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

State Readying Legal Challenge to Oil Company Refusing to Shut Down Wells Near Earthquakes

State oil and gas authorities are finalizing legal action to force a “financially strapped” Oklahoma energy company to abandon disposal wells suspected of contributing to earthquakes.



Sandridge Energy has been defying directives from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to shut down six disposal wells in north-central Oklahoma. Commission staff are finalizing a legal filing that, if approved, could modify permits and halt operation of the wells.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Erin Ailworth on Monday explored possible reasons for Sandridge’s defiance, which was first reported by EnergyWire’s Mike Soraghan.

Sandridge’s refusal to comply is a closely watched challenge to the state’s authority. The company’s earthquake conundrum is one that more drillers could face this year if oil prices continue to languish at low levels. Some of those, like Sandridge, need disposal wells to keep producing crude. Continue Reading

“Earthquakes Shake Out Data Showing Unknown Fault Line in Edmond Area”

Faults are often revealed “when a series of earthquakes fire off with epicenters in a linear pattern,” The Oklahoman’s Adam Wilmoth reports.

This week’s quakes indicate a fault that runs northeast at least two miles from near Interstate 35 and Second Street, McNamara said. Because the newly revealed fault is not on any existing fault map, it’s difficult to tell how far it extends or whether it underlies more of Edmond or connects to a larger fault, he said. “The fault may continue on, but we don’t know,” he said. Another concern is whether the fault connects to a larger, deeper fault, such as the Nemaha Ridge — which runs roughly parallel to I-35 from central Oklahoma to southern Kansas — or the Wizetta Fault, which produced the magnitude 5.6 Prague earthquake in 2011.

Read more at: newsok.com

“Strong Oklahoma Earthquake Knocks Out Power to 4,400 Homes”

No immediate reports of injuries or major damage, but the 4.3-magnitude temblor is blamed for a power outage that affected thousands.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 4.3. The quake struck at 5:39 a.m. Tuesday with an epicenter 5 miles east-northeast of Edmond. A smaller earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 3.4 hit the same area about 10 minutes later. Edmond city officials say about 4,400 homes and businesses lost power because of the quake but electricity was restored quickly.

Read more at: www.csmonitor.com

Debate Over Tariff Exposes Rift on Cost of Electricity and Value of Solar Energy

Bruce Prescott, Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Bruce Prescott, Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists

Oklahoma Gas and Electric, the state’s largest electricity utility, wants regulators to approve new fees for customers who install solar panels. The request is now in the hands of Oklahoma’s three-member Corporation Commission, which has to weigh the real cost of reliable electricity and put a fair value on power from the sun.

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“Judge Says Corporation Commission Should Support OG&E’s Solar Tariff”

Judge Jacqueline Miller “also said the commission should direct OG&E to provide further evidence of the costs distributed generation customers impose on the grid in its upcoming rate case,” The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports.

The three-member Corporation Commission will have the final say in the matter. A vote has not yet been scheduled.

OG&E filed its case under Senate Bill 1456, which Gov. Mary Fallin signed last year. It allows regulated utilities to propose new tariffs if they can show distributed generation customers are being subsidized for their grid-connection costs by other customers. The law applies to customers who install solar or small wind turbines after Nov. 1, 2014.

Read more at: newsok.com

Pennsylvania Attorney General Sues Chesapeake Energy for ‘Deceptive’ Gas Leases

Chesapeake Energy's Oklahoma City headquarters.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Chesapeake Energy's Oklahoma City headquarters.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Chesapeake Energy, seeking millions of dollars for landowners who leased land to the Oklahoma City company, our partners at StateImpact Pennsylvania report.

From Marie Cusick:

The Oklahoma City-based driller is one of the most active in Pennsylvania. It was an early adopter of fracking and touts itself as the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas. It’s also been widely accused of unfair business practices – including using below-market gas prices, making improper deductions from royalty payments, and misreporting gas production data.

Kane spokesman Jeff Johnson says the lawsuit could affect more than 4,000 Pennsylvania landowners who signed leases with the company.

“It could conceivably be in the tens of millions of dollars,” he said.

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“Oklahoma Earthquakes: Bombshell Doc Reveals Big Oil’s Tight Grip on Politicians and Scientists”

Al Jazeera America’s documentary on Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry-linked earthquake surge airs Dec. 13. The doc includes an unfettered interview with former state seismologist Austin Holland on his last day at the Oklahoma Geological Survey, during which he details industry pressure and conflicts of interest by state officials tasked with studying the shaking.

“You almost feel like the ground is going to open up underneath of you or something. And then you think, ‘Am I losing my mind? This is the third one today and they’ve only reported one!’” This statement-captured in Al Jazeera America’s riveting new documentary Earthquake State-comes from an Oklahoma resident commenting on her state’s alarming earthquake boom.

Read more at: ecowatch.com

“Duke Energy, Google Announce Deals for Three Oklahoma Wind Power Projects”

This is Duke Energy Renewable’s first project in Oklahoma, while Google inked a deal to “buy 200 megawatts of electricity from RES Americas’ Bluestem wind farm to be built in Beaver County,” The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies reports.

A unit of a North Carolina utility and Google Inc. announced separate deals Thursday for more than 600 megawatts of electricity from three new wind farms to be built in Oklahoma.

Duke Energy Renewables said it will build a 200-megawatt wind farm in Kay County and sell the power to a utility in Missouri. Internet search giant Google will buy 401 megawatts of power from two new wind projects in northwest Oklahoma and the Panhandle.

Read more at: newsok.com

A Conversation With U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe About the Paris Climate Conference

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma.

President Obama and delegates from nearly 200 nations are gathering in Paris to hammer out an agreement to rein in global climate change

World leaders are acknowledging their countries’ contributions to climate change, and are making commitments to improve the environment. But there’s an army of Republicans pushing against Obama’s Paris plan, and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma is one of its generals.

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