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

Filipa Rodrigues / KUT

After an explosion at a fertilizer plant killed 15 people in West, Texas, in 2013, the EPA created new safety protections for the storage of dangerous chemicals. Now, at the urging of the industry, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is delaying those rules until 2019.

Octavio Aburto-Oropeza

Fish can breathe under water. They’re great swimmers. But they’re not really known for their singing.

But they do sing – kind of. And now scientists on the Texas Gulf Coast are hoping that fact can help sustain their populations.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Gas prices could hit a 12-year low this summer. That’s as much as 40 cents lower than analysts thought they’d be in some parts of the country.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

American Chemical Society

Researchers mounted air pollution monitors on Google cars driving around to record images for the tech giant's Street View maps. The result, they say, is a new way to measure and track air quality.

Mose Buchele / KUT

Coal is one of the big reasons President  Trump has ended the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate accord. He says ending a pledge to reduce CO2 emissions could help reinvigorate the coal industry. So we decided to ask people in the one coal-producing area of Central Texas what they thought of the decision. 

Courtesy of Austin Energy

Austin Energy responded Friday to accusations raised by the Travis Audubon Society that it was knocking down Monk parakeet nests from energy poles during the birds' nesting season.

“When we do remove a nest, our crews will only be working on nests that are up in the energized space," Chief Operating Officer Elaina Ball told reporters gathered at the intersection of Pleasant Valley and Riverside Drive, where the parakeets have built a cluster of nests.

Andrew Harnik / AP

The U.S. will withdraw from the international climate agreement known as the Paris accord, President Trump announced Thursday. He said the U.S. will negotiate either re-entering the agreement or a work on a new deal that would put American workers first.

During his campaign, Trump vowed to "cancel" U.S. participation in the deal. World leaders and business figures had recently urged him to reconsider. Ultimately, the president decided to withdraw.

Courtesy of Christine Hawkes

Christine Hawkes says her work isn’t all that glamorous.

“Sometimes when people ask me what my job is, I say 'digging holes,'” she says. "You know? It’s a lot of what I do is just digging up soil.”

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

Ask Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter what caught his attention in a recent release of census data for Texas cities, and he’ll tell you: Houston, in Harris County.

“In the past three or four years, prior to the [2015-16] set of estimates, Harris County was the most significant growing county in the country numerically,” he says.

The City of Austin was selected to receive two grants totaling $300,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up brownfields, unused land that may be contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Building a better battery is the holy grail for people who want better technology. Now researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, say they may have found that battery — or something close. But their claims have sparked controversy.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

It’s still a long time before the congressional midterm elections in November 2018. But a lot of candidates are already showing interest in running. And many of them are embracing an environmental message that, traditionally, has been kept on the sidelines.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Texas leads the country in wind energy production and, because of the way the state’s electric grid is set up, most of that power stays right here. But a plan that would allow the state to make money exporting wind and solar power is moving slowly. 

Qiling Wang for KUT

Judging from how hot it has been, this year could end up being Austin’s hottest ever. Heat impacts health, happiness and the environment. So the city is trying a simple approach to reducing it: planting trees.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Depending on what thermometer you’re looking at, this year’s average temperature has been between 5 and 7 degrees hotter than usual so far in Austin. That could set 2017 up to be one of Austin’s hottest years ever.  People who research climate change already know a lot about how warmer temperatures disrupt human activity. But hot days may have an impact on our mental health that we’re only just starting to understand.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Since Scott Pruitt has taken the reigns of the Environmental Protection Agency, the agency has rolled back regulations, scrubbed information on global warming from its website and dismissed members of a key science advisory board. But that isn’t enough for some climate change skeptics and fossil fuel advocates, who would like to see the EPA rescind its entire rationale for battling global warming.

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

More people in Texas drink from water systems that are in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act than any other state in the country,  according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The City of Austin has unveiled a new blueprint for its zoning overhaul, known as CodeNEXT – a plan aims to manage growth and transportation challenges by rewriting Austin's land-use code.

But critics say, for a city that prides itself on its environmentalism, Austin has failed to take into account one important thing in CodeNEXT: the future impact of climate change.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

The population boom in Central Texas has brought a lot of challenges to the region – some expected, some less so. One question you may not have considered is what happens to all the extra sewage water produced by the growing population. Now, a bill at the state Capitol hopes to answer that very question.

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