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

Governor Mary Fallin urged lawmakers to find compromise and steer clear of budgetary and legislative chaos in her final State of the State address at the Oklahoma capitol on Monday. The speech laid out a number of Fallin's priorities for the legislative session.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma experienced a dramatic drop in earthquakes in 2017 — a decline likely due, in part, to regulations limiting activity at oil-field disposal wells, scientists and experts say. New research suggests those regulations might be reducing some quakes more than others.

It’s been two years since state oil and gas regulators adopted a broad regional plan that limits the amount of wastewater pumped into disposal wells in quake-prone areas. The good news: It appears to be working. After peaking in 2015, earthquakes became a lot less frequent.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oil and gas firm Chesapeake Energy today started laying off hundreds of workers, a cost-cutting move concentrated on employees at the company's Oklahoma City headquarters.

Chesapeake is laying off roughly 13 percent of its workforce — about 400 people — across the company. In an email to employees, CEO Doug Lawler said layoffs were needed to reduce debt, enhance profit and improve the company's cash flow.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

Federal and state authorities are investigating the cause of the deadly explosion and fire at a natural gas drilling rig in southeastern Oklahoma on Monday.  Five workers died in what appears to be one of the country’s deadliest onshore drilling accidents. The well site, located near the town of Quinton, 100 miles south of Tulsa, was operated by Oklahoma City-based Red Mountain Energy. Patterson-UTI Energy, of Houston, owns and operates the drilling rig, which exploded and caught fire about 8:45 a.m.

Updated 5:12 p.m.

State medical authorities have confirmed that five oil-field workers died after an explosion and fire at a natural gas drilling site in southeastern Oklahoma on Monday.

A preliminary investigation suggests all five men likely died on the drilling rig close to where the explosion and fire started near the town of Quinton, 100 miles south of Tulsa. One worker was burned and taken by helicopter to the hospital. 16 other workers made it off the rig site safely.

The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association on Wednesday filed two separate state Supreme Court challenges to a proposed state question that would ask voters to end industry discounts and impose a broad 7 percent tax on oil and gas production to fund teacher pay raises and early childhood education.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Mickey Thompson has a manila envelope tucked under his arm as he walks towards the Oklahoma Capitol. If the paperwork doesn’t start a fight, it almost certainly will add fuel to one.

Inside the envelope is the handiwork of about 10 people over a couple of months that could clear a path for Oklahoma voters to do something most lawmakers won’t consider: Enact broad tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

StateImpact Oklahoma

2017 is wrapping up, but the growing group of reporters at StateImpact are following many important government policy issues that will carry on into the new year.

Senior Reporter and Managing Editor Joe Wertz brought the StateImpact team into the studio for a preview of their coverage in the year to come. Here are some excerpts from the conversation edited for clarity:

HEALTH

Joe Wertz: Give me the big picture for the new year.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A group led by a long-time energy industry leader wants Oklahoma voters to approve an increase in taxes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

Currently, taxes on oil and gas production are discounted for the first three years making the effective tax rate somewhere around 3.2 percent. Mickey Thompson with Restore Oklahoma Now on Wednesday filed the paperwork for State Question 795 to increase that rate to 7 percent across-the-board.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A new report from hundreds of experts and more than a dozen federal agencies is stark: Humans are likely responsible for the warmest period in modern civilization.

The consequences of this warming vary regionally, but scientists and researchers forecast significant effects in Oklahoma and other southern plains states.

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