Erika Aguilar, KUT News


I started working at KUT November 2007. If you're a weekend NPR listener, you may have caught my reports on KUT during "Weekend Edition" or "All Things Considered". I keep tabs on what happens on Saturdays in Austin and other environment, science and development  news.

I came to KUT after working behind scenes in the newsroom at KEYE-TV in Austin. I'm a proud Texas State Bobacat. I love to write, be creative, clicking away on the internet, reading history books, anything outdoors, and I always love a rich conversation. Drop me line if you've got an interesting story to tell.

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Image courtesy Chesapeake Energy

UT Study Says Fracking Doesn’t Directly Contaminate Groundwater

A new report by the University of Texas at Austin released this week says there’s no direct link between groundwater contamination and hydraulic fracturing – a controversial method of extracting natural gas and oil from shale formations.

The research was done by UT's Energy Institute. The report’s authors say contamination is often the result of above ground spills or mishandling of wasterwater, but not caused directly by fracking. 

Fracking involves blasting water, mixed with sand and chemicals, underground to fracture rock and improve the flow of natural gas and oil. The practice is used at the North Texas Barnett Shale.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is also studying the environmental effects fracking may have on groundwater. Its preliminary results differ from the UT study.

Photo by Erika Aguilar/KUT News.

Some Central Texas volunteers gave up their Saturday morning to clean bathrooms and move furniture at Austin Groups for the Elderly. It was part of today’s MLK Day of Service.

“It’s a great way to help the elderly because they’ve done so much in the past to make it possible for us now," said Gwen Blackburn.

Photo by Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Perry Comes Back To Texas For Now

Texas Governor Rick Perry is coming back home. After a disappointing fifth-place finish in yesterday’s Iowa caucus, far behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, Perry told supporters that he is giving his bid for the White House a second look.

“With the voters decision tonight in Iowa,” Perry told supporters. “I decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight’s Caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race.”

Photo courtesy of House the Homeless.

Austin’s House the Homeless is hoping to keep the homeless warm with its annual Thermal Underwear Drive. On Monday, the non-profit will hand out free thermal underwear to the homeless. Thermals are easier than blankets for homeless people to carry with them.

Richard Troxell, president of House the Homeless, estimates there are about 4,000 homeless people in the Austin metropolitan area.

Photo by Erika Aguilar/KUT News.

Austin styled music, film screenings, hula-hooping performers and, of course, fireworks – that’s what the city is offering tonight.

Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole revealed details in a Wednesday news conference of the city's Austin' New Year's party to ring in 2012. 

Image courtesy

It's no secret: Downtown Austin on New Year's Eve is like Halloween all over again on Sixth Street. Austin public safety officials are urging New Year's Eve revelers to play it smart Saturday night.

“If you have plans to go out drinking, be safe and be mindful of the alternative methods to get home," warned Assistant Police Chief Patrick Oclketree.

Gov. Perry's request to add his name or stop the Virginia primary ballots from being printed was denied today by a federal judge. Photo by Ben Philpott/KUT News.

Governor Rick Perry lost a bid to get his named added to the Virginia Republican presidential primary ballot. He needed 10,000  signatures, with at least 400 signatures from the state's 11 congressional districts to qualify.

Governor Perry filed an emergency motion Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Richmond for an injunction to get his name on the ballot or to stop the state from printing them. He argued the signature requirements were burdensome and unconstitutional.

Photo by Ben Philpott/KUT News

Occupy Austin Protesters Sue the City of Austin

Photo by Erika Aguilar/KUT News.

Austin is getting a good steady soaking this weekend. Light rain showers and patchy drizzle started this morning and have continued this afternoon. Downtown Austin got about half an inch of rain over the last 24 hours. A cold front arrives in Central Texas overnight. We’ll wake up to temperatures in the 50s tomorrow morning with a greater chance for isolated thunderstorms.

Photo by Erika Aguilar/KUT News.

Although some larger cities have cleared Occupy protesters out of public spaces, people with Occupy Austin say they are trying to expand. Some Occupiers at a march and rally Saturday told KUT News they are planning on having daily protests at the south steps of the State Capitol.

Occupy Austin continues to take place in the city plaza at City Hall.

Saturday, Occupy Austin demonstrators slowed traffic for a short time, as they marched on Guadalupe Street to protest bank bailouts. The march ended at the State Capitol. Debbie Staat is a nurse who participated.

Photo by Erika Aguilar/KUT News.

The wet weather turned Auditorium Shores a muddy pit this weekend, but it was good demonstration of why the city of Austin wants to returf the park. Marty Stump is a landscape architect with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. They held public meeting Saturday on the Town Lake Park Master Plan to finish developing Butler Park and Auditorium Shores.

Local civil rights activists want Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo to fire Nathan Wagner, an APD officer who shot and killed 20-year old Byron Carter, Jr. May 2011. Carter was a passenger in a car that struck and injured a police officer. The teen driver was shot in the arm but survived.

Chief Acevedo has 180-days from the incident to make a decision. That deadline is Saturday. Acevedo today notified the State Attorney General that he is delaying a disciplinary decision until a criminal investigation into Wagner’s actions is completed.

In a press release, Acevedo said the delay was intended to protect “the ongoing criminal investigation and the integrity of the criminal justice process."

Photo courtesy of the Trail Foundation

The planned 1.1 mile boardwalk to be constructed over Lady Bird Lake received a $2.4 million dollar commitment today from the Trail Foundation.

The organization announced it’s almost done raising $3 million needed as part of the construction cost to build the boardwalk in one phase. The City of Austin will spend another $14.4 million in mobility bond money approved by Austin voters last year to build the boardwalk. 

Photo courtesy of the City of Austin by Mark Sanders.

A city biologist told the Austin City Council yesterday that the Jollyville Plateau Salamander has the potential to delay construction on the city's Water Treatment Plant Four.

At its work session Tuesday, city staff briefed the Council on what the construction and planning team of WTP4 is doing to lessen environmental impacts caused by the Jollyville transmission main and the four access shaft sites.

Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Some Austin parents such as Norma Sanchez worry a college education will be the most costly expense for their families. A college fair Saturday at Travis High School was hosted by Con Mi Madre, a non-profit active in Austin schools that encourages Hispanic mothers to seek a college education for their daughters.

Photo courtesy of the Off-Leash Area Advisory Committee

Austin area dog trainers are volunteering to help give free training and park etiquette lessons. The first one was held Saturday morning at Zilker Park. It’s an initiative from the new citizen-led Off Leash Area Advisory Committee (OLAAC).

Daniel Reese

As if awaking from a two year hibernation, a sub-committee of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) held its first meeting this afternoon with a new leader and new members. The Transit Working Group (TWG) was restored in time to prepare for Austin’s soon-to-come vote on an urban rail system.

The working group was first established in 2007 under Austin Mayor Will Wynn. He decided the city needed an urban rail or street car system. But nothing really came out of it. Now, Mayor Lee Leffingwell is leading the TWG.

“The big difference between this group and the one of that before is our focus is going to be regional,” Leffingwell said.

Photo by KUT News

Austin residents looking to become U. S. citizens got some help Saturday navigating the system. Immigrant Services Network of Austin, a coalition of immigrant service organizations, hosted a free workshop.