Energy & Environment

Environment
10:33 am
Wed October 5, 2011

Business Groups Back Texas Water Ballot Measure

A pump house at Lake J.B. Thomas sits high and dry with almost no water remaining to pump. The lake level is at 4.60 percent.
Photo by Robert W. Hart for the Texas Tribune

To meet the needs of its growing population, drought-stricken Texas urgently needs more water infrastructure totaling $231 billion to augment water supplies and treatment, wastewater processing and flood control by 2060, according to a draft of the state water plan that was released last month.

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Environment
12:54 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Inaugural SXSWeco Conference Getting Underway

Logo courtesy of SXSWeco

We all know about the South by Southwest music, film and interactive festivals but SXSW is delving into more civic engagement events.

It was just this past March when SXSW organizers launched their first ever SXSWedu for teachers, education researchers and state leaders. That education conference came at time when Texas lawmakers were laying out big cuts to public education.

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Environment
11:42 am
Mon October 3, 2011

Emails Trigger Bias Accusations Over Canada To Texas Pipeline

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News.

Opponents of a plan to build a pipeline from the Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast say newly released emails show an uncomfortably cozy relationship between a lobbyist and employees at the U.S. State Department.

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Environment
2:53 pm
Fri September 30, 2011

White-Tailed Deer Bow Hunting Season Begins

White-Tailed deer bow hunting season begins tomorrow. The general season begins November 5th.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Greg Westfall

Bow hunting season for White-tailed deer starts tomorrow in Texas. The ongoing extreme drought has culled deer population in many parts of the state. Nevertheless, Chris Mitchell with Texas Parks and Wildlife says the department wants hunters to take their full bag limit of deer this season. And that's less about sport and more about survival of the species.

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Environment
12:35 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

City Switch To Green Energy To Cost $6 Million Over 10 Years

Photo by Austin Energy

The City of Austin says it will become the largest local government in the United States to be powered entirely by renewable electricity when it flicks the switch on Saturday. The move is estimated to cost taxpayers $6 million over ten years.

“It’s a commitment you make to further the goal of reducing carbon emissions,” Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell told KUT News. “That’s a value to everybody that lives in the city.”

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drought
4:27 pm
Tue September 27, 2011

Draft Water Plan Says Texas "Will Not Have Enough"

You can see the effect of the drought on this dry creek bed at McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Every five years, the Texas Water Development Board publishes a water plan for the state. The 295-page draft of the 2012 plan, published last week in the midst of the worst-ever single-year drought Texas has ever experienced, is a sobering read.

"The primary message of the 2012 state water plan is a simple one," the introduction states. "In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, and its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises."

The report is packed with data and projections, but a few stand out. The state population, now 25 million, is expected to increase to 46 million by 2060. During that time, existing water supplies will fall 10 percent as the Ogallala and other aquifers are depleted.

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Environment
3:00 pm
Fri September 23, 2011

Fixing Leaky Toilets to Conserve Water

An Austin plumbing company wants to save the city 3-million gallons of water every month, one toilet flapper at a time.
Photo by KUT News.

An Austin-based plumbing company is taking on an ambitious job to battle the ongoing drought. Radiant Plumbing says it can save the city three million gallons of water per month. It plans on doing this by replacing one thousand leaky toilet flappers for free. Sarah Casebier is one of Radiant Plumbing's co-owners.

“If we wanted to do something that makes a difference, there’s not a lot of things that a plumber can do," she told KUT News. "But this is something we can do.”

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Environment
2:06 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

Austin Water Use Drops 12 Percent, Round Rock Down 8 Percent

Shoal "Creek" at Lamar and 15th Streets
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Almost two weeks after Austin implemented Stage II water restrictions, water usage has dropped across the city. Since the new rules took effect on September 6, Austin has been using about 179 million gallons of water a day. Before Stage II restrictions, our water usage was averaging closer to 203 million gallons a day. That’s a decrease of about 12 percent.

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Environment
1:42 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

Texas State System to Control Christmas Mountains

The Christmas Mountains will come under the administration of the Texas State University System.
Photo courtesy of the Texas General Land Office

The Christmas Mountains, near Big Bend National Park in West Texas, will stay in public hands.

This morning Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson announced the remote 9,200-plus acre tract of land is being transferred to the Texas State University System.  It will be used for research and as an outdoor classroom for students.

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Environment
6:34 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Texas Water Utility Plans for Drought Worse Than 1950s

Water levels have dropped at Lake Travis because the drought, May 16 2011.
Lower Colorado River Authority

Fearing that this drought could reduce lake levels lower than ever before, the board of the Lower Colorado River Authority, the wholesale supplier of water to Austin and other Central Texas cities, plans to meet next week to discuss reducing or ending its water sales to downriver farmers next year.

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wildfires
3:49 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Tossed Cigarette Out Car Window? You Can Report Them

Photo by Mikey Tapscott http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeytapscott/

With wildfires scorching thousands of acres of Central Texas, people have been particularly sensitive to the danger of a wildfire. Especially the danger posed by drivers tossing lit cigarette butts out the windows of their cars.

“I'm okay with smokers, but watching someone flick a cigarette out of the car window makes me want to force them to eat it,” Michael Burnett Tweeted this week.

“I might start tweeting license plate numbers of people who throw cigarette butts out. Been seeing it more than ever,” wrote Michael Vilaythong.

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Environment
4:52 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Obama Delays Ozone Standards

The Obama Administration has delayed proposed ozone standard that were supposed to be issued today. Austin is on the brink of violation for its ozone leveled.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News.

Texas cities and counties will have more time to cut down on air pollution before new ozone standards come into effect in two years. President Obama pulled the plug on proposed ozone standards that were supposed to be announced today after multiple delays.

The decision could be considered a win for businesses that have argued that the federal government was going to revisit ozone standards in 2013 anyway. This is part of the statement the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality put out in response to the delay.

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Environment
3:34 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

"Risks of Outages" Under EPA Rule, Texas Report Warns

Steam rises from the stacks at the Martin Lake Coal-Fired Power Plant in Tatum, TX March 30, 2011.
Photo by Tom Pennington via the Texas Tribune

In a report released this morning, the Texas electric grid operator warned of "risks of outages for Texas power users" if a federal pollution rule takes effect as scheduled in January.

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Environment
3:39 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

Evacaution for Endangered Species Not Yet Necessary

Low water levels--like at McKinney Falls State Park earlier this summer--are causing problems for Central Texas endangered species. But any evacuation of the protected wildlife is still a ways off.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

The ongoing drought has been hurting Central Texas endangered species. Threatened salamanders, beetles, fish and other animals may be evacuated from the San Marcos River and Comal Springs. But that wouldn't happen until at least next year, if it happens at all.

Bill Seawell is a biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Austin. He says the evacuations have happened before, in 1989 and again in 1996, and they're hoping they don't have to do it again.

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Environment
12:25 pm
Mon August 29, 2011

Texas listed in the top ten states effected by ground level ozone

A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that Texas will see higher concentrations of ground-level ozone by 2020, translating into a sharp rise in health care costs.
Photo by KUT News

Central Texas is under an Orange ozone alert, meaning the air is unhealthy to people who have breathing difficulties. It happens on the day a report is issued that claims the state could see more ozone action days in the future.

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Environment
3:36 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

Auditorium Shores Gets $1 Million Grant For Improvements

A $1 million grant from the state's park agency will pay for improvements to Auditorium Shores and the city's most popular trailhead.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News.

Better restrooms, an educational water feature, and maybe a few more parking spaces could come to Auditorium Shores in the future. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has awarded the City of Austin a $1 million urban park grant to make improvements to the Austin’s most popular trailhead.

Austin Parks and Recreation is updating the master plan for Auditorium Shores and Butler Park. The grant will be used to complete projects in this master plan. The City of Austin is matching the TPWD grant.

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heat
3:56 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

Austin Breaks Record For Number of Triple Digit Days

The temperatures in Austin around 4 p.m.
Image courtesy National Weather Service

The sweltering heat in Texas has taken Austin past an important milestone: We have set a new record for the number of days with triple digit temperatures in a single year.

At 2:00 this afternoon, thermometers at Camp Mabry registered 100 degrees, making it the 70th time this year that has happened. It breaks the previous record of 69 days set in 1925.

“This is just one way to measure the absolute severity of the summer,” Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose told KUT News. “We’ve had a lot of days at 99 as well, and they’ve felt every bit as hot.”

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Environment
12:05 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

As Eastern Travis County Grows, Ranch Owner Protects Land

Wildflowers in bloom on the Brockenbrough Ranch in southeast Travis County. The ranch's owners have filed a conservation easement, limiting how the land can be developed.
Photo by Hill Country Conservancy

Eastern Travis County may be on the cusp of a development boom, but a new 285-acre swath of land will be off-limits to developers. The Brockenbrough Ranch (pronounced BROE-ken-broe) has been placed under a protected conservation easement.

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Environment
10:36 am
Wed August 24, 2011

Earthquake Above 4.5 Unlikely in Central Texas

A tectonic map of Texas.
Image courtesy of University of Texas, Bureau of Economic Geology

After yesterday’s panic on the East Coast over a 5.8 earthquake, we wondered what the odds were of a similarly sized tremor hitting us.

Turns out, the odds are pretty slim. University of Texas seismologist Cliff Frohlich has studied earthquakes for 39 years. He says West Texas had earthquakes in 1931 and 1995 that were near a magnitude 6.0. The 1995 quake was even felt by some people in Austin.  Central Texas had its own 4.0 earthquake in 1902.

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