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

flickr.com/velkr0

Five months ago, Austin cashiers stopped asking, “Paper or plastic?”  And since then, Austin retailers and customers have adjusted to the city ordinance banning single-use paper and plastic bags.

However, the Texas Retailers Association argues banning plastic bags does more harm than good.

flickr.com/kaanah

Smoke will be rising in southwest Austin today near Buda. Austin Water is performing a prescribed burn with help from the Austin and Buda Fire Departments.

The burn will cover over 600 acres of land west of Buda at the Onion Creek Management Unit. The area will burn for up to seven hours, or until around 5 p.m.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority

Some 30,000 honeybees are about to find a more suitable home.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is relocating a massive beehive found in a large oak tree on Highway 183 near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

flickr.com/onthespiral

Before crushing those pesky fire ants crawling across your porch, did you ever consider the critters’ effect on the ecosystem? The University of Texas’ newly formed Texas Invasive Species program has $2.7 million dollars to answer those questions and more.

The program, formed with a six-year grant from the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation, utilizes researchers from the Brackenridge Field Laboratory to investigate and protect Texas's ecosystems from exotic invasive species.

Lower Colorado River Authority

Lake Travis could drop to a  50-year low this weekend, possibly falling below 626.1 feet. 

“When that does occur, that would be the third lowest level ever on record for Lake Travis, and the lowest since November of 1963," Meteorologist Victor Murphy with the National Weather Service said. "It tells us the drought is persistent and ongoing."

KUT News

Austin Energy is turning to the wind to power the city’s future.

Austin City Council members will look at a contract today that increases the amount of renewable energy purchased by Austin Energy to 35 percent from 25 percent.   

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Today marks the anniversary of Austin’s first 100-degree day in 2012, but Austinites have yet to face temperatures in the triple digits this year.

If current weather patterns continue, Austin may only experience a few 100-degree days this summer. That’s according to Cory Van Pelt, a forecaster with the National Weather Service for Austin/San Antonio.

Hurricane Season Begins

May 31, 2013
flickr.com/jomatt

Hurricane season officially starts Saturday, June 1, and Texas leaders are calling on Texans to be prepared.

Emergency response agencies staged their annual hurricane exercise Friday at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Hays County is looking for alternative groundwater supplies. An open Request for Proposals seeks to pipe in water from aquifers that could be tapped to supplement water from the Edwards and Trinity aquifers.

County Commissioner Ray Whisenant (R-Precinct 4) says the existing supply of water appears to be unsustainable with the county's current growth rate.

Steve Jurvetson via Texas Tribune

When Texas promised to protect a threatened lizard in the oil-rich Permian Basin, state officials entrusted the day-to-day oversight to a nonprofit that sounds like an environmental group: the Texas Habitat Conservation Foundation.

What’s not advertised is the occupation of the board members who created it.

STP Nuclear Operating Company http://www.stpnoc.com/photo.php?pageID=30

Austin Energy is getting some of its power again from the South Texas Project. STP is a nuclear power source in the Bay City area where one of four reactors was offline for the past few months because of a fire outside the unit.

On Tuesday it started operating again.

Flickr, Ronnie Pitman http://www.flickr.com/photos/pitmanra/2373739283/

The Lower Colorado River Authority is reminding people who live along the Highland Lakes that you need a contract to pump water from the lakes.

The reminder comes at a time when Central Texans are starting to think about lawn care.

The LCRA wants to keep track of the water removed from the lakes and help educate people about responsible water use. 

StuSeeger/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuseeger/

If you like seeing the wildflowers around Central Texas this spring, get ready for a bigger finish for the season.

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, they say there’s been a slow start, but could be late peak. Cooler weather has delayed the peak of some blooms and it looks like a good late season for flowers that need less rain.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune and Pedro Moura Pinheiro, Texas Tribune

With the drought getting worse by the day, a Texas mayor is turning to a higher power.

He’s asking people to pray for rain.

Odessa Mayor David Turner is calling on community and church leaders to make this Sunday, April 14th, a day of prayer for rainfall.

facebook.com/keepcranebeautiful

This weekend, Keep Texas Beautiful and the Texas Department of Transportation are joining together for 'Texas Trash-Off', which is Texas's "largest single-day litter cleanup" event.

Low/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/24831034@N08/

If you see a vehicle belching smoke, there’s a way to report it.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality encourages drivers to report vehicles they see that are emitting dirty smoke for more than 10 consecutive seconds.

The TCEQ then sends a letter to the owner suggesting an inspection. Compliance is voluntary.

dasroofless/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/roofless/5779444286/

No end in sight to the drought, now affecting almost all of Texas. Austin has been under Stage 2 water restrictions since last summer. What do we face from State 3?

This week, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicated that less than two percent of Texas is not experiencing drought conditions. The rest of the state has worsened. Here in Austin, chances of rain over the next five days hover between 20 to 40 percent. Experts doubt that will amount to much. Still, water restrictions here will stay at stage 2 … for now.

Bobby Blanchard, KUT News

The normally burnt orange University of Texas campus is looking a little more purple.

Today, campus and city officials celebrated the completion of a project that installed purple pipes on campus. The university is estimating these pipes, connected to Austin Water’s reclaimed water system, will save the campus 70 million gallons of drinking water annually.

courtesy flickr.com/yelpar

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the TCEQ counted six illegal piles of tires in Travis County. In fact, the TCEQ has identified only one pile in Travis County with a tire count between 7,300 and 299,999. We regret the error. 

Original story: Next time you’re driving your car, look at all the tires around you. When those tires wear out, they have to go somewhere.

Every year, more than 24 million tires leave the roads in Texas. And many of them are dumped illegally. A proposal before the Legislature today aims to reduce that problem.

flickr.com/roofless

The cost of groceries in Texas has gone up as a result of drought conditions in Texas and across the country.

A survey from the Texas Farmers Bureau finds that the price of a uniform basket of goods for an average Texas shopper is $46.40, a five and a half percent rise over last fiscal quarter.

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