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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Austin
7:21 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Top Morning Stories July 27, 2011

The Texas Forest Service responded to two new wildfires yesterday. 247 of the State's 254 counties currently have burn bans in effect.
Photo courtesey of The Texas Forest Service

New Wildfires Blaze

The Texas Forest Service responded to two new fires yesterday as the drought continues to provide prime conditions for wildfires.

A West Texas fire in Pecos County has burned 1,200 acres and is now 30 percent contained. Another new fire in Stephens County, 90 miles west of Fort Worth, has already burned 1,500 acres.

Perry Appoints to the LCRA, Public Utility Commission

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Health
4:09 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Drought Could Be Causing Uptick In Rabies Cases

Skunks and bats are the most common animal to have rabies in Texas according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Photo by Clinton & Charles Robertson http://www.flickr.com/photos/dad_and_clint/116297459/

The Texas Department of State Health Services is reporting a high number of rabies cases, especially in Central and North Texas. The extreme heat and drought is causing wild animals to search for food and water for longer periods of time and closer to human habitat, causing clashes with people and their pets.

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Environment
1:55 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

EPA Delays Issuing Ozone Rules Again

Vehicle emission is a large contributor to ground-level ozone. New, stricter standards were supposed to be issued by the EPA this summer.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.

The EPA has once again delayed releasing stricter ground-level ozone standards. Those were supposed to be issued on July 29. This is the fourth time the EPA has delayed releasing exact standards.

The Bush Administration set the ozone standard at 75 parts per billion in 2008 even after EPA scientists had recommended a more stringent standard. The EPA has indicated that the new standard would fall between 60 to 70 parts per billion.

EPA press secretary Brendan Gilfillan issued this statement in announcing the delay.

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Transportation
12:05 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Public Comments on Travis County Bond Proposal

The Travis County roads and parks bond proposal includes money to build more sidewalks and road improvements. Photo by KUT News.

Travis County residents are giving County Commissioners their two cents at a public hearing on the county bond package proposal. The proposal, unveiled last week, is a $206 million bond of 36 various transportation, park and utility line projects. This bond is an abbreviated list from an earlier proposal that of about $638 million.

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Texas
8:59 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Top Morning Stories Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Still No End To Drought, Wildfires and Pipes Busting

The Texas Forest Service says drought conditions and the potential for more wildfires persist across the state. Of the state’s 254 counties, 247 are under a burn ban including all Central Texas counties. Since the fire season started in November wildfires have scorched more than three million acres across across the state.

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Austin
4:59 pm
Sat July 23, 2011

APD Reaches Out to North Austin Community

The Austin Police Department hosted an event near Rundberg as a part of their outreach efforts launched this summer.
Erika Aguilar, KUT News

Austin Police say they are trying to get to know the Rundberg and North Austin community better. The department invited residents to a meet-and-greet event Saturday in the Northgate Boulevard area.

Austin Police say crime in the neighborhood is higher than other parts of Austin, but is often not reported.

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Austin
10:29 am
Sat July 23, 2011

Some Council Members Want To Postpone WTP4

Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News.

The debate over Water Treatment Plant Four returns to City Hall this week. Council members will direct city staff to figure out how much it would cost to postpone building WTP4, which is under construction now.

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Texas
1:13 pm
Tue July 19, 2011

Victim Tries To Stop Assailant's Execution

Rais Bhuiyan, shot in the face by a man targeting people who looked of Middle Eastern decent after the 9-11 attacks, is asking the State of Texas to stop the execution of the man who shot him and killed two other men.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

A man who was shot in the face in a hate crime stemming from the September 11 attacks will find out tomorrow whether his assailant will be executed. Rais Bhuiyan is suing the State of Texas and asking a court to stop the execution of Mark Stroman.

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Austin
10:57 am
Sat July 16, 2011

Animal Shelter At Capacity

The Town Lake Animal Shelter has run out of space for cats. Officials say the shelter has seen an unusually high number of intakes.
Photo courtesy of the Town Lake Animal Center.

The Town Lake Animal Center is at capacity and has run out of space.

The shelter took in 30 cats in the first hour of business Friday morning. The cats are now temporarily being caged in offices. Animal workers say people this week have dropped off more pets than usual. The shelter took in close to 350 cats and dogs this week. 

TLAC sent a press release Saturday morning, asking people to reclaim lost pets at the shelter or to wait at least a week before turning over an animal:

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Environment
11:10 am
Thu May 26, 2011

Rainwater Harvesting Bill Passes Both Texas Chambers

Rainwater can be harvested and stored in plastic or metal tanks, like this collection tank which provides water used to irrigate a nearby garden.
Photo by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service via Flickr.com http://www.flickr.com/photos/agrilifetoday/4923

Rain barrels and other rain catchment systems could soon be installed on state government buildings.

The rainwater harvesting bill made it through the Texas Legislature this week and is headed to the Governor’s desk. HB 3391 requires that future state buildings that are large enough must have rainwater harvesting systems incorporated in the buildings’ design and construction plans.

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Environment
4:07 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Groundwater Bill Closer To Governor's Desk

A groundwater bill making its way out of the Texas Legislature could be used in the future to make some water rights points in court.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

The groundwater bill is closer to becoming a law. The Texas House passed SB 332, which states that a property owner also owns the groundwater beneath their land. The bill goes back to the Senate for a final vote before it goes to Governor Rick Perry.

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Environment
3:19 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Preventing Fires Along The Greenbelt

Austin fire investigators say a cigarette is to blame for the apartment fire at the The Woods located just across the street from the eastern portion of the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News

Mike May says he loves living right off the Barton Creek Greenbelt. But he knows the apartment complex he is in is at risk during high fire season. So do managers. After burnt coals were dumped in the dog park, the managers started warning tenants about fire dangers.

“They put signs on the fences and things like that when things are going on and they actually just come around and put it on your particular door,” May said.

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Environment
3:34 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Governor Perry Asks Texans to Pray for Rain

Governor Rick Perry has issued a proclamation for days of prayer for rain in Texas over this weekend.
Photo by Kenn Zuniga for KUT News

Governor Rick Perry is asking Texans to pray... a lot.

The Governor has proclaimed the next three days as “Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas.”  He is asking all people of different kinds of faith and religion to offer prayers for rain.

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Enivornment
4:48 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

TCEQ Sunset Bill Gives Permit Applicants More Weight

The Texas House passed the TCEQ Sunset Bill that reauthorizes the state environmental reguations agency for another 12 years.
Photo by KUT News.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality lives on for another 12 years…at least according to the Texas House, who passed the sunset bill with some changes.

The biggest change environmentalists are fuming over is an amendment submitted by Rep. Warrren Chisum (R-Pampa) that would shift the burden of proof from companies to the person who requested a contested case hearing who must also show that a permit should not be granted or renewed.

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Austin
11:55 am
Wed April 20, 2011

Dad Shot and Killed Two Women Because of Daughter's Relationship

Austin Police continue to investigate the murder of a mother and daughter in South Austin.
Photo by Nasha Lee for KUT News.

The Travis County District Attorney’s office will continue to investigate a double homicide that happened this week in South Austin to determine whether it will pursue the case as a hate crime. A staffer with the DA’s office said attorneys would have to do more investigation before a decision could be made.

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Oak Hill
8:00 pm
Sun April 17, 2011

Oak Hill Brush Fire Threatens Homes

Smoke from the Oak Hill brush fire can be seen from the highway. Photo by KUT's Crystal Chavez.

8:30 p.m.  Austin Homeland Security and Emergency Management have updated the list of areas that will remain evacuated overnightHere is a map of the affected area.  Austin Community College says classes will run on normal schedule at the Pinnacle campus, located near the area of today's brush fire.

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Traffic
10:30 am
Sat April 2, 2011

Car Crash Causes Power Outages And Blocked Roads

Austin Energy crews are on scene at Manchaca Rd. reparing two power poles that were damaged in a fatal car crash Saturday morning leaving residents without power.
Photo by Nasha Lee for KUT News.

About 60 customers are out of power this morning as Austin Energy crews repair two power poles on Manchaca Rd. near Stassney Ln. that were damaged by a serious car wreck early Saturday morning. Austin Police ask drivers to avoid the area. The road is expected to be shut down for about 7 hours as crews work and police officer investigate the accident.

The fatal car crash happened around 2:00 a. m. on Manchaca Rd. near Slaughter Ln. Austin Energy spokesperson Ed Clark said in press release that approximately 2,600 customers initially out of power.

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Environment
2:58 pm
Tue March 29, 2011

Texas Budget Big Enough To Tax Coal?

Environmental groups propose taxing "dirty resources" such as coal to raise revenue for Texas.
Image Courtesy of rankingranqueen http://www.flickr.com/photos/81343817@N00/399081880/sizes/l/in/photostream/

A budget deficit of $27 million has some people envisioning blackjack tables and penny slots in the parts of South and East Texas. Casino lobbyists are working overtime right now. But is the shortfall enough to put a tax on things like coal or making people pay a fee for driving cars that don't pass fuel efficiency standards?

The Texas League of Conservation Voters hopes so. The environmental policy lobby group calls this "green revenue."  They laid out some suggestions today at a press  conference held at the State Capitol.

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Nuclear Power
1:45 pm
Sat March 26, 2011

NRG Slows Expansion As Feds Review Nuclear Regulations

NRG announced this week it will slow an expansion to add two units to the South Texas Project nuclear power plant in Matagorda County. NRG is waiting to see how federal regulators at the Nuclear Regulator Commission react to the nuclear crisis in Japan.

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Energy
2:36 pm
Thu March 17, 2011

New Mercury Regulations For Coal Plants

The EPA announced mercury regulations that would require coal plants to cut emissions. This plant is the Cliffside Steam Station in North Carolina run by Duke Energy .
Photo courtesy of the Rainforest Action Network on Flickr.

The EPA announced yesterday new national standards for mercury emissions and other air pollutants. Within three to four years, coal plants be required to install new technology to cut back the amount of mercury released into the air from smoke stacks.

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