Energy & Environment

Energy & Environment
2:18 pm
Fri July 31, 2015

'No Explosions Here!' What We Learned from Austin Resource Recovery's Reddit AMA

Austin Resource Recovery took to Reddit to answer questions on Austin's recycling program.
flickr.com/criminalintent

Have you ever wondered about if you could recycle your paper coffee cup? Or if the cap from that Topo Chico you had would gum up the recycling sorter? Have you wondered the fate of that plastic bag you filled with recyclables and tossed into the blue bin with trepidation? 

Well, today was your lucky day, Internet user. 

This morning Austin Resource Recovery took to Reddit for an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) to answer Austinites' burning recycling questions — offering a glimpse of a possibly forthcoming composting program and tips on what exactly to do with all those plastic bags you've been hoarding. Check out the highlights below.

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Energy & Environment
11:22 am
Fri July 31, 2015

Study Aims to Predict Bird Deaths from Wind Turbines

A new study looks to predict deaths of species like the Golden Eagle as a result of colliding with wind turbines.
Wikimedia Commons

Texas leads the nation in wind power, but some environmentalists worry about bird deaths cause by wind turbines – typically, birds fly into the blades of the turbines.

Now, a new approach pioneered by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to decrease those fatalities by trying to calculate the probability of bird-turbine collisions, while recognizing the inherent uncertainty of the phenomenon.

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Energy & Environment
9:18 am
Tue July 28, 2015

Austin's First Triple-Digit Day Arrives Late, With More to Follow

Austin experienced its first 100-degree temperature day yesterday.
flickr.com/mrgarin

Austin’s seen its first triple-digit day of the summer. Just before 1 p.m. yesterday, Central Texas thermometers cracked the triple-digit seal, according to the National Weather Service. While the thermostat has thankfully stayed pretty low so far this year in Austin, that’s going to change.

When it comes to triple-digit days in Austin, the best way to describe what’s happening is, “Never would’ve been better than late.”

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Energy & Environment
1:13 pm
Fri July 24, 2015

Oil Prices Don't Jibe With Texas Budget Forecasts

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

This week, oil prices dropped below $50 for the first time since February, a development that could upend the state's predictions of oil revenue for this year.

Estimates from the Comptroller of Public Accounts put oil prices at an average of just over $64 per barrel in 2015 and 2016. And, as of now, those predictions are rosier than the reality of the market, meaning the state's loss in oil and gas tax revenue could impact the Texas budget going forward.

In January, when Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released his estimate of how much tax revenue the state would bring in for the Texas budget, he did so with a caveat.

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Energy & Environment
11:41 am
Tue July 21, 2015

Here’s Why The End of the Drought Is Not Completely Good News For Texas

The spring and early summer rains helped hoist Texas out of its drought. Though some reservoirs still need to be refilled, experts express optimism that a wetter winter will help.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

For the first time since 2010, none of Texas is in drought condition. But that doesn’t mean water worries don’t still plague some parts of the state.

The latest drought report from the Texas Water Development Board doesn't signal the end of the state's water woes, but it's still good news. After more than five years, spring rains saturated the ground enough to finally end our long drought — our long soil moisture drought.

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Energy & Environment
12:08 pm
Wed July 15, 2015

Oil Town Roadways Are More Dangerous Than Ever

Photo via Flickr/jaredzimmerman (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

 From the Texas Standard.

Improvements and enforcement aren't coming fast enough.

If you live near the Eagle Ford Shale you may have heard an ad from the Texas Department of Transportation warning drivers in the area to be extra cautious on the roadways.

It’s part of a campaign called "Be Safe, Drive Smart." Roadways aren’t like they used to be. Before the shale oil boom, the 26 counties that make up the Eagle Ford were small, bucolic places – country roads, few cars.

Now, not so much.

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Energy & Environment
11:05 am
Thu July 9, 2015

How to 'Haze' Travis County's Urban Coyotes

The Austin City Council adopted its first-ever plan to handle coyotes in November.
Texas Eagle/flickr

Between January and March, Travis County residents called in more than 260 coyote incidents. Some of these were just sightings, but others called in because their pets had been attacked.

In November, the Austin City Council adopted its first-ever plan to handle coyotes. The main thrust of the plan? Handling them humanely.

But what does handling them humanely mean, exactly?

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Energy & Environment
10:34 am
Wed July 8, 2015

Efforts to Get Golden-Cheeked Warbler Off Endangered Species List Ruffles Feathers

The golden-cheeked warbler, a bird species with a large Austin population, remains on the endangered list. But now some groups are trying to have it removed.
Isaac Sanchez/flickr

Some conservative groups are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the golden-cheeked warbler from the list of endangered species.

But environmentalists say the species, which thrives here in Central Texas, should remain on the list because its numbers aren’t strong.

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Energy & Environment
10:23 am
Fri July 3, 2015

U.S. Sees a Net Gain of Oil Rigs for the First Time in 2015

The Baker Hughes oil fields services firm says the U.S. saw a net gain of three rigs last week.
Eddie Seal/Texas Tribune

For the first time this year, the number of oil rigs operating in the U.S. went up, according to oil field services company Baker Hughes. But what does that mean for the largest oil producing state in the country?

For Texas, and the U.S., the increase is more of a bellwether, but after months of declines it could signal a stabilizing of the U.S. oil markets. According to Baker Hughes, there was a net gain of only three rigs – a loss of nine gas rigs was offset by the addition of 12 oil rigs.

Star Spencer is a senior editor for Platts Energy Information Service. She says it looks like the industry is betting that U.S. crude has settled around $60 a barrel.

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Energy & Environment
3:24 pm
Thu July 2, 2015

Texas Will Use Some of BP Settlement Money to Prepare for Future Disasters

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, and today, state governments and BP announced they'd reached a settlement agreement.
Marc Morrison

Texas will receive more than $750 million of the $20 billion BP oil spill settlement announced this week. The state will use some of that money to prepare for future disasters in the Gulf of Mexico.

Five years ago, oil was still pouring into the Gulf after an offshore rig exploded, killing 11 people and causing the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Florida State University oceanographer Ian McDonald, like a lot of researchers, felt frustrated at the time that civilian experts weren’t being included in the government’s emergency response.

“There’s a terrific brain trust of academics and professionals in the Gulf Coast region, and there are none of them that are not prepared at any time to go and try to fight this thing,” McDonald said.

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Energy & Environment
2:12 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Austin Remains in Stage Two Water Restrictions, Maybe Forever

Austin's Stage 2 water restrictions may become permanent, despite the recent rainfall.
Austin Monitor

Austin will remain in Stage 2 water restrictions despite above average rainfall for the year and the historic amount that fell in May. The city is also examining whether to adopt those restrictions permanently.

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Energy & Environment
12:48 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

What's Next for Local Drilling Bans in Texas?

A new state law bans local bans on hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. Some towns, like Denton, find their local bans have become unenforceable.
Mose Buchele/KUT News

This year state lawmakers severely restricted the ability of Texas towns to regulate local oil and gas drilling.

A law known as House Bill 40 was a reaction to a fracking ban passed by voters in the North Texas city of Denton.

Denton has come to represent local fracking bans and clashes between local governments and the oil and gas industry. But while Denton was the first city in Texas to ban fracking, it wasn't the first city to ban drilling within city limits.

That practice goes back years, according to a survey by the Texas Municipal League.

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Energy & Environment
9:35 am
Tue June 23, 2015

Study Finds Nearly Half of Austin's Landfill Trash Is Recyclable

A study found that nearly half of the trash collected by Austin Resource Recovery could have been recyclable.
therefore/flickr

According to a new study released by Austin Resource Recovery, almost half of residential trash collected from curbs and going into Austin landfills could have been recycled. The city-commissioned study also found that 46 percent of the residential trash that ends up in the landfill could have been composted.

“Too much paper, too much plastic, too much metals [are] going to the landfill instead of in the blue cart,” says Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery. “So although Austinites believe in recycling and set out their recycling cart with some of their recyclables, we need more recyclables from the household.”

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Energy & Environment
12:11 pm
Wed June 17, 2015

Quiz: Which of These Aren't Official Tropical Storm Names?

Let's face it: Bill isn't the most exotic name for a tropical storm or, as it is now, a tropical depression.

Sure, as far as storm names, it was meme-worthy, but it didn't conjure the gravitas or mystique that, say, Odalys or Gaston might. So, we thought it might be eye-opening to dig into the list of names given to tropical storms — agreed upon by the World Meteorological Organization — by testing whether you could spot a fake one. Take the quiz below, and let us know which names surprised you in the comments. 

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Energy & Environment
10:21 am
Wed June 17, 2015

Denton Repeals City Ban on Fracking

The City of Denton repealed its municipal ban on fracking last night weeks after the Texas Legislature passed a law that made Denton's ban unenforceable.
Cooper Neill/Texas Tribune

The North Texas City of Denton made headlines last year when voters there banned the oil drilling technique known as fracking. Early this morning, the Denton City Council repealed that unenforceable ban in a move to head off costly future legal battles.

Many Denton City Council members said they had no choice but to repeal the ban. Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law earlier this year that takes the power to regulate most drilling activity away from local governments.

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Energy & Environment
11:23 am
Wed June 10, 2015

Why Advocates Who Helped Pass Denton's Fracking Ban Now Want to See It Repealed

After a hard-fought campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing wells in Denton, some advocates want the city to repeal its ban.
Mose Buchele/KUT

When voters in Denton banned the oil drilling technique called fracking there last year, the North Texas city took center stage in a national debate over oil and gas, property rights and the environment. But now some of the same people who pushed for the ban are calling to repeal it.

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Memorial Day Floods
8:27 am
Thu May 28, 2015

Is Texas Doing Enough to Regulate Floodplain Development?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The deadly flooding that hit central Texas this week struck in one of the most rapidly growing parts of the county. And it’s reignited a debate over whether the state is doing enough to regulate development in floodplains.

Professor Nicolas Pinter teaches environmental science at Southern Illinois University.  He says a big study back in the late ‘90s put Texas at number two in the country in number of properties that have flooded repeatedly and the number of properties that have received repeated flood insurance payouts. And Texas is second to Florida in flood insurance, with just over 681,000 policies to Florida's 2.1 million, according to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The reason for that's simple: Texas gets a lot of floods.

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Memorial Day Floods
5:10 pm
Tue May 26, 2015

Despite Floods, Stage 2 Water Restrictions Remain in Place For Now

Even though Austin had torrential rains that flooded Lady Bird Lake, water usage restrictions forced by the drought may not be lifted.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The lakes that supply Austin with water - Travis and Buchanan - have risen dramatically over the past few days, but city of Austin officials are not ready to lift water restrictions just yet.

Before this most recent round of rains, the lakes were 39 percent full, combined. Now, they're 55 percent full

The Lower Colorado River Authority's vice president for water, John Hoffman, says they're happy the reservoirs are rising, but they still see it as a glass half empty. 

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Energy & Environment
3:38 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Plan to Clean Up San Marcos River Could Mean You Pay More for Tubing

Safety and environmental concerns along the San Marcos River prompted the state senate to pass a bill that could create a fee system for river recreation.
Patrick Lewis/flickr

Each year, more than 80,000 people visit the San Marcos River to tube (or "toob") the waters and have a good time. But those crowds leave a lot of litter and create safety concerns for local law enforcement. Now a bill at the state senate aims to solve the problem.

Senate Bill 234 would let voters in Caldwell and Guadalupe counties set up a “recreation district” on the river downstream of San Marcos that would be funded by fees charged to river revelers. The district would have the authority to hire law enforcement to patrol the water and crack down on litter.

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Energy & Environment
10:32 am
Wed April 29, 2015

Could Texas Be Doing More to Protect Against Manmade Earthquakes?

A dozen smaller earthquakes have struck Dallas in the last few weeks, following a SMU study that showed a connection between disposal well sites and earthquakes.

There have been earthquakes in almost every corner of Texas since the start of the state's most recent oil and gas boom. One swarm that really captured people’s attention started in the town of Azle in 2013.  When oil and gas regulators at the Railroad Commission of Texas visited the town, local people suggested ways to handle the waste water disposal wells thought to be causing the quakes. One idea came up over and over again.

“Why is it we can't shut the wells down around here for a period of time?” asked resident Gale Wood. "If nothing happens after a while, that would be one way to determine what’s going on."

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