates,” either stemming from the state’s regulatory response or a slow in activity due to low oil prices, The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports: Continue Reading

Oklahoma Has Highest Potential for Earthquakes, New USGS Forecast Shows

The U.S. Geological Survey on Monday released for the first time maps that forecast regions that could experience damage from human-triggered earthquakes. Oklahoma has the highest risk for potential shaking, researchers say. Continue Reading

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