Energy & Environment

Environment
11:10 am
Thu May 26, 2011

Rainwater Harvesting Bill Passes Both Texas Chambers

Rainwater can be harvested and stored in plastic or metal tanks, like this collection tank which provides water used to irrigate a nearby garden.
Photo by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service via Flickr.com http://www.flickr.com/photos/agrilifetoday/4923

Rain barrels and other rain catchment systems could soon be installed on state government buildings.

The rainwater harvesting bill made it through the Texas Legislature this week and is headed to the Governor’s desk. HB 3391 requires that future state buildings that are large enough must have rainwater harvesting systems incorporated in the buildings’ design and construction plans.

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Environment
4:07 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Groundwater Bill Closer To Governor's Desk

A groundwater bill making its way out of the Texas Legislature could be used in the future to make some water rights points in court.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

The groundwater bill is closer to becoming a law. The Texas House passed SB 332, which states that a property owner also owns the groundwater beneath their land. The bill goes back to the Senate for a final vote before it goes to Governor Rick Perry.

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Environment
12:29 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Texas House Formalizes Water Rights

Photo by KUT

The Texas House has given its approval to a bill that formalizes landowner’s full ownership of groundwater below their land.

Property rights advocates had pushed for the bill, which allows landowners to pump and sell groundwater, though the state would still be able to impose some restrictions.

Texas is one of the few states that still gives landowners control over the water underneath their property.

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Environment
10:55 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Senate Leader Says He Was “Not Even Aware” Of Fracking Bill

State Sen. Troy Fraser
Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

A bill that would require natural gas drillers to disclose the mix of chemicals they use in a controversial process called hydraulic fracturing has apparently gone under the radar of the state senator in charge of overseeing the industry.

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weather
5:26 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

High Winds Cause Power Outages Across The City

High winds ripped this branch off a tree located on 32nd St. off Tom Green St. The branch then tore down a power line. Austin Energy crews are working to fix problems like this across town.
Photo by Mose Buchele for KUT News

Update at 8:50 am Friday: Austin Energy says power was completely restored to customers at 3 am. Here's their final release.

The majority of outages were due to either tree limbs on power lines or lightning strikes. In all repairs had to be made at more than 260 locations. Many of those repairs were on lines located at the rear of properties rather than at the street. This prevents the use of bucket trucks and requires materials be carried in through backyards, tree trimmers climb trees to remove limbs in power lines and linemen climb poles to make the necessary repairs. About half of the Austin Energy electric system is located at the back of lots rather than at the street.

Update at 5:26 pm: Austin Energy now says the number of people without power is down to 2,400.

Update at 4:50 pm: Austin Energy says the number of people without power is now below 5,000.

Earlier: Austin Energy says it currently has about 11,500 customers without power at 140 different locations across the city. The worst affected area is this part of southeast Austin, where more than 1,700 people are without electricity.

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weather
12:18 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Rain Drenches Central Texas, Delays Flights, Cuts Power

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

A large area of rain and thunderstorms moved into Central Texas this morning bringing much needed moisture to our drought stricken region.  Almost two inches of rain fell at Camp Mabry this morning with another one to two inches on the way. A flood advisory was issued until noon.

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Environment
2:10 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

UT Team To Probe Environmental Consequences Of "Fracking"

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

A team of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin will investigate the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking", a process used to extract natural gas from shale rock. Fracking has become a widespread practice in the United States and Texas for extracting vast reserves of domestic energy, but it is also the subject of fierce criticism from environmentalists who say it pollutes ground water and air.

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Environment
3:19 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Preventing Fires Along The Greenbelt

Austin fire investigators say a cigarette is to blame for the apartment fire at the The Woods located just across the street from the eastern portion of the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News

Mike May says he loves living right off the Barton Creek Greenbelt. But he knows the apartment complex he is in is at risk during high fire season. So do managers. After burnt coals were dumped in the dog park, the managers started warning tenants about fire dangers.

“They put signs on the fences and things like that when things are going on and they actually just come around and put it on your particular door,” May said.

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Environment
4:52 pm
Fri April 22, 2011

Drought Prompts Kyle To Enact Water Restrictions

Photo by Robert S. Donovan http://www.flickr.com/photos/booleansplit/

Extreme drought conditions in Central Texas have prompted the Austin suburb of Kyle to implement Stage One water restrictions.  The biggest implication for home owners is limits on the times and frequency with which they can water their lawns.

Here are the complete details from the City of Kyle's website.

Mandatory Twice Per Week Watering Schedule

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Environment
12:17 pm
Fri April 22, 2011

Buy Stuff, Help Earth

View in a larger map

It's Earth Day, in case no one told you already, and all the businesses plotted on the map above (also listed here) have vowed to contribute 5 percent of their gross receipts today to local non-profits devoted to ecological preservation and the environment.

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Environment
5:09 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Massive Mexican Wildfire Scorches 500,000 Acres

This satellite image, taken April 9, shows the extent of wildfires in Northern Mexico.
Photo by NASA Earth Observatory

As large wildfires in Texas grab most of the US media's attention, a large piece of sparely populated land is being scorched by flames in Northern Mexico.  The fires, named El Bonito and La Sabina, are among the largest in Mexican history. More than 493,827 acres have been scorched since mid-March, the Latin American Herald Tribune reports.

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Environment
3:17 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

Officials Check For Groundwater Contamination Near Georgetown Fuel Spill

The 3,500 gallon fuel spill happened in Georgetown's Sun City community.
Photo by Austex http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sun_City_Entry.jpg

A 3,500 gallon gasoline spill in a residential neighborhood of Georgetown is being investigated by the state to see how deeply the fuel may have seeped into the ground. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is leading the environmental assessment in the Sun City retirement community.

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Environment
1:01 pm
Thu April 21, 2011

City Council Approves New Energy Rules For Apartment Homes

Woodwillow Townhomes in South Austin is among the 1,000 apartment complexes in Austin affected by the new ordinance.
Photo by KUT News

Austin City Council approved new rules this morning that could have a big impact on the owners of apartment buildings and the people who live in them. The Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) Ordinance will require multifamily property owners to conduct specialized audits that reveal the energy efficiency of apartments and townhomes. That information would be disclosed to tenants, and the most inefficient buildings would require upgrades.

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Environment
5:04 pm
Mon April 11, 2011

History of Texas Drought 2000-2011

 

 

Our current drought has ravaged crops and pastures, and is contributing to devastating wildfires in West Texas. Using data from the US Drought Monitor, we are able to show you the history of drought in Texas from 2000 to 2011. The higher the bar, the greater percentage of Texas' land mass was in drought.

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Environment
3:41 pm
Mon April 11, 2011

Report: "Fracking" Harms Climate More Than Coal

A coal power plant in West Virginia. A new study says hydraulic fracturing, a method used to extract natural gas, is more harmful than coal energy because of the large amounts of methane gas it emits.
Photo by Wigwam Jones http://www.flickr.com/photos/wigwam/

Cornell University researchers are about to publish scientific evidence that a controversial method to drill for natural gas used in Texas and elsewhere is more damaging to the environment than using coal for energy production, reports The Hill.

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Environment
9:46 am
Fri April 8, 2011

Environmentalists Protest Controversial Plastic Bag Bill

It's not everyday you see environmentalists protesting a bill that would require grocery stores to recycle plastic bags.

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Environment
4:01 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

Ozone Season's Greetings!

Austin Mayor Lee Leffignwell marked the start of Ozone Season with a press conference at City Hall.
Mose Buchele for KUT News.

It's that time of year again. 

April 1 to October 31 is ozone season in Central Texas.  These are the months when we expect the highest amounts of ground level ozone in the air. Last year, the Austin area came dangerously close to falling out of attainment of the federal clean air standard of 74 parts of ozone per-billion.  With the Environmental Protection Agency set to announce even stricter standards, it could be even harder for the region to stay in attainment this year.

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Environment
4:51 pm
Mon March 28, 2011

Austin Energy Issuing Rebates For Electric Car Charging Stations

A Chevy Volt charging station on display outside the Austin Convention Center during SXSW 2011.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The city's public utility, Austin Energy, will issue its first rebate check tomorrow for a homeowner who installed an electric vehicle charging station. The rebates are worth up to $1,500. A "Level 2" charging station can be installed for about $2,400.

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Environment
3:49 pm
Sat March 26, 2011

Austin Skyline To Dim For Earth Hour Tonight

Major downtown buildings will turn off their lights for an hour starting at 8:30 pm.
Photo by Justin Fain at Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/fainspawn/3993122523/

Austin's skyline will be noticeably darker from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm as the city participates in Earth Hour, an annual event held across the globe to raise awareness about energy conservation and climate change. 

Mayor Lee Leffingwell held a press conference yesterday to announce the list of buildings that will be going dark tonight (security lights excluded):

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Nuclear Power
1:45 pm
Sat March 26, 2011

NRG Slows Expansion As Feds Review Nuclear Regulations

NRG announced this week it will slow an expansion to add two units to the South Texas Project nuclear power plant in Matagorda County. NRG is waiting to see how federal regulators at the Nuclear Regulator Commission react to the nuclear crisis in Japan.

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