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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Energy
11:40 am
Tue March 15, 2011

Japan Disaster Puts Texas Nuclear Deal on Hold

South Texas Project nuclear facility, in Matagorda Bay, is in the process of adding two more units.
Photo courtesy of the NRG Energy.

CPS Energy of San Antonio announced today that negotiations over buying power from the South Texas Project [STP] expansion have been put on hold.

NRG Energy is in the process of adding two more units to the South Texas Project nuclear facility in Matagorda Bay.  CPS Energy, NRG and the Japanese company Tokyo Electric Power Co. would be the owners of the expansion, but Tokyo Electric's participation is now in question after a massive tsunami  damaged one of its nuclear plants in Japan.

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Weekend Events
10:15 am
Sat March 12, 2011

Austin Weekend Events Crowd Streets

A crowd forms downtown during South By Southwest 2011.
Photo by KUT News.

Austin is buzzing with activity this weekend, drawing a diverse crowd.

Irish songs and garb kicked off the morning in Austin with the city's first ever St. Patrick's Day parade (though, St. Patty's Day is on March. 17). Police and firefighters, military and friends marched up Congress Avenue at 9 a.m. in celebration of Irish culture. Money raised benefited the St. Balderick's Foundation.

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Growth
11:49 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Imagine Austin To Get Vote Today At City Council

The Austin City Council will vote Thursday on the map and framework of the city comprehensive plan, Imagine Austin. It lays out a roadmap of how the city will grow over the next 30 years.
Beth Cortez-Neavel

Austin City Council members will hear from Austinites this afternoon on the Imagine Austin Plan Framework. Imagine Austin is the city's comprehensive roadmap to what Austin's will grow up to look like by 2039. As SXSW crowds swamp Austin this weekend, take note; then imagine five SXSW conferences going on all at one time and you'll get a sense of the 750,000 additional people planners expect Austin to absorb by 2039.

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Texas
4:43 pm
Sat March 5, 2011

Texans Celebrate State Independence

People with the Texas Nationalist Movement rallied at the State Capitol Saturday for Texas to withdrawl from the United States. Several Texas Independence celebration events took place over the weekend.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Texas flags paraded up Congress Avenue Saturday morning to celebrate the state's independence. The Texian Legacy  Association hosted the parade and 5K run.

On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico just a few days before the Mexican army under Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna advanced on the Alamo in San Antonio.  On March 5, Col. William Travis leading the Alamo defenders made his famous "line in the sand."

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Politics
5:18 pm
Thu March 3, 2011

House Continues Debate on Sonogram Bill Amendments

Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston proposes an amendment to kill the sonogram bill.
Photo by Ryland Barton/ KUT.

The debate over HB 15—which would require physicians to provide a detailed description of a fetus to its would-be mother—continues to drag through the House this afternoon as Democrats put up a gaggle of amendments and arguments against the bill.

The bill is expected to be approved by the House sometime this evening.

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Politics
12:40 pm
Thu March 3, 2011

House Expected to Take Up Sonogram Bill Again Today

Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels thanks GOP support from New Braunfels.
Photo by Ryland Barton/KUT.

Today the so-called "Sonogram Bill" returns to the Texas House, after being sent back to committee yesterday by Democrats. House Democrats took issue with a technicality in how the bill moved from the State Affairs committee to the full House. Barring additional delays, the House is expected to vote on the Bill today.

The bill is one of five pieces of emergency legislation that are being fast-tracked through the Capitol. Pro-choice advocates probably don’t have the votes to stall the bill any longer; though it’s possible more procedural stalling could ensue.

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KUT Membership Drive
10:21 am
Tue March 1, 2011

We Interrupt This Membership Drive...

KUT's John Aielli and Ida Maldonado, safe and sound, wait for the all clear from fire officials on UT Campus.
Image by KUT News/Mose Buchele

You may have wondered why you didn't hear our talented John Aielli on the radio asking you to support KUT for a brief part of this morning. That's because he was outside of the KUT studios along with a large crowd of people that were evacuated from our cozy home in Communications Building B on the UT-Austin campus.

A fire alarm went off before 10:00 a.m., less than an hour after Aielli took the airwaves. So he improvised.

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Governor's Mansion
2:35 pm
Thu February 17, 2011

DPS Releases New Details of Governor's Mansion Suspects

Texas DPS released these sketches of the man that investigators believe threw the cocktail that set the Governor's Mansion on fire. Investigators says this vehicle was seen four days before fire taking pictures of the building.
Courtest of Texas DPS

Officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety are looking for three "persons of interest" and one suspect in their ongoing investigation into the 2008 the Governor's Mansion arson.  A sketch of a potential suspect and new video has been released.

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Budgets
5:31 pm
Sat February 12, 2011

Joslin Elementary School Rally

Parents, children and staff members of Joslin Elementary in South Austin rallied Saturday to keep the school open.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Parents whose children attend Joslin Elementary marched around the school in South Austin Saturday to urge Austin school board members to keep it open.  Such rallies are becoming the norm for Austin weekends, at least since the AISD Facilities Task Force released initial options for closing schools. Thirteen schools were named, but the task force is doing things differently now. It's no longer naming schools.

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Food
9:23 am
Sat February 12, 2011

Texas Produced Okra Is Recalled

Breaded okra made in McAllen, TX is being recalled because the food contains whey, a milk ingredient, that was not properly labeled.
Photo courtesy of the FDA.

A frozen food company baed in McAllen is voluntarily recalling its breaded okra because the food may contain whey, a milk ingredient. Magic Valley Fresh Frozen Inc. makes okra under the HEB label and sells in Texas grocery stories.

The 24-ounce and five-pound breaded okra bags under the HEB brand label were made from July 1, 2010 to Jan. 31 of this year.

No one has reported an allergic reaction because of the okra.

City of Austin
5:07 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Name That Department!

The City of Austin's Solid Waste Services Department is looking for a new name and the people of Austin have responded...creatively.
Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Austin is a music town, sure, but naming a city department after Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst? Why not? More than 29,000 votes have been cast to rename the City of Austin’s Solid Waste Services Department the “Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and the Arts. ” 

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Economic Development
3:56 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

Travis County Proposes Own Business Incentive Program

Travis County wants to create a business tax incentive to attract companies that can provide jobs for low-income residents.
KUT News

Travis County wants to become an economic stimulator. At their regular meeting, county commissioners discussed a proposal to amend the county tax code in order to offer an incentive for businesses that want to relocate to Travis County. The City of Austin and the State of Texas have similar programs, but commissioners are proposing something different.

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environment
10:57 am
Wed January 26, 2011

Las Brisas Permit Approved

The TCEQ has okayed a permit for a coke-fired power plant near Corpus Christi
Image by Nasha Lee for KUT News

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved an air permit for the $3 billion Las Brisas petroleum coke-fired power plant in Corpus Christi against the recommendations of two state administrative law judges and the Environmental Protection Agency. (Read the story from KUT.)

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Transportation
1:12 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

ZipCar Starts Hourly Rental Service on Campus

ZipCar starts its car rental service on campus. One of the ZipCar’s parking spots is located near the Jester Residence Hall.
Photo by KUT

Wondering why those green signs are taking up parking spots on the UT campus? That’s ZipCar and they are now on campus. It’s similar to the Car2Go car-sharing program in Austin. ZipCar is also on the Baylor and Rice University campuses.

Students, faculty, staff and community members can rent out a ZipCar vehicle. You’ve probably seen them parked at Gregory Gym and near some dorms. The company rents out full-sized vehicles like trucks and mid-sized sedans. Cars can be rented from an hour to as long as four days.

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Greenhouse Gases
6:27 pm
Wed January 12, 2011

Texas Loses Another Greenhouse Gases Battle with the EPA

New coal plants will now have to obtain permits for greenhouse gas emissio under the new federal law but Texas has refused to comply. A federal court ruled the EPA can take over greenhouse gas regulation in Texas.
Jonathan Warner/Flickr

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied Texas a ruling Wednesday that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from taking over the permitting process for the state's larger greenhouse gas emitters, like coal plants and oil refiners.

The ruling lifts a temporary stay that was granted to Texas on December 30, one week after the EPA announced the new greenhouse gas regulations.

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Willingham
12:30 pm
Fri January 7, 2011

State Panel Reviews Willingham Case

Fire expert Craig Beyler testifies before the Texas Forensics Science Commission on Friday reviewing the Cameron Todd Willingham.
Photo by Matt Largey for KUT News.

A state panel in Austin has been hearing today from fire experts about the high profile Cameron Todd Willingham arson conviction.  Willingham was convicted and put to death for setting the fire that killed his three daughters in 1991.  He was executed in 2004, But some experts have said the conviction was based on bad science. 

The Texas Forensic Science Commission reviewed the science that was used in the investigation and whether or not investigators were negligent. KUT's Matt Largey is covering panel.

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Greenhouse Gases
11:44 am
Thu December 23, 2010

EPA Takes Over Greenhouse Gas Permiting in Texas

The Environmental Protection Agency has partly taken Texas' air permitting program. The EPA will issue greenhouse gas permits to facilities in Texas after today's announcement that states are now obligated to regulate greenhouse gases. Texas is the only state that has chosen not to comply with EPA mandates.

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Wastewater
2:08 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Texas Gets Ticked With Feds Over Water Permit Spat

A wastewater permit issued to the LCRA for its Sim Gideon steam plant holds one of the 80 permits that are in question by the EPA.
Photo by Matthew Rutledge at Flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rutlo/3925707584/

In another round of disagreements, the Environmental Protection Agency is asking the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to take care of water permits that are expired and not in compliance.

The EPA sent a press release yesterday.

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Music and Arts
10:02 am
Thu December 2, 2010

Emerging Artists Wanted For Public Art Project In East Austin

The circled "open space" is the area where the public art project will be at the African-American Culture and Hertigate Facility.
Diagram courtesy of the City of Austin.

The City of Austin is accepting proposals from artists interested in creating public art at the future African-American Culture and Heritage Facility.  The complex will be located on East 11th Street off of Branch Street.

Download the Request for Proposals (pdf) from the City of Austin's Art In Public Places (AIPP) program here.  The deadline to pitch your public art project is midnight, January 10.

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Environment
12:46 pm
Fri November 26, 2010

U.S. Fifth Circuit: Construction of Sandy Creek Coal Plant Violates Clean Air Act

Aeriel of the construction of the Sandy Creek coal plant being built in Riesel, TX.
Photo courtesy of LS Power.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the on-going construction of the Sandy Creek coal plant near Waco violates the Clean Air Act. The ruling reverses a previous court decision that the coal plant permit issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality includes proper air pollution controls.



The Sandy Creek 800 MW coal plant is being built in Riesel, Texas by Sandy Creek Energy Associates. Construction began in 2008.  Since then, the plant has been hit with a series of lawsuits, primarily from the Sierra Club and Public Citizen.

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