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.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The State Supreme Court on July 29 heard a lawsuit and constitutional challenge to House Bill 2562, a measure that would change the effective state tax rate levied on oil and gas production.

Both parties agreed that the measure was written to reduce taxes, but is HB 2562 a “revenue bill?” That definition is important because this court battle isn’t about policy, it’s about procedure.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is moving up the national ranks in wind-generated electricity. But as wind farms expand into northeastern Oklahoma, developers are facing a team of unlikely allies: Oil interests and environmentalists. But as StateImpact’s Joe Wertz reports, the wind farm fight in Osage County could affect the whole state.

The males are rowdy, the females are frisky. It’s bison breeding season in Oklahoma. This is the time when horns lock and fur flies.

Joe Wertz / State Impact Oklahoma

This year, Oklahoma has had more earthquakes than California. There is a growing body of scientific research that suggests oil and gas production is fueling this increase in seismic activity.

new paper published today in the journal Science, suggests a small number of wastewater wells used in drilling operations could be responsible for many of the quakes.

High-Volume Outliers

U.S. Geological Survey / http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/

  Oklahoma has been rattled by a surge of earthquakes, which many scientists say is likely linked to oil and gas drilling. On Thursday night, residents packed a contentious town hall meeting to demand answers from public officials. Joe Wertz from StateImpact Oklahoma reports.

There was booing and shouts for regulators to impose a moratorium on the oil and gas disposal wells. Local resident Ester D. Blaine said she had to take all the pictures off her walls. She says citizens and scientists don’t stand a chance against Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A controversial bill setting the effective tax rate on new oil and gas wells was one of the capstones of the 2014 legislative session.

Rainfall totals in southwest Oklahoma are more than 3 inches below normal. And that means that the wheat crop grown in brothers Fred and Wayne Schmedt's farm is several inches shorter than normal as well.

Laughter is key to surviving as a farmer here. Fred Schmedt looks out on his field, then down at his legs and laughs at how short the wheat stalks are.

"What would you call that, high-shoe-top high?" he says. "In a normal year — a really good year — it'd be thigh-high. So we're looking at plants that are 6 to 8 inches tall versus 24 to 30 inches tall."

I was on Oklahoma News Report last week to discuss the controversial tax incentive for oil and gas drilling, which Gov. Mary Fallin signed on May 28.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed a bill that makes permanent a generous tax incentive for new oil and gas drilling.

Joe Wertz / State Impact Oklahoma

Four years of extreme drought has withered the agricultural economies of southern Great Plains states like Oklahoma, where farmers are bracing for one of the worst wheat crops in state history.

And Oklahoma’s withered wheat harvest could have national consequences.

Wayne Schmedt adjusts his faded blue cap and crouches down in a wind-whipped field near Altus in southwest Oklahoma. His brother and business partner, Fred, grins and waits. The jokes start before the dusty rain gauge is pulled from the cracked dirt.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The eastern red cedar tree causes allergies, crowds out other species, guzzles water, and fuels Oklahoma’s most devastating wildfires, including one near Guthrie last week. And lengthy drought has intensified the problem. But as StateImpact’s Logan Layden reports, eliminating the tree is complicated by the passive attitude of many landowners, and a state forestry service with little authority.  

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