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.

Ways to Connect

The sign on the front door of Pecan Creek Catering in New Cordell, Okla., may say closed, but this kitchen is open for business. It used to be a cafe, but owner Chad Igo closed the restaurant years ago to focus on catering exclusively to the oil industry.

"We're kings when it's good. They love us. But as soon as it gets tight, we're the first one to get cut," he says.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The sign on the front door says “closed,” but Pecan Creek Catering in New Cordell, Okla., is open for business. Out back, a tractor-trailer is being unloaded. Giant cans of green beans, tomatoes and mushrooms are hauled inside, where they’re sorted and stacked on metal shelves.

In the kitchen, Jennifer Etris pours a carton of buttermilk into a giant bowl and stirs.

“I cheat,” she says. “I use two of these ranch dressing mixes instead of one. It is known all over the world, my ranch dressing.”

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A rowdy crowd of concerned residents shouted at city officials and questioned representatives of an oil company at a Thursday night meeting about a proposal to drill near Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City.

Hundreds showed up for the meeting, which was held at the Will Rogers Conservatory, a venue that was too small for the crowd. People formed a long line and waited in the rain to attend a second overflow meeting held immediately following the first meeting. Protestors gathered outside the building, chanting “Stop fracking now,” and “No more drilling.” 

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

StateImpact racked up thousands of miles traveling across the state this year, filing more than 40 full-length radio features and hundreds of web posts on how government energy, environmental and economic policy affects ordinary Oklahomans. And many of those stories involve issues that are ongoing.

EPA Regulations

On of the first broadcast stories we filed this year was on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional haze rule, and how pollution from Texas coal plants dirties the skies above the Wichita Mountains of southwest Oklahoma. Volunteer firefighter and avid hiker Bill Cunningham took us to the top of Mount Scott to show us the pollution the rules are supposed to fight.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The State of Oklahoma has enough revenue to trigger an income tax cut, finance officials said Wednesday.

As StateImpact’s Joe Wertz reports, the amount of money available to fund state government is trending flat, but officials say lackluster revenues seem manageable.

About 1.7 million Oklahoma taxpayers pay the top income tax rate, which will drop a quarter point — from 5.25% to 5% — in 2016.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states have formed an ‘unprecedented, secretive alliance’ with the energy industry to fight federal environmental regulations, The New York Times Eric Lipton reports

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The 2015 session is still months away, but the newly elected Oklahoma Legislature has already started talking about how to divvy up roughly $7 billion in state appropriations.

Some prominent lawmakers are promising to re-examine tax credits and economic incentives worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of those incentives are used for wind energy, which the industry says are working.

Big Wind

Oklahoma is in the middle of a wind boom. In the last five years, installed wind power capacity has soared more than 200 percent. Last year, Oklahoma was the country’s fourth-largest producer of wind-powered electricity, data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency show. But every energy boom comes with a cost.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Tuesday ended its four-month inquiry into wind energy development in Oklahoma. The examination could lead to new rules, though it’s not clear what they might be or which agency would enforce them.

The commission heard from vocal landowners for and against wind farms. Developers lauded the economic potential of Oklahoma’s wind, while conservationists and Indian tribes warned that, left unchecked, turbines would kill threatened bird species and ruin delicate grasslands.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Scientists, regulators and technical experts from the energy industry met in Oklahoma to discuss how earthquakes triggered by oil and gas operations should be accounted for on national seismic hazard maps, which are used by the construction and insurance industries and pubic safety planners.

The three-day workshop started Nov. 17 and was co-hosted by the Oklahoma Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Crystal J. Hollis / Flickr

Driven by water worries, safety questions and quality of life concerns, residents in Oklahoma and states other the country have pushed for citywide bans on hydraulic fracturing.

Many of those efforts have proved successful, but, in the end, fracking bans might be more about lawyers than voters.

Using local referendums, residents in states like California, Colorado, New York and Ohio have successfully banned fracking. The anti-fracking fervor has even spread to Texas, the country’s No. 1 crude oil producer. On Election Day, voters in Denton approved a citywide ban on fracking.

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