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

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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.

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.

Photo by Austex

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.

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.



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.

Photo by Wigwam Jones

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.

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

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.

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.

Photo by Justin Fain at Flickr

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):

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.

Photo courtesy of the Rainforest Action Network on Flickr.

The EPA announced yesterday new national standards for mercury emissions and other air pollutants. Within three to four years, coal plants be required to install new technology to cut back the amount of mercury released into the air from smoke stacks.

Photo courtesy of the NRG Energy.

CPS Energy of San Antonio announced today that negotiations over buying power from the South Texas Project [STP] expansion have been put on hold.

NRG Energy is in the process of adding two more units to the South Texas Project nuclear facility in Matagorda Bay.  CPS Energy, NRG and the Japanese company Tokyo Electric Power Co. would be the owners of the expansion, but Tokyo Electric's participation is now in question after a massive tsunami  damaged one of its nuclear plants in Japan.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Computer recycling in Texas almost doubled in 2010 compared the year prior, according to the state's environmental regulator. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says 24.3 million pounds of old hard drives, motherboards and various other computer parts were diverted away from landfills last year.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Correction: The National Geographic report cited in this story erroneously listed Austin as the having the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the United States.  In fact, Austin has the fifth highest rate of the 19 cities listed. We regret the error. You can view the complete study here.

Image courtesy cote

If you were asked which Central Texas city was offers the best recycling service, what would your answer be? If you answered Austin, then you could be wrong.

As of February 1st, San Marcos residents living in multifamily units will become the first in Central Texas  to receive a single-stream recycling service. Single-stream recycling allows residents to mix recyclable paper, aluminum cans, glass and plastic in one 90-gallon bin.  Each apartment unit in San Marcos will be billed an extra $5.53 a month for the weekly service.

Image by Nasha Lee for KUT News

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved an air permit for the $3 billion Las Brisas petroleum coke-fired power plant in Corpus Christi against the recommendations of two state administrative law judges and the Environmental Protection Agency. (Read the story from KUT.)

Jonathan Warner/Flickr

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied Texas a ruling Wednesday that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from taking over the permitting process for the state's larger greenhouse gas emitters, like coal plants and oil refiners.

The ruling lifts a temporary stay that was granted to Texas on December 30, one week after the EPA announced the new greenhouse gas regulations.

camp fire
Image courtesy Dido

Williamson County enacted a 30 day burn ban on the first Tuesday in December. That would have expired this week, but dry conditions prompted county commissioners to extend the ban for 60 days.

Here's an explanation of what you can and cannot do:

Image courtesy City of Austin Watershed Protection Department

Lake Austin is getting lower.  The Lower Colorado River Authority is drawing down the lake's level so that City of Austin crews can do battle with hydrilla, an invasive water plant that clogs the lake.