KGOU

Joe Wertz

Managing Editor for 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

An aerial view of the Blue Canyon Wind Farm in southwestern Oklahoma.
Google Earth

Oklahoma ranks No. 2 in the nation for installed wind power capacity, according to a report from the American Wind Energy Association.

This electricity — enough, the association estimates, to power the equivalent of 2.3 million homes — is generated by 3,736 wind turbines operating in Oklahoma, a public dataset compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey, AWEA and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory show.

Matt Pinnell, left, and Kevin Stitt talk to reporters at a watch party in Tulsa on Aug. 28, 2018.
Matt Trotter / Oklahoma Engaged

A political outsider will be the Republican party's nominee for governor.

Kevin Stitt, a Tulsa businessman, defeated former Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett in Tuesday's Republican primary runoff. Stitt defeated Cornett 55 to 45 percent. 

A temporary water line placed by an oil company in Custer County.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association on Tuesday sued Kingfisher County Commissioners, the latest salvo in a long-simmering fight over water use in one of the state’s most prolific oil fields.

Crews pulling in to remove drilling equipment damaged during a deadly explosion and fire at a natural gas well near Quinton, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Federal authorities cited and fined three oil and gas companies for exposing workers to dangerous hazards after a deadly explosion and fire on a drilling rig in January.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oil and gas companies spent more than half a million dollars to defeat State Question 788, a statewide ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma.

Companies from Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas collectively contributed $590,100 to “SQ 788 is Not Medical,” a political action committee established to defeat the measure, state ethics records show.

Aerial view of the Wind Catcher site in Oklahoma’s Panhandle.
AEP

American Electric Power on Friday canceled construction of the largest U.S. wind farm in the Oklahoma Panhandle after utility regulators in Texas rejected the project.

Benji and Lori White in a pasture at their ranch near Putnam, Okla.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Benji White pulls into a field and honks his horn. Before the shifter hits park and the doors close behind him and his wife Lori, the silver Ford pickup is surrounded by dozens of Red Angus eager for a handout of cattle cake, a protein-dense pellet.

In this Tuesday, July 10, 2018 file photo, Julie Ezell, speaks to the Oklahoma Board of Health in Oklahoma City.
Sue Ogrocki / AP Photo

The former lawyer for the Oklahoma State Department of Health faces felony charges accusing her of sending herself threatening emails related to Oklahoma’s recently adopted medical marijuana rules.

Oklahoma County prosecutors filed three separate charges Tuesday against Julie Ezell. The criminal complaint accuses Ezell of sending threats to her own government email account earlier this month and reporting the threats to health department investigators.

Mick Cornett speaks to his supporters after advancing to the Republican runoff primary election.
Joe Wertz / Oklahoma Engaged

Former Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett will face Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt in a runoff for the Republican nomination for governor. 

A sign advertises recreational and medical marijuana outside a dispensary in Colorado.
David Anderson / David Anderson

Pregnant women would be barred from obtaining a medical marijuana license if voters on Tuesday approve State Question 788, under proposed rules under consideration at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The draft rules would also restrict people on probation and those recently convicted of a felony from obtaining a commercial license.

A sign marks the entrance to a coal ash reclamation pit near Bokoshe in southeastern Oklahoma.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is the first state in the nation to receive the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval to manage its own coal ash disposal program. State and federal officials and utility companies said Oklahoma’s plan would improve oversight, but environmental groups like Earthjustice and the Sierra Club said the move protects industry and endangers public health.

U.S. Geological Survey

Previously unmapped faults in Oklahoma could be contributing to an intense uptick in earthquakes triggered by oil-field wastewater disposal, a new study suggests.

Eric Haynes of Ada, Okla., says poorly maintained roads and sidewalks are among the biggest issues his community faces.
Caroline Halter / KGOU

Oklahoma voters will pick their primary candidates on June 26 and weigh in on a state question about legalizing medical marijuana. The political heat will build through the summer with high-profile endorsements, big-money ad blitzes and campaign promises.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A district court judge has approved class-action status for a lawsuit accusing an Tulsa oil company of being responsible for damage caused by earthquakes.

StateImpact Oklahoma

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case about Native American territory and a 1999 murder that could broadly affect tribal sovereignty and state legal authority.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Sunday before Scott Pruitt’s confirmation hearing to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt stood on the stage of his hometown church, bowed his head, and prayed.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

As Donald Trump’s EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt is popular with conservatives for his aggressive rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations. He has also been strongly criticized for alleged ethics violations. But there’s another side of Pruitt that’s less well known.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday released an audit and other documents related to a corruption probe his office fought to keep secret.

The records stem from an investigation launched in 2011 of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust, which was set up to buy contaminated properties and relocate residents near the Tar Creek Superfund site, a former lead and zinc mine in northeastern Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Supreme Court

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday ruled a proposed state question that would ask voters to approve tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund education can move forward.

Here's how contentious the wind industry has become in Oklahoma: When a state representative discovered a GPS tracker on his pickup truck late last year, he immediately suspected the industry, in an allegation straight out of a political thriller.

"I pissed off a huge corporation," Rep. Mark McBride told a police officer, according to audio from a police body camera obtained by StateImpact Oklahoma. "You know anything about wind farms?"

McBride explained he may have been targeted because he was writing legislation to increase taxes on the wind industry.

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