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 kjoyner666

The city’s and county’s move to ban all fireworks, public and private, for the Fourth of July weekend seem like a bummer to some people, but when you examine at the local drought conditions, it’s hard to blame them.  The US Drought Monitor Map shows the entire region is in “exceptional” drought, which is the worst category they have.

Photo by jdeeringdavis

Water fountains at the University of Texas at Austin will go dry on Monday as UT begins implementing voluntary Stage 2 water conservation measures. UT expects doing this will save more than 300,000 gallons each month on the 40 acres.

Photo by Mose Buchele for KUT News

Updated for Correction

Austin is one of ten model cities for environmentally friendly infrastructure, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Specifically, the EPA says the Lundelius-McDaniels Water Quality Pond – a natural water filter in South Austin that removes pollutants from storm runoff draining back into the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer.

Photo by Photography JW

The board of the Lower Colorado River Authority wasted no time in naming a long-time staffer to take over as the organization's general manager, following the resignation of Tom Mason (pictured) a week ago.

Photo by dasroofless

The controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to remove oil and gas from beneath shale rock has faced environmental criticism for generating loud noise, stamping a foot print in the wilderness, and pumping large amounts of undisclosed chemicals deep into the earth. Now the practice being used to unlock vast reserves of domestic energy is coming under fire for another reason: the amount of water it uses.

Photo by bondidwhat

As temperatures soar into the 100s again this summer in Austin, many homeowners will be cranking up their air conditioners. However, unknown to many, the desirable, cooler air they’re breathing could be harmful.

Richard Corsi, a professor at the University of Texas who studies air quality, notices that many U.S. homeowners, particularly those living in warm climates, are sealing up their houses by fixing cracks around their windows, replacing old weather strips, and so on.

LCRA Boss Quits

Jun 7, 2011
Photo by Lower Colorado River Authority

The man who has been in charge of the Lower Colorado River Authority for the past three-and-a-half years is resigning. LCRA general manager Tom Mason’s last day on the job will be June 30, according to a news release from the agency.

Photo by John K

The federal government will be at work this summer on some proposals that could affect waterways you may be familiar with, including the Edwards Aquifer and Barton Springs. The US Environmental Protection Agency says Supreme Court rulings over the last decade have weakened the Clean Water Act and removed some waterways from federal protection.

According to the EPA, under current Clean Water Act regulations, many small streams that feed into larger streams, rivers, bays and coastal waters are no longer protected by the Act. This means polluting into these waters doesn’t require a permit. The EPA is examining how to change those regulations to ensure waterways are protected.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Environmental Protection Agency’s rules limiting vehicle emissions are based upon a “legally flawed” conclusion that greenhouse gases are harmful to the public, the State of Texas argued in a brief filed today with the D.C. Court of Appeals on behalf of nine states and dozens of shipping and manufacturing companies.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Texas environmental activists are pleased with changes in fracking disclosure laws and renewable energy initiatives that cleared the state legislature this session, but they are unhappy with cuts to state parks, delays in air quality requirements for oil and gas miners, and environmental legislation that died before making it to the Governor’s desk.

Photo by 自分で撮影

New research from the Brackenridge Field Laboratory at UT Austin is revealing the secret – and very strange – sexual practices of clams. Corbicula is an Asian freshwater clam that reproduces by cloning. They are physically hermaphroditic, meaning a clam possesses both male and female reproductive systems, but they are genetically male. A species of male hermaphroditic clones might sound bizarre, but it’s not completely unusual in the animal kingdom.

Photo by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service via

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Photo by Robert S. Donovan

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