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 phault http://www.flickr.com/photos/pjh/

One of the great contradictions of Texas is that, while we are the largest emitter of greenhouse gas in the United States, we also generate far more wind power than any other state. Perhaps it’s no surprise then, to find a company pushing to build the largest offshore wind farm in the country is based right here in Austin.

Technically, any offshore wind farm would be the largest in the U.S. That's because none exist yet, even though many projects are in the works. But Austin-based Baryonyx Corporation, with an office in the Littlefield Building on E. 6th St., hopes to construct a 200 turbine wind farm off the Gulf Coast with enough capacity to power 750,000 homes.

Image Courtesy of the Texas Office of the Attorney General

A statement issued today by Attorney General Greg Abbott says the EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by “timing” and “tailoring” are unlawful and unconstitutional.

Photo by daver6@sbcglobal.net http://www.flickr.com/photos/daver6/

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro announced today that City Public Service's Deely coal-fired plant will be shut down by 2018.  CPS Energy, San Antonio's publicly-owned utility, will turn to solar power announcing agreements with five investment partners, committing to meet 20% of its energy needs through renewable energy by 2020. 

"Today is the beginning of San Antonio's effort to become the 'new energy economy' city," said Mayor Castro in a live webcast today.

The CPS Deely plant is the first publically-owned coal plant announced to retire in Texas.

Photo courtesy of the LCRA.

Remember those urban legends about about alligators in the sewers?

How about 'gators in Lake Travis?

A fisherman came across a dead alligator on the shores of Lake Travis Tuesday. A spokesperson for the LCRA said the creature measured three to four feet in length (other reports put its size at six feet). It looked as though it was struck by a boat propeller.

Photo by kjoyner666 http://www.flickr.com/photos/delusionary/

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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/hayesandjenn/

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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/zedekiah12/

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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/roofless/

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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnkay/

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 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Taiwan-Corbicula_Tairyou.JPG

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 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.

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.

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