Energy & Environment

Environment
5:01 pm
Wed April 4, 2012

Kyle Calls Off Water Restrictions

A river over the Edwards Aquifer, which supplies water to Kyle.
Photo courtesy edwardsaquifer.org

The city of Kyle is lifting its water restrictions.

In a letter sent out today, the city says recent rains have "sufficiently recharged" supplies "to allow for the removal of water restrictions beginning immediately. However, even with the removal of mandatory twice a week watering and other restrictions, City officials continue to ask residents to do their part to conserve water." Tips include checking your home and property for leaky pipes and not using a lawn irrigation system that is damaged or is spraying water onto a road or parking lot.

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Environment
12:50 pm
Wed April 4, 2012

Austin Water Announces $125 Million Repair Program

Get ready to see a lot more of this: Austin Water announced a five-year pipe repair program today.
Photo by Carlos Morales for KUT News

Austin Water launched “Renewing Austin” today, a five-year program to replace 75 miles of old cast-iron waterlines. 

The announcement was made this morning at a construction site downtown, where old pipes were already being replaced.

“We’re going to try to replace about 15 miles of those projects every year for at least the next five years,” said Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros. “And hopefully much beyond that, and so we’re going to be investing ... millions dollars over the next five years to replace those projects that are high priority for us.”

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Environment
9:22 am
Fri March 30, 2012

Studies Show Why Insecticides Are Bad News For Bees

One class of insecticides makes an entire corn plant poisonous to many insects that feed on it, including bees.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu March 29, 2012 4:33 pm

The search for the killer of America's bees is a little bit like an Agatha Christie novel.

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Environment
2:07 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

How Homegrown Charcoal May Get Your Garden Through A Drought

Scientists say biochar can help dry, sandy soils, like the one pictured here, retain water and nutrients.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri March 23, 2012 3:07 pm

You've probably heard of compost – that thick chocolate-colored stuff that's an organic gardener's best friend and supplies plants with all kinds of succulent nutrients.

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Environment
5:16 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Watch StateImpact Texas Report on PBS Newshour Tonight

Updated drought maps show the drought has eased across Texas in the past week. But the lingering effects persist.

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Environment
2:53 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Reports: Obama Will Call For Southern Portion Of XL Pipeline To Be Expedited

Originally published on Wed March 21, 2012 11:34 am

Quoting "a White House official," CNN and USA Today are reporting that in a speech tomorrow President Obama will push for fast-tracking the construction of the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline.

USA Today reports:

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Environment
1:58 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

A Storify Timeline on the Mexican Earthquake

The earthquake's center is south of Mexico City, near the coastline.
Image courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

Tech blog Mashable has created a Storify timeline culling links and social media updates on the recent Mexico earthquake, and its reverberations in the United States. We've embedded it below. 

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Environment
1:41 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Strong 7.4 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Mexico

Many people went into the streets after the strong quake rocked Mexico City.
Ronaldo Schemidt AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 20, 2012 3:25 pm

The USGS says an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 hit southwest Mexico today.

The United States Geological Survey says it was 6.2 miles deep and about 120 miles east of Acapulco.

We'll have more on this story as it develops.

Update at 3:54 p.m. ET. Back To Normal:

NPR's Jason Beaubien, reporting from the Zocalo area of Mexico City, says officials report no deaths and no major damage.

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Environment
2:37 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Burn Ban Lifted in City Parks

Two people grilling in Zilker Park before the burn ban enacted last April
Photo by ramk13 http://www.flickr.com/photos/ramk13/

The City of Austin has lifted a burn ban for all city parks. You can grill in designated areas, but campfires are only allowed at Emma Long Metropolitan Park.

Victor Ovalle is with Austin Parks and Recreation. He says recent rainfall has improved drought conditions in the area, but s park-goers should still be careful.

“We’re asking the public to be very careful when they’re out," Ovalle said. "There’s still a lot of timber in the area, in our parks, and so we ask them not to leave their fires unattended, to keep a source of water nearby, and before leaving the site, making sure the fire is completely extinguished."

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Environment
1:57 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

Keystone Pipeline Construction to Begin in Texas

A Nebraska construction site for the Keystone Pipeline. TransCanada announced it will commence building the southern portion of the pipeline separately.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/shannonpatrick17

Just days after a Texas farmer’s restraining order against Keystone XL pipeline builder TransCanada was lifted, the Alberta company announced it is starting work on a portion of the pipeline stretching from Oklahoma to Texas.

The company announced today it was reapplying for a permit to route the pipeline through Nebraska. Concerns over the route through Nebraska’s environmentally-sensitive Sand Hills region lead in part to rejection of TransCanada’s earlier application.

But TransCanada also announced it would commence building the southernmost portion of the pipeline -- from Cushing, Oklahoma to Texas ports at the Gulf of Mexico -- while it waits on permitting for the northern portion of the line, which requires presidential approval.

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weather
8:51 am
Thu February 23, 2012

Just How Hot Will It Get Today?

The National Weather Service predicts a hot day for Austin.
Image courtesy National Weather Service

We know the old adage about Texas weather: If you don't like it, just wait five minutes. 

But yesterday's unseasonably high February temperatures still came as a surprise to many Austinites, and more warmth is on the way today. 

The National Weather Service says the regional warming streak will continue. It predicts "partly sunny and unseasonably warm" weather and says "highs will be in the 80s" today. "Normal high temperatures for this time of year are generally in the 60s," the NWS notes. 

That said, today’s heat won’t last. NWS forecasts a cold front hitting the Hill Country this evening, with lows in the 40s and a cool, mild weekend. Guess there’s something to that old adage after all. 

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Environment
1:04 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

What Can Corpus Christi Learn From Austin's Bag Ban Debate?

Plastic bags at a recycling center in Corpus Christi. The coastal town is discussing whether to charge for the disposable bags.
Photo courtesy .facebook.com/pages/Skip-The-Plastic/242542302446854

In its short history, Austin’s proposed disposable bag ban has already seen its share of controversy:  A series of stops and starts, recent revisions, and more.   

But Austin’s far from the only city considering such a measure. In fact, the Texas town of Corpus Christi is also considering a similar proposal.

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Environment
11:50 am
Mon February 20, 2012

Recent Report Adds Fuel to Fracking Debate

This image produced by the Departme nt of Energy explains the hydraulic fracturing process.
Image courtesy fossil.energy.gov

A newly-released report on fracking – the practice of pumping hydraulic fracturing fluid into wells to break up and extract oil shale and natural gas deposits – has caused something of a stir in Texas.

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weather
10:39 am
Sat February 11, 2012

Snow and Sleet Possible Sunday Morning

Image by National Weather Service

You may want to consider avoiding the roads tomorrow morning. The National Weather Service says a "wintry mix" of weather is in the forecast for much of Central and South Central Texas. The NWS says "no significant accumulations of ice or snow are expected" but that "model timing and precipitation amount uncertainties remain."

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Environment
10:50 am
Fri January 27, 2012

First Person: Ranching Through The Drought

The worst single-year drought in Texas history has caused more than $5 billion in agricultural losses. Doris Steubing is a cattle rancher in Maxwell, about 30 miles south of Austin. We sent freelance videographer Jeff Heimsath to her ranch to ask how she's getting by.

energy
10:20 am
Tue January 17, 2012

City Council Discusses Austin Energy Rates

The Austin City Council is holding a special-called work session this morning to tackle Austin Energy’s proposed rate increases.

Council got an earful from citizens opposed to the increase at their last meeting. Since then, Mayor Lee Leffingwell has said he too opposes the increase as drafted.

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energy
3:50 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Chamber of Commerce Keeps Keystone Pipeline Debate Flowing

Protesters and counter-protesters at an Austin hearing on the Keystone Pipeline, in September 2011.
Photo by Teresa Vieira for KUT News

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce took aim at the Obama administration this morning, with a call for the president to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would end at the Texas Gulf Coast.

Chamber president and CEO Thomas J. Donohue claimed in his annual “State of American Business” address that “This project has passed every environmental test. There is no legitimate reason—none at all—to subject it to further delay.”

But the National Resources Defense Council says the Chamber is waging a “disinformation campaign” on the pipeline’s behalf.

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energy
4:28 pm
Fri January 6, 2012

Largest Solar Farm in Texas Now Helping To Power Your Home

The largest solar farm in Texas is now pumping power to homes across Austin. The $100 million facility was switched on last month and city officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony today.

The solar farm is located about 20 miles east of Austin in Webbervile. Its footprint covers 380 acres, which is about the size of Zilker Park. And it has 127,000 solar panels that slowly shift to follow the sun’s path.

The solar farm can generate up to 30 megawatts, enough electricity to power about 5,000 homes. The energy is being dispersed throughout Austin Energy’s grid. While the solar array can't provide power all the time, it could provide big benefits during the hot, sunny days of summer. 

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has warned that Texas could have a hard time meeting energy demand if the summer of 2012 is the summer of 2011, when the state was brought to the brink of rolling blackouts. And ERCOT chief Trip Doggett couldn’t say the Webberville solar farm would be able to solve those challenges.

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Environment
5:22 pm
Fri December 30, 2011

Court Grants Air Pollution Rule Delay

Photo by KUT News

A federal appeals court in Washington, DC granted the State of Texas a stay today against new EPA air pollution regulations that take effect next year.

The Cross State Air Pollution Rule would require some coal plants in Texas to retrofit their equipment or to switch to a higher-grade coal fuel, in order to meet new sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emission rules.

The injunction sets the stage for an court hearing in April.

energy
12:19 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

BP Seeks To Improve Image With Ad Campaign on Gulf Cleanup

Now that BP is resuming oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, the energy giant is looking to revive its image among those who remember the tragic Deepwater Horizon leak that spilled almost 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf in 2010.

BP won eleven tracts in the latest lease sale in the Gulf, which was the first since the well blowout that caused eleven deaths, Forbes.com reports.

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