Joe Wertz

StateImpact Oklahoma

Joe 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.

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Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The tiny community of Bokoshe is flanked by old mines, which companies are filling with thousands of tons of waste produced by the coal-fired power plant down the road.

The coal waste — known as coal ash, or fly ash — is a powdery, pernicious dust that blows off trucks and pits. Residents worry about breathing the ash, fear it has contaminated local water supplies and have linked it to various medical problems, including cancer.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

It's a Saturday at Choctaw High School, but for hundreds of Oklahoma teachers, there's a training class in session. Carrie Miller-DeBoer perches atop a stool monitoring a pair of soda bottles linked with a small length of thin plastic tubing created to mimic enhanced oil recovery, while teaching chemistry fundamentals.

"I love it and my students will be so excited," she says.

BILL WILSON / FLICKR/CC BY 2.0

The growing number of wind farms in western Oklahoma is disrupting military flight training, state aeronautics and military officials say.

The problem is concentrated along flight paths used for military training near Vance Air Force Base in Enid and Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission Director Victor Bird tells the Tulsa World’s Barbara Hoberock:

More than half the oil and gas a typical horizontal well will produce over its lifetime in Oklahoma is pumped to the surface during its first three years, a new report from Oklahoma Watch shows.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A cornerstone of President Trump’s campaign and presidency is a $1 trillion proposal to rebuild U.S. infrastructure. The promise is a popular one, and could find bipartisan support across the country and in Congress. The infrastructure needs in Oklahoma illustrate why this issue is so appealing — and challenging.

Oil's Pipeline to America's Schools

Jun 16, 2017
ILLUSTRATION BY EBEN MCCUE

Jennifer Merritt’s first-graders at Jefferson Elementary School in Pryor, Oklahoma, were in for a treat. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, the students gathered in late November for story time with two special guests, state Rep. Tom Gann and state Sen. Marty Quinn.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma lawmakers have struggled for months to agree on a formula to patch a nearly $900 million budget hole and sign off on a plan that funds state agencies. To help pay for the budget plan, lawmakers are considering ways to squeeze more from taxes on oil and gas production, an option that has divided politicians and one of the state’s biggest industries.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Lawmakers got their first peek at Oklahoma’s budget last night in a haphazard midnight session senior legislators described as the most disjointed in their career.

House and Senate committee members had mere minutes to review the proposed $6.9 billion dollar budget before voting on two versions of the state spending plan.

The bills are nearly identical. One would give teachers a $1,000 pay raise. Both deliver funding cuts for most state agencies. Sixteen agencies, including the Departments of Education and Transportation, are in line for flat budgets.

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Shortly after taking over as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt started a roll-back of Obama-era environmental regulations, an effort that has provided big benefits to one of his home state’s largest independent oil and gas companies, the New York Times reports.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Speaking at a media event atop an interstate overpass construction site in Norman, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe told a small crowd Friday that President Donald Trump is serious about a proposed $1 trillion national infrastructure plan.

The Republican is chair of a Senate subcommittee that oversees such programs and he said Oklahoma stands to benefit from a new focus for federal funding.

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