Energy & Environment

Water, energy, conservation, sustainability, WTP4, pollution, oil and gas, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), recycling, and other environmental issues related to Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Mose Buchele/KUT

Austin’s creeks and waterways are part of what’s attracted people to this part of the world for thousands of years.  But, of course, they also create flooding hazards. When one heavy rain on top of another sends tons of debris into the creeks, that flood risk becomes even more difficult to control.

KUT News

There’s an old rancher’s saying that the cattle always look good around an oil well.  It means if the ranch is making money leasing to oil companies, the ranch's finances are probably in pretty good shape. So, is the decline in oil hurting Texas ranchers? That’s something state lawmakers are trying to figure out.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Public safety officials and researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have unveiled a new national flood prediction system, which researchers say will increase the amount of river and creek flood forecasts by more than 700 percent and offer a new approach that will save lives in Central Texas and beyond. 


From StateImpact Texas: President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline provoked cheers from environmental groups, boos from rival politicians and a little bit of head scratching in the State of Texas. 


This is a story of two nuts: the almond and the pecan. 

In the 1960s the pecan industry loomed large over the almond. But, then, something changed. Since then, the almond crop has seen a nearly 33-fold growth, while the pecan crop has seen little to no growth. But things are looking up for the once-proud pecan.

Most of the rivers and creeks engorged by Friday's heavy rainfall have reached their highest points and have started to recede. As they do, the residents of hard-hit places, like San Marcos, Bastrop County and Austin's Onion Creek neighborhood, are starting the process of cleaning up and assessing the damage. 

Though the rescue efforts are over, and many donation centers are no longer accepting donated material goods, there are still ways you can help, whether it's by donating money, or making yourself available to volunteer, or bringing in clean clothes for those who lost their belongings. If you're a resident looking for help removing damaged goods or receiving donations, there's information for you as well.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

If you spend much time around Austin this sight might be familiar: A new building goes up, or a street is completely redesigned. Along with that development a row of young trees is planted along the sidewalk. Then, several months later, some of those trees are dead.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

As of Thursday, the wildfire near Smithville in Bastrop County was well contained at 85 percent and had covered about 4,500 acres — that hasn't changed in several days. The Texas A&M Forest Service says the cause of the fire is still under investigation. But the Bastrop County Judge has said the fire was probably caused by one of two things: farm equipment that overheated or a fire built in violation of the county’s burn ban.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

After burning nearly 4,600 acres and destroying nearly 70 homes, the Hidden Pines Fire remains at 80 percent containment. As people in fire-damaged areas of Bastrop County take more steps toward the recovering, officials and residents are preparing for expected flooding this weekend as investigators determine the cause of the fire.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

The Hidden Pines wildfire in Bastrop is now 80 percent contained, but just how do officials reach that determination? Well, it’s an art and a science.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

The Hidden Pines Fire in Bastrop County started one week ago today. Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape said Tuesday morning that the fire is 80 percent contained and has burned about 4,600 acres. Sixty-eight homes have been lost, and 95 are currently threatened. 

KUT News

The Environmental Protection Agency has released new rules to reduce ozone pollution.  The Austin area has managed to stay on the right side of current rules, but the new standards will be harder to meet.

Image via Flickr/TexasEagle (CC BY-NC 2.0)

In Texas, there's been a job opening for what you might call a monarch over Monarchs. The formal title is "Monarch Outreach Specialist."

The challenge? To get the Monarch butterfly to return to Texas, where their numbers seem to have been dropping.


Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

This week the US Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce new limits on the amount of ozone Americans breathe. Those limits could force Austin and other Texas cities to reduce ground-level ozone pollution in an effort to mitigate the pollutant’s harmful health effects.

Wikimedia Commons

It might sound surprising that the U.S. does not allow the export of one of its most valuable and plentiful natural resources — but in the case of crude oil, it's true.

A lot of Texas politicians would like to see the ban overturned, and soon lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives may vote on just that.  But why is there a ban in the first place?


Yesterday, we heard about a new goal set by the federal government: a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030.

One way to waste less food is to compost it – by storing organic material in a bucket, for example, until it can be used to fertilize soil. In 2012, the City of Austin and a local company each started their own composting programs.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is back from his first official trip to Mexico. While he was there, the governor met Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and talked border security, trade and energy. As KUT’s Mose Buchele reports, cross-border energy issues are of growing importance on both sides of the border.


The Texas horned lizard — also known as the horny toad, or the horned frog to TCU fans — lives in some of the harshest deserts in the Southwest.  But scientists are learning more about how the lizard survives, and what they’ve discovered could have applications for the rest of us.

Eddie Seal/Texas Tribune

An inquiry by the agency that regulates the oil and gas industry in Texas has found that oil and gas activity did not likely cause a swarm of earthquakes around the north Texas towns of Azle and Reno starting in 2013. The finding, however, flies in the face of a peer-reviewed scientific study of the quakes.

Last week, members of the Austin City Council heard a proposal to halt the practice of putting fluoride in the city’s water supply, but, ultimately, they found no persuasive evidence of any harm from the practice.

However, the City of San Marcos is still very much in the middle of a battle over its water fluoridation program – a battle that’s gotten all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.