Energy & Environment

Eddie Seal / Texas Tribune

The science on whether there's a link between oil and gas activity and a surge in earthquakes in Texas isn't clear-cut, says the new seismologist for the agency that regulates the industry here.

It has become a rite of summer. Every year, a "dead zone" appears in the Gulf of Mexico. It's an area where water doesn't have enough oxygen for fish to survive. And every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissions scientists to venture out into the Gulf to measure it.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUTX

People love to wax nostalgic about the Austin of decades past. The rents were cheaper, the traffic was lighter, the music was live-r. Some of that talk may be history viewed through rose-colored glasses, but there is at least one metric by which Austin was, literally, cooler: the temperature.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre / Texas Tribune

There’s almost enough pipeline transporting crude oil and other chemicals buried under Texas to reach the moon and back. Last week, one small section of that infrastructure in Bastrop County was damaged by a maintenance crew. The result was a spill of more than 50,000 gallons of crude oil.

Photo illustration by Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Scrolling through Twitter is not for everyone, but if it's the kind of thing you’re into you’re likely to come across many tweets that make no sense. A few weeks ago one of them said this: “Curve Crunch: WTI flips to contango. Backwardation banished!”

What could this mean?

Courtesy of Mike Bergin

Solar power is one of the fastest growing energy sources in the world. Whether from massive utility-scale solar farms or residential rooftop panels, you can expect to see more solar in the future.

But scientists have identified something that can really hurt the performance of those panels: air pollution.

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.

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

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.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The only peregrine falcon that lives year-round in Central Texas makes her home in a wooden box on the UT Tower. More than a month ago, the bird laid a clutch of eggs. But, as the weeks passed, it became unlikely that the eggs would hatch. So, the university agreed to remove the eggs for research. 

Louis Vest via Texas Tribune

Since Republicans took full control of Washington, Central Texas Congressman Lamar Smith has become a leading voice in setting the party's agenda when it comes to science and environmental regulation. But some worry that agenda could have a chilling effect on research and policy. 

Eddie Seal / Texas Tribune

The risk of damaging manmade earthquakes striking the Dallas-Fort Worth area is substantially lower than it was last year, according to a new earthquake hazard map released this week by the U.S. Geological Survey.

flickr.com/wallyg

Republicans in Washington are planning to make good on promises to roll back federal regulations on everything from mining pollution to consumer protections for credit card holders.

To do it, they are using an obscure legislative tactic that’s been successful only once in history – a tactic has some legal scholars worried.

Ilana Panich-Linsman for KUT

This week has been a dizzying one for people working to understand and combat global warming.

Tweets on climate change from the account of the Badlands National Park were deleted. Plans to scrub climate information from Environmental Protection Agency websites were walked back by the Trump administration. Then, news broke that the budget for the EPA may be cut by $1 billion dollars.

Ben Philpott / KUT

Today, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry goes before the U.S. Senate for his confirmation hearing in the hopes of becoming the next secretary of the Department of Energy. 

Of course, Perry famously derailed his presidential bid in 2011 by forgetting the department’s name even as he vowed to abolish it in a GOP primary debate. But, while the former governor may have been – and, according to a New York Times report, may still be – fuzzy on the agency's purview, he is certainly not the only one.

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