Oklahoma

Environment, Education, Energy: 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

An Oilman Who Helped Write Energy Industry Tax Breaks Is Leading An Effort To Remove Them

Mickey Thompson, founder and director of Restore Oklahoma Now, leaves the attorney general's office after filing paperwork for State Question 795.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Mickey Thompson, founder and director of Restore Oklahoma Now, leaves the attorney general's office after filing paperwork for State Question 795.

Mickey Thompson has a manila envelope tucked under his arm as he walks towards the Oklahoma Capitol. If the paperwork doesn’t start a fight, it almost certainly will add fuel to one.

Inside the envelope is the handiwork of about 10 people over a couple of months that could clear a path for Oklahoma voters to do something most lawmakers won’t consider: Enact broad tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

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Q&A: A Look Ahead At The Stories StateImpact Is Following Into The New Year

StateImpact reporters preview the key health, education, energy and environment issues they'll be tracking in 2018.

StateImpact Oklahoma

StateImpact reporters preview the key health, education, energy and environment issues they'll be tracking in 2018.

Twenty-seventeen is wrapping up, but the growing group of reporters at StateImpact are following many important government policy issues that will carry on into the new year.

Senior Reporter and Managing Editor Joe Wertz brought the StateImpact team into the studio for a preview of their coverage in the year to come. Here are some excerpts from the conversation edited for clarity:

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Group Led By Long-Time Energy Leader Seeks Public Vote To Increase Oil And Gas Taxes

Mickey Thompson of Restore Oklahoma Now filing the paperwork for SQ 795, which would ask voters to increase taxes on oil and gas production to help fund education.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Mickey Thompson of Restore Oklahoma Now filing the paperwork for SQ 795, which would ask voters to increase taxes on oil and gas production to help fund education.

A group led by a long-time energy industry leader wants Oklahoma voters to approve an increase in taxes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

Currently, taxes on oil and gas production are discounted for the first three years making the effective tax rate somewhere around 3.2 percent. Mickey Thompson with Restore Oklahoma Now on Wednesday filed the paperwork for State Question 795 to increase that rate to 7 percent across-the-board. Continue Reading

What Scientists Say A Warming Climate Might Mean For Oklahoma

Volunteer firefighters Christie Smith and David Thompson cool down after extinguishing a hotspot that flared east of Noble, Okla., in 2012. Scientists expect the risk of wildfire to increase as climate change-fueled droughts occur more frequently and last longer.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Volunteer firefighters Christie Smith and David Thompson cool down after extinguishing a hotspot that flared east of Noble, Okla., in 2012. Scientists expect the risk of wildfire to increase as climate change-fueled droughts occur more frequently and last longer.

A new report from hundreds of experts and more than a dozen federal agencies is stark: Humans are likely responsible for the warmest period in modern civilization.

The consequences of this warming vary regionally, but scientists and researchers forecast significant effects in Oklahoma and other southern plains states.

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In Tulsa, a National Blueprint for Managing Floods as Cities Grow and Climate Changes

Stormwater engineer Bill Robison snaps a photo of a flood-prone house the city is trying to buy from its homeowner.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Stormwater engineer Bill Robison snaps a photo of a flood-prone house the city is trying to buy from its homeowner.

In the aftermath of devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, communities across the U.S. are rethinking ways to control flooding and reduce hazards that could be worsened by urbanization and climate change.

Writing such plans is a complex, politically challenging process, but one city in Oklahoma has emerged as a national model for creating a flood-control program that works.

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Landmark Earthquake Lawsuit Settled, Former State Scientist Testifies About Industry Pressure In Another

A disposal well in northwest Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A disposal well in northwest Oklahoma.

The first lawsuit filed against Oklahoma oil companies over earthquakes is now settled.

Sandra Ladra was injured by rocks that shook loose from her fireplace during the 5.7-magnitude temblor that struck near the city of Prague in 2011. The quake is one of the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma and was the first one scientists linked to wastewater disposal wells used by the oil and gas industry. Continue Reading

A River of Uncertainty Lingers As State Approves OKC’s Permit For Southeastern Oklahoma Water

Jerry Gutierrez steers his golf cart on a tour of his ranch near the Kiamichi River in southeastern Oklahoma. Gutierrez and other nearby residents urged the state not to approve Oklahoma City's permit to tap water from river.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Jerry Gutierrez steers his golf cart on a tour of his ranch near the Kiamichi River in southeastern Oklahoma. Gutierrez and other nearby residents urged the state not to approve Oklahoma City's permit to tap water from river.

Oklahoma City’s decades-long quest for a permit to pump water out of southeastern Oklahoma is over. This week, state regulators approved a key part of the city’s $1 billion-plus project to meet the metro’s long-term water needs, but residents and water rights groups say the urban victory marks a milestone — not the end of the road.

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