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

Photo by KUT News.

Texas longhorn cattle descended from cattle brought in by Spanish explorers. Today some make their home at state parks and historic sites. But budget cuts and the drought could send state-owned longhorns off to market.

Talks are under way on the fate of nearly 400 longhorns living on state lands, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials say. The herds may be removed or reduced this fall, a prospect that upsets longhorn enthusiasts.

JD Hancock/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhancock/

The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) held a public hearing regarding possible water utility bill increases.

Monarch proposed to raise water utility prices by 62.3% and wastewater rates by 33.6%. The changes would apply to Pflugerville residents who receive their water from Windermere Water Company. The company was recently purchased by Monarch. The Pflugerville City Council met in August and suspended the rate hikes for ninety days.

Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

This weekend's rain is helping to replenish the Highland Lakes - at least a little bit.  In the Austin area, most places got 1.5-2 inches of rain. Cedar Park and Leander got 2-2.5 inches. Further northwest in the Hill County 4-6 inches of rain fell. Lower Colorado River Authority Meteorologist Bob Rose says that was good for the Highland Lakes two water storage reservoirs.

Photo courtesy Valero

The federal Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed scaling back some requirements of its cross-state rule for reducing air pollution — a rule that has incited the fury of Texas officials including Gov. Rick Perry.

Photo couresty of Ohio Office of Redevelopment at Flickr.com http://www.flickr.com/photos/63837784@N08/5925932549/

A Gulf Coast landowner may sell groundwater to the builders of the proposed coal-fired power plant White Stallion in Matagorda County. The landowner has submitted an application to drill a well that would provide 1,199 acre feet of water a year to the power plant.

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.

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.

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.

Greg Westfall/flickr

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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