Oklahoma

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 Quakes Decline Amid Curbs on Energy Industry’s Disposal Wells”

“The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma has fallen 25% in 2016 compared with a year earlier,” the Wall Street Journal’s Erin Ailworth reports.


While the results represent only a few months of activity, Oklahoma officials and geologists say the state’s efforts appear to be working, and may be starting to reverse the earthquake trend—a development likely to be welcomed by citizens in drilling areas.

“Sometime since March or so, it has just slowed way down,” said Jeremy Boak, director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey. “If it slows down much more, we could actually end up with fewer than in 2014.”

Read more at: www.wsj.com

Coal Ash Bedevils Oklahoma Town, Revealing Weakness of EPA Rule

Susan Holmes in the living room of her home in Bokoshe, Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Susan Holmes in the living room of her home in Bokoshe, Oklahoma.

This story was co-produced with the Center for Public Integrity.

Here in the land of wind-whipped, rolling plains, the gray dust, which sparkles in just the right light, seems inescapable. Residents of this town near the Arkansas line say they have spotted it on their grass, trees, ponds, barns, furniture and cars.

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Tribe Says Showdown Over Rural Permits Rooted in Politics, Not Water Pipes

J.C. Goodson stands in the warehouse of Rainmaker Sales in Shawnee, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

J.C. Goodson stands in the warehouse of Rainmaker Sales in Shawnee, Okla.

The State of Oklahoma and the Citizen Potawatomi Nation are clashing in court over the growth of a tribally controlled rural water district. The state is questioning the district’s legal status, but tribal leaders suspect the confrontation is about politics — not water pipes.

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“Earthquake Insurance is ‘Uncompetitive,’ Says Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner”

Oklahoma’s insurance commissioner has formally declared the state’s market for earthquake insurance is “uncompetitive.” The regulator says Oklahomans are unfairly limited when shopping for quake insurance.


One hundred and nineteen companies sell earthquake insurance in Oklahoma, but Commissioner John Doak says just four companies have controlled more than half the market in recent years. The commissioner says the industry has moved to raise rates and limit coverage as the shaking — linked to oil and gas activity — surged.

Read more at: kosu.org

“OKC Police Find No Indication of McClendon Suicide”

Oklahoma City Police say a two-month investigation into the fiery March 2 crash that killed former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon turned up no evidence of suicide.


“That investigation involved homicide detectives looking into the circumstances that led up to his death,” OCPD Capt. Paco Balderrama said. “After conducting a very thorough investigation, speaking to people who knew him and people who spoke to him prior to the accident, we found no information that would indicate anything other than a vehicular accident.” Balderrama said the investigation was thorough and looked into every possibility. “We may never know with 100 percent certainty, but at the conclusion of our investigation, we had no evidence to believe there were other factors or possibilities,” he said.

Read more at: newsok.com

Oil Companies Ask Judge to Toss Federal Earthquake Lawsuit

Oklahoma oil and gas companies are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by members of an environmental group that seeks to reduce production waste that could be fueling a spike in earthquakes.

The lawsuit was filed under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in February by the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club. Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy and New Dominion have all asked the judge to dismiss the case, The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports:

In separate legal filings, the three companies said the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is already taking action to reduce the volumes of wastewater in disposal wells. Continue Reading

Governor Signs Bill to Bank Booming Revenue to Fund State During Oil Busts

Gov. Mary Fallin speaking at the 2013 Governor's Energy Conference in Tulsa, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin speaking at the 2013 Governor's Energy Conference in Tulsa, Okla.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday signed into law legislation that banks boom-time tax revenues to cushion the state during energy downturns.

The Energy Revenues Stabilization Act was created through House Bill 2763, authored by Rep. John Montgomery, R-Lawton. The measure siphons off above-average tax revenues levied on corporations and oil and gas production and saves it in an account that can be tapped during state funding emergencies. Continue Reading

State Budget Agreement Brings Sharp Funding Cuts to Agencies Overseeing Oklahoma’s Environment

Oklahoma Water Resources Board project coordinator Jason Murphy takes water samples at the Canadian River east of Oklahoma City.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Water Resources Board project coordinator Jason Murphy takes water samples at the Canadian River east of Oklahoma City.

After months of deliberation and closed-door meetings, lawmakers in the Oklahoma House and Senate are poised to cut a deal to fill a $1.3 billion shortfall and fund government for 2017. Continue Reading

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