Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment
6:36 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Pop Quiz: 20 Percent Chance Of Rain. Do You Need An Umbrella?

Will it rain or not? How you interpret the forecast could mean the difference between getting soaked or staying safe.
Maria Pavlova iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 4:04 pm

This week, All Things Considered is exploring how people interpret probability. What does it mean to us, for example, when a doctor says an operation has a 70 percent chance of success?

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Hydraulic Fracturing
10:01 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Denton Council Punts Fracking Ban Proposal To Voters

World Resources Institute via Texas Tribune

From The Texas Tribune:

DENTON – Voters will decide whether this North Texas college town will become the state's first city to ban hydraulic fracturing. 

After a public hearing Tuesday night that stretched into Wednesday morning, the Denton City Council rejected a proposal to ban the method of oil and gas extraction inside the city, which sits on the edge of the gas-rich Barnett Shale. The 5-2 vote kicked the question to the city’s November ballot, the next step in a high-profile property rights clash that will likely be resolved outside of Denton.   

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Energy & Environment
6:13 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Water Service at Fort Hood, Killeen & Copperas Cove Still Not Back to Normal (Update)

Fort Hood is asking non-essential personnel to stay home today as a result of Stage 4 water restrictions.
KUT News

Update: Water service is still not fully restored at Fort Hood. The post is on limited supply because of a problem with its main water line.

Military personnel will report to the Central Texas Army post today a little later than usual and physical training is canceled.

Other parts of the post are starting to get back to work. Child care centers at Fort Hood and the Darnall Army Medical Center will be open today as usual.

Fort Hood is under Stage 4 water restrictions until the supply problem is resolved. And people there should boil water before drinking it or cooking with it – until the quality can be tested.

Original Story (July 14, 7:04 a.m.): Fort Hood is in an extreme, but temporary, water shortage. The Central Texas Army post's water supply has been interrupted as a result of a Stage 4 critical emergency conservation order from the Bell County Water Control and Improvement District.

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Energy & Environment
1:40 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

How One Austin Home Produces More Energy Than It Uses

Steve Bijansky climbs down from the attic of his "Net Zero" home in Allandale.
Mengwen Cao for KUT News

From StateImpact Texas:

As the mercury rises in Texas, so does our energy use. Air conditioners will work overtime to keep your house cool. And when that happens, the Texas grid can become stretched thin.

One solution is to build more power plants to meet growing demand. Another is to simply get Texans to use less energy.

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Energy & Environment
11:31 am
Wed July 9, 2014

BP Wants Unspent Spill Recovery Money Back

A BP attorney wrote a letter to Gov. Rick Perry requesting the state return a $5 million grant.
Photo Illustration: Todd Wiseman & Kris Krug

From The Texas Tribune

After watching a $5 million grant to Gov.Rick Perry’s office go unspent nearly four years after it was presented in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP is asking Texas for its money back.

The funds were given to Texas in September 2010 to help with oil spill recovery, but few of the state and local officials who work on such projects were aware of the grant until a legislative hearing in May. Lawmakers at the hearing were angered and said the money should have been given to agencies with the expertise to spend it. BP was frustrated as early as last winter about the unspent funds and asked Perry to return the money, according to correspondence obtained by The Texas Tribune through an open records request.

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Energy & Environment
11:53 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Is the Oil Boom Helping Prices at the Pump?

Analyst Tom Kloza estimates the oil boom helped keep gas prices below $4 per gallon.
flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/

From StateImpact Texas:

  Texas is getting more oil out of the ground than is has since the great boom of the 1970s. The oil fields of North Dakota are, for the first time ever, producing over one million barrels a day. Across the country, the boom has lead to predictions that the US will overtake even Saudi Arabia in oil production by the end of the year.  But is all that drilling helping US consumers at the pump?

A quick look at the numbers before the long weekend would indicate not. Prices were about 20 cents per gallon higher than this time last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

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Energy & Environment
12:30 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Proposals to Prevent Another Fertilizer Explosion Immediately Meet Resistance

A helmet is carried in remembrance of a firefighter from the Abbott Volunteer Fire Department killed in a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas last year.
PHOTO BY JORGE SANHUEZA-LYON/KUT

From StateImpact Texas: 

The explosion at a fertilizer plant in the small town of West, Texas last year took much more than fifteen lives. At least 262 people were injured; twenty percent of those were brain injuries. Homes and schools were destroyed. But judging from the response of some state lawmakers charged with stopping it from happening again, disasters like the one in West are just something Texans are going to have to live with from time to time.

There’s been no new regulations for fertilizer plants since the disaster until this month, but there’s been a consensus for some time about how to prevent another tragedy like the one in West: require fertilizer plants to store ammonium nitrate in non-combustible facilities or to use sprinklers; conduct inspections of facilities; and train first responders so they know how to deal with fires that may break out at sites with ammonium nitrate. 

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StateImpact Texas
12:01 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Rising Oil and Gas Boom Does Little for Poor in Texas

From StateImpact Texas: 

When it comes to the oil and gas drilling boom in the country, Texas is king. Actually, make that crown a global one: over a quarter of all the active drilling rigs in the worldare right here in the Lone Star State.

The boom – taking place thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and horizontal drilling – has brought jobs, money and more energy security to Texas and the country. It’s also damaged roads, increased traffic and accidents, strained local governments and caused housing prices to skyrocket in parts of the state. How the boom is leaving some communities behind is the subject of an in-depth report today in The New York Times.

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StateImpact Texas
12:42 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

How New Transmission Lines Are Bringing More Wind Power to Texas Cities

New transmission line projects are already resulting in more wind power making its way to cities in Central and North Texas.
Public Utility Commission

From StateImpact Texas:

We’re all going to be paying for it, so you might be glad to know that a new set of transmission lines to bring wind power from the Panhandle and West Texas to folks in North and Central Texas appear to be off to a good start. According to a new federal analysis this week, the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones power transmission project, also known as CREZ, is already resulting in fewer curtailments of wind power and more even prices in Texas’ energy market.

The project cost $7 billion, a price that will be paid for by tacking on a fee to Texans’ utility bills. On average, your power bill could go up several dollars a month.

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StateImpact Texas
1:50 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

As Renewables Grow in Texas, Battles Over Fees and Subsidies Emerge

Wind turbines in West Texas help produce record amounts of electricity for the state.
Mose Buchele/StateImpact Texas

From StateImpact Texas

In the coming years, the federal government wants Texas to reduce its carbon emissions by about 40 percent. With a goal like that, you might expect to see more programs aimed at promoting renewable energy in Texas. But something like the opposite appears to be happening.

Donna Nelson, chair of Texas’ Public Utility Commission, asked last month if wind power generators, not Texas utility customers, should pay for upgrades to transmission lines. The Commission regulates the state’s electric grid, among other things.

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StateImpact Texas
11:35 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Feds Target Oil and Gas Industry for Underpaying Workers

Exhibit from lawsuit: A worker's time sheet showing 90 hours in eight consecutive days.
Credit Dave Fehling/StateImpact Texas

From StateImpact Texas:

In states with the most oil and gas drilling, including Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, the U.S. Department of Labor has won back pay for over 4,000 energy industry workers in just the past year.

It totaled $6.7 million dollars, accounting for a third of all such settlements by all types of industries nationwide.

“We were hearing that workers were being misclassified as independent contractors, that they were being paid straight-time for their hours over 40 in a workweek. And we were hearing this consistently throughout the Southwest Region,” said Cynthia Watson, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Regional Administrator in Dallas.

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StateImpact Texas
1:22 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

As Highland Lakes Near Record Low, Will They Ever Fill Again?

The public boat ramp at Cypress Creek Park on Lake Travis has been out of use since the water receded past its end in 2011. Since then, the entire lagoon on which the park is situated has dried.
Dylan Baddour/StateImpact Texas

From StateImpact Texas:

The combined storage of the Highland Lakes is expected to approach its record low – 30 percent full – by the end of this summer. After that, forecasters say, the El Niño weather pattern could bring some relief. But how much rain would it take to get them full again?

The total volume of water in the Highland Lakes, the main reservoir for a million people in and around Austin, fell to its lowest level since 1952 (during Texas’ multi-year drought of record) in September 2013. Water flowing into the Highland Lakes hit record lows – just ten percent the annual average — in 2011, Texas’ driest year on record.

Historically, low levels like the ones we’re seeing now have been corrected by massive rain events.

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Weather
6:47 am
Tue June 3, 2014

Study: Americans Less Fearful Of Storms Named After Women

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew destroyed more than 25,000 homes in Florida. But its death toll was far less than "female" storms such as Audrey, Camille and Katrina.
Lynn Sladky AP

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 4:59 pm

A study published Monday suggests Americans are less afraid of hurricanes with female names.

This is a real study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — not The Onion.

Researchers at the University of Illinois and Arizona State looked at deaths caused by hurricanes between 1950 — when storms were first named — and 2012.

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Greenhouse Gas Regulations
11:18 am
Mon June 2, 2014

New Carbon Rules Could Have Big Impact on Texas

A coal power plant in Fayette, Texas.
Credit Andy Uhler/KUT News

Big changes could be coming for Texas power plants. The Obama administration is announcing new rules today aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants – the chief culprit behind global warming.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants in the U.S. by 30 percent (from their 2005 levels) by 2030. That “is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year,” according to the EPA. In Texas, that drop will need to be even higher: the state’s carbon emissions from the power sector will need to fall 39 percent by 2030 under the proposal.

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Weather
7:31 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Oklahoma's Latino Community Prepares For The Next Tornado

Gloria and Francisco Sanchez stand in front of their new ranch house, still under construction a year after a tornado destroyed their last home in Moore, Okla.
Hansi Lo Wang NPR

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 10:43 am

A devastating EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore, Okla., a year ago Tuesday. Just 11 days later, another twister ravaged the Oklahoma City metro area.

Nine of the 23 people who died as a result of the second storm were members of the local Latino community. Their deaths have sparked efforts to better prepare Hispanic families for storms.

On a windy afternoon in Oklahoma City, American Red Cross volunteer Ivelisse Cruz hands out stickers to families at the Children's Day Festival.

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Energy & Environment
1:26 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Whoa! Watch A Spectacular Supercell Take Form In Wyoming

A supercell storm in Clareton, Wyo.
Basehunters Chasing via Twitter

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 4:37 pm

Sometimes some of the most destructive forces in nature can be stunningly beautiful.

On Sunday, storm chasers caught a supercell thunderstorm taking shape in Wyoming. It is absolutely spectacular — the stuff of science-fiction movies:

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Energy & Environment
4:32 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Austin Energy OKs Deal For Texas' Single Biggest Solar Farm

Austin Energy has signed a deal with Reliant Energy to build the largest single solar facility in Texas by 2016.
flickr.com/demmbatz

Austin Energy will soon be getting more of its power from the sun.

The city-owned electric utility has signed a deal, announced today, with a San Francisco-based firm to build the single largest solar facility in Texas by 2016. Under a 20-year power purchase agreement, Recurrent Energy will build a 150-megawatt solar farm in West Texas.

Austin Energy spokesperson Carlos Cordova says the deal will help the public utility and the Austin City Council to achieve two goals – "to have 200 megawatts of all of our energy derived from solar power, and 35 percent of all of our energy be derived by renewable energy."

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Energy & Environment
6:05 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

When Colleges Ditch Coal Investments, It's Barely A Drop In The Bucket

Some universities have stopped investing in coal companies, but many others don't see the point. An aerial view of the Coal Hollow Mine in Utah in 2012.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:59 am

If the students at Stanford University believe they sent the coal industry a strong message this week, they should think again. The school's decision to eliminate coal from its portfolio did not send shock waves through the industry. In fact, representatives say it will have no financial impact on the industry at all. Nor will it curb the growing demand around the world for coal-generated electricity.

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Energy & Environment
12:38 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

New Report Finds Climate Change Already Having Broad Impact

People survey the damage on Scenic Highway in Pensacola, Fla., after part of it collapsed following heavy rains and flash flooding on April 30.
Marianna Massey Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 6, 2014 10:22 am

A new U.S. government report released Tuesday finds that climate change is already having a broad impact on both weather and the economy.

NPR's Elizabeth Shogren tells our Newscast unit the third National Climate Assessment is the most comprehensive look at climate change that the government has ever produced. It was put together by more than 300 experts "guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee."

She filed this report for our Newscast unit:

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Drought and Livestock
10:40 am
Fri May 2, 2014

What Texas Ranchers Can Teach California About the Drought

Ranchers gather inside the Hills Prairie Auction House in Bastrop, Texas. Drought-hardened Texas ranchers have advice to offer their California counterparts.
Karen Zamora for KUT News

How bad is the California drought? Bad enough Texas cattle ranchers can offer some  advice.

California has never seen so little rain over a 12-month period. But in Texas – the nation’s top cattle producing state – drought conditions are nothing new. Due to Texas' ongoing drought, ranchers in Texas lost 15 percent of their cattle from 2011 to 2013 – approximately two million animals.

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