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

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

Regulators Approve New Rules to Settle Disputes Over Earthquake Actions

A SandRidge Energy well in northwestern Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A SandRidge Energy well in northwestern Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission unanimously voted Tuesday to approve new rules specifying how agency staff and disposal well operators will settle disputes over regulatory actions issued to reduce earthquakes.

Nearly all operators have voluntarily complied with earthquake-related regulatory actions issued by commission staff, known as directives. But SandRidge Energy in December 2015 refused for weeks “to shut down six wells and reduce wastewater volumes in 50 others in northern Oklahoma,” prompting staff to threaten legal action, The Journal Record’s Sarah Terry-Cobo reports: Continue Reading

As State Finances Stumble, Oil and Gas Leaders Rally to End Tax Credits For Wind

Continental Resources founder and CEO Harold Hamm, second to the left, at the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association office in Oklahoma City.

Continental Resources founder and CEO Harold Hamm, second to the left, at the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association's office in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma legislators are considering eliminating some tax credits and incentives for businesses to help plug a $1.3 billion budget gap. The state’s fiscal crisis has led some oil and gas leaders to push lawmakers to end incentives for the wind industry.

Continue Reading

“Police: McClendon Hit Support at 78 mph, Didn’t Try to Turn”

Oklahoma City police on Monday released new details on the fiery single-car crash that killed former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon a day after his federal indictment.

Investigators say the energy executive and part-owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder was driving 78 miles per hour when he struck a concrete overpass the morning of March 2.

Police say McClendon was alone in the SUV, was not wearing a seatbelt, and made no effort to hit the brakes or avoid the wall.

Investigators are still looking into whether McClendon was using his cell phone at the time.

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty wouldn’t comment when asked if police believe the crash was intentional.

Read more at: kosu.org

“Chesapeake Energy’s Downfall Is Another Oil Company’s Gain”

Steve Trammel, an oil and gas expert with analytics firm IHS, said there’s a flip slide to Chesapeake’s move: “If Chesapeake is selling assets, that means somebody is buying them,” Inside Energy’s Dan Boyce reports.

“The people who have good balance sheets are able to pick up some bargains right now and pick up some assets they might never have had access to when prices were stronger than they are,” he said.

As an example, Denver-based FourPoint Energy recently purchased 3,500 of Chesapeake’s oil and gas wells in western Oklahoma and in the Texas panhandle. It’s a good deal for FourPoint. They’re a small company — with the purchase they produce about a 10th of what Chesapeake does — but these are good wells, and oil and gas prices have been so low for awhile now. These kinds of purchases could be a good sign for oil and gas.

Read more at: insideenergy.org

As Budgets Narrow and Dedicated Funds are Diverted, Agency Slows Plugging of Abandoned Wells

Jack Romine stands near a makeshift chimney state inspectors installed over an abandoned, leaky well that was discovered near his home in Bartlesville, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Jack Romine stands near a makeshift chimney state inspectors installed over an abandoned, leaky well that was discovered near his home in Bartlesville, Okla.

Oklahoma has hundreds of abandoned oil and gas wells, the byproduct of a century of petroleum production. Left unrepaired, many of these wells can endanger people and the environment. The state has a fund to plug abandoned wells, but some of that money has been diverted due to budget cuts.

Continue Reading

“Former CEO Charged With Rigging Bids For Oil And Gas Leases”

Aubrey McClendon, the founder and former CEO of Chesapeake Energy was charged Tuesday with orchestrating a conspiracy not to compete for oil and gas leases in northwest Oklahoma, the Justice Department said.

The DOJ explained in a statement:

During this conspiracy, which ran from December 2007 to March 2012, the conspirators would decide ahead of time who would win the leases. The winning bidder would then allocate an interest in the leases to the other company. McClendon instructed his subordinates to execute the conspiratorial agreement, which included, among other things, withdrawing bids for certain leases and agreeing on the allocation of interests in the leases between the conspiring companies.

Read more at: www.npr.org

“Oil Company Sues Nine Counties, Schools Could Be Out Thousands”

The lawsuit by Denver-based DCP Midstream claims tax assessors in nine Oklahoma counties “charged them the wrong amount in property taxes,” KOCO’s Crystal Price reports.

The taxes from the company impact multiple schools in Grady County, and county officials told KOCO these districts could lose thousands of dollars as a result of this lawsuit.

Alex Public Schools Superintendent Jason James said his district will be out $192,000 as a result DCP Midstream’s property tax protest.

“That’s money that we counted on to pay our bills, to hire teachers and to buy books, and we’re just not going to get it,” James said.

Read more at: www.koco.com

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