Erika Aguilar, KUT News

Reporter

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 Doesnt Directly Contaminate Groundwater A new report by the University of Texas at Austin released this week says theres 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 UTs Energy Institute . The reports 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 todays MLK Day of Service . Its a great way to help the elderly because theyve done so much in the past to make it possible for us now, said Gwen Blackburn. Each year, volunteers honor Martin Luther King, Junior by following his example, says Al Lemon. Hes a graduate member of the Alpha Phi Alpha service fraternity, the same fraternity Dr. King...

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 yesterdays 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 tonights Caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race. You...

Photo courtesy of House the Homeless.

Austins 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. At the same time, we only have about 600 emergency shelter beds for every man, woman and child, he said....

Photo by Erika Aguilar/KUT News.

Austin styled music, film screenings, hula-hooping performers and, of course, fireworks thats what the city is offering tonight. Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole revealed details in a Wednesday news conference of the citys Austin New Years party to ring in 2012. Its important that you come out and enjoy and meet your neighbors, your friends -- the people from all over the city, said Cole. She pitched the event as a sober, family-fun and artsy alternative to wild festivities youll find on Sixth and...

Image courtesy flickr.com/pixajen

Its no secret: Downtown Austin on New Years Eve is like Halloween all over again on Sixth Street. Austin public safety officials are urging New Years 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. APD begins its no refusal weekend tonight at 9 p.m, ending Monday at 5 a.m. That means officers can have you give up some blood, if youre caught...

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 states 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 A federal lawsuit against the City of Austin involving Occupy Austin protesters goes to trial in Austin this morning. Two men who were arrested with dozens of occupiers on October 30th were issued criminal trespassing citations. These notices can keep people away from City Hall for up to a year. The City of Austin has created a process in which protesters can appeal their notices and return to City Hall. But Austin attorney and...

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. Well wake up to temperatures in the 50s tomorrow morning with a greater chance for isolated thunderstorms. But tonight, whether its raining or not KUT will still host the Holiday Sing-A-Long starting at 6 p. m. at the South...

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...

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 citys Parks and Recreation Department. They held public meeting Saturday on the Town Lake Park Master Plan to finish developing Butler Park and Auditorium Shores. Stump said one way they can re-turf Auditorium Shores is by partnering with a company, the way the city did with C3 Presents to resod...

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 Wagners 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 its 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 citys 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. Nathan Bendik told council members that his research during the 2008-2009 drought showed an...

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. English translation: Yes, it worries me very much because college tuition is very expensive and we dont know how we are going to pay so much money, Sanchez said . But...

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 . Its an initiative from the new citizen-led Off Leash Area Advisory Committee (OLAAC) . Because we have so many parks that are wide open spaces, we have many other people in the parks that are not dog owners, said Bill Fraiser, OLAAC Chair. So we share the parks with the community and we want to ensure that our parks are safe for everybody. ...

Long-time CBS commentator and essayist Andy Rooney died Friday in New York from complications after a recent surgery. But his opinions and character will live on through his papers archived at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at UT-Austin . His distinct voice and conclusions kept audiences tuned through the end of CBS 60 Minutes news magazine shows every Sunday night. Andy Rooney was 93. Just last month he made his last appearance on the show. Many of his essay scripts...

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. To become a U.S. citizen, you need to be current in all your taxes and child support payments. You must know how to read, write, and speak English. You must have a clean criminal record. You should have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. as a resident and register for the draft if it...

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