Energy & Environment

Austin Weather
4:42 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Austin Dries Off After Storm, Flooding – But More Rain On the Way (Update)

Much more rain is expected Tuesday – and that could lead to flooding in areas that are already saturated.
National Weather Service

Update: The Red Cross is keeping an eye on weather conditions in Central Texas over the next few days. So far, they’ve responded by distributing supplies like clean-up kits.

“We are working closely with local emergency management to respond and assist families who have been affected by flooding in their homes,” Red Cross Central Texas Region CEO Marty McKellips says in a statement.

The Red Cross shares four tips for making it through extreme weather:

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StateImpact Texas
10:07 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Many Dams In Texas Are in Bad Condition

This picture of a dam that over-topped is used in dam safety workshops presented by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
TCEQ

This is part one of a StateImpact Texas series devoted to looking at the infrastructure of dams in Texas, and what can be done to improve it.

Of the 1,880 dams inspected by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality since 2008, 245 were found to be in bad condition, according to the TCEQ. Around 2000 of the state’s dams were built with federal help in the wake of the great drought of the 1950s. Almost all of those are now past or nearing their projected 50 year lifespan, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Statistics like these don't come as a surprise to the people who work with dams in the state of Texas.

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Drought
5:30 am
Mon October 14, 2013

A Tiny Bit of Vegetable Oil Could Save Texas Billions of Gallons of Water

Right now, the Highland Lakes are only 34 percent full. In an average year, they lose about as much water to evaporation as the whole city of Austin consumes.
Lower Colorado River Authority

Parts of Central Texas saw as much as 12 inches of rain over the weekend. Water levels in the Highland Lakes  rose slightly, but the storm was far from a drought-buster.

Lakes Travis and Buchanan remain only about one-third full. 

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West Plant Explosion
11:30 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Investigation Into West, Texas Explosion Stopped Due to Shutdown

An apartment complex near the West Fertilizer Plant was destroyed in the April explosion.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The government shutdown has halted the federal investigation into the West Fertilizer Plant explosion. The explosion in April killed 15 people and injured hundreds of others.

“Some of the brightest scientists in the world are home today rather than doing their work to protect, and give us information so that we can have the right rules and regulations to protect our environment,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, said during a press conference yesterday. “The monitoring and enforcement is not being done as it should be done.” Cardin chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.

The ranks of furloughed workers includes most employees on the Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial accidents such as the West Fertilizer Plant explosion.

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Austin Recycling
1:19 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Starting Today, 680 Austin Apartment Complexes Have to Offer Recycling

A new phase of Austin’s recycling ordinance is making many ecological advocates happy.
flickr.com/tarsands78

Beginning today, a total of 680 Austin apartment complexes – serving approximately 140,000 households – must offer recycling.

It's the second phase of the City of Austin’s Universal Recycling Ordinance, affecting businesses and multi-family residences, which kicks in today. Here’s who’s affected:

  • Apartments and condominiums with 50 or more dwelling units
  • Commercial offices that are 75,000 square feet or larger
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Energy & Environment
6:30 am
Fri September 27, 2013

How Bad Was the BP Oil Spill? Three Years On, Some Answers

A Gulf of Mexico copepod: Not pretty, but essential to an ecosystem.
Credit www.fcps.edu

The extent of the environmental damage in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the BP oil disaster is largely unknown to the public; much of the data remains sealed because of litigation. But now scientists at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are shedding important new light on the subject. And the news is not good. 

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Energy & Environment
8:24 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Why Are Texas Children Suing Environmental Regulators?

Children are suing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, saying the agency should regulate air pollution under the Public Trust Doctrine.
KUT News

Texas children are suing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, claiming the TCEQ should have to protect the quality of the air the same way it’s required to protect the quality of water.

As part of a nationwide movement, the youth are asking the agency to protect water under the public trust doctrine – the historic idea that the state is responsible for the quality of a shared resource.

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Weather
4:08 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Soaking Rains, Flash Flood Watch for Central Texas

Heavy rains are expected around rush hour this afternoon.
National Weather Service

Update: Heading home? Public safety officials remind Austinites to drive safely, and turn around at all high water crossings.

Rain is expected to continue into tomorrow, keeping the area under a Flash Flood Watch at least until 7 a.m. tomorrow.

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Energy & Environment
3:45 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

In Energy Efficiency Report, Austin Gets High Marks

An Austin Energy lineman makes a repair in the West Campus. Austin recently ranked sixth in a study of the most energy efficient U.S. cities.
I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Texas policymakers searching for ways to curb energy use across their rapidly growing state might want to examine efforts in their capital city.

Austin is among large U.S. cities doing the most to conserve energy, according to a study released Tuesday by a national group that promotes energy efficiency. The Washington D.C.-based American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy analyzed conservation efforts across the country’s 34 most populous cities, ranking Austin sixth behind Boston, Portland, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle.

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barton springs
3:52 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Feds OK 20-Year Plan to Protect Barton Springs Salamanders, Keep Pool Open

Despite new federal protections for two Barton Springs salamanders, a habitat agreement has been reached that will keep Barton Springs Pool open.
I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Swimmers and salamanders can continue their peaceful coexistence at Barton Springs Pool.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is granting the City of Austin a new 20-year permit, keeping the pool open to the public while protecting the habitats of both the Barton Springs Salamander and the Austin Blind Salamander.

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Weather
7:55 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

This Was Austin's 40th Day of Triple Digit Heat in 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrgarin/3381707791/

When the temperature at Camp Mabry ticked up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit sometime after 2 p.m. this afternoon, it marked the 40th day this year of triple digit temperatures in Austin.

That’s more than the 35 triple digit days we saw last year but still not as high as the record-breaking 90 triple digit days in 2011. The average number of triple digit days recorded annually at Camp Mabry is 13.

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Energy & Environment
9:58 am
Wed September 4, 2013

ERCOT Says Plenty Of Electricity Available Through Winter

Flickr user jetsandzeppelins cc

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 9:04 am

Texas is expected to have sufficient levels of stored power to serve peak demands this fall and winter. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas released its Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy on Tuesday.

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Drought
11:04 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Austin Lakefront Institution Closes Doors For Lack Of Water

Dockside at Carlos 'n Charlie's on Lake Travis.
Pete Clark

Originally published on Sun September 8, 2013 2:54 pm

Carlos 'n Charlie's restaurant on Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, will be having its last last call on Monday. But don't bother coming by boat.

The restaurant has been a lakeside hotspot since it opened in 1995. Back then, docking at the restaurant's wharf was a popular way to take in the party atmosphere, which part-owner Pete Clark describes as like "a cheap Spring break movie."

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Energy & Environment
2:57 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Pollution Level in Central Texas Sparks Ozone Action Day

Experts urge Central Texas residents to observe Ozone Action Day on Aug. 30, 2013.
Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

It’s another Ozone Action Day in Central Texas. People with asthma and emphysema, the elderly and children should stay indoors today. The bad air puts Austin another step closer to possible environmental sanctions. 

High temperatures and low wind, when combined with pollution from cars and electricity production, boost ozone levels in Central Texas. That’s why Deana Altenhoff is asking everyone to do what they can to keep additional pollution out of the air today. 

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Environment
10:02 am
Wed August 21, 2013

Austin Salamanders Protected Under Endangered Species Act

The Austin Blind Salamader lives in the dark aquifer underneath Barton Springs.
Dr. David Hills

Meet two of the newest creatures to receive federal Endangered Species Act protection: the Austin Blind Salamander and the Jollyville Plateau Salamander.

The Austin Blind Salamander – sightless, due to living deep in the Edwards Aquifer that feeds Barton Springs – was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Jollyville Plateau Salamander, native to streams and karst formations in Travis and Williamson Counties, was listed as threatened this week.

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Environment
4:34 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Today's an 'Ozone Action Day' – What You Need to Know

If required, the TCEQ will issue another air pollution watch by 3 p.m. today.
flickr.com/StuSeeger

Update: Today's the third Ozone Action Day of the year. Austin remains dangerously close to falling out of attainment of the clean air standard of 75 parts of ozone per billion. At last check, Austin was at 72.

“Being a non-attainment area it’s much harder to recruit business. It also accounts for a lot of absenteeism in schools because a lot of children have asthma and air pollution has been found to directly exacerbate asthma in children," Deanna Altenhoff, Executive Director of Clean Air of Central Texas, said.

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Weather
3:27 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

Tropical System Gathering in Gulf Could Bring Rain to Austin

A low-pressure formation in the Gulf of Mexico could bring rain to Austin early next week.
National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center

A tropical system is developing in the Gulf of Mexico that could have an affect on Austin weather in the days ahead.

Aaron Treadway, a forecaster at the National Weather Service, says computer models have been "all over the place" in recent days – but data now suggests the system’s heading toward the Texas coast, somewhere from Northern Mexico to Louisiana.

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Wildfires
4:09 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

2013 Wildfire Season Proving To Be More Mild Than Wild

Firefighters battle a wildfire earlier this month in Cabazon, Calif.
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 2:31 pm

With 15,000 firefighters deployed and three dozen major wildfires currently burning in five Western states, this would seem to be a wildfire season for the record books. And in one tragic aspect, it is. But by most measures, 2013 is the second-mildest fire season in the past decade ... so far.

Here's the season to date, by the numbers (provided by the National Interagency Fire Center) and with some historic statistics for comparison.

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Weather
3:19 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

Storms Predicted for Austin Tonight

Scattered showers are predicted for Central Texas - but with the potential for high wind gusts.
National Weather Service

Austin may be getting a break from the triple-digit heat – in the form of storm clouds.

It’s tough for cold fronts to make it this far south in the summer, but one has made it down far enough to affect conditions in Central Texas. National Weather Service forecaster Aaron Treadway says it includes a real rain chance.

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Environment
12:45 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Photos: These Carnivorous Plants Want to Lure You to San Antonio

Carnivorous plants like flytraps get nutrition from insects, not soil.
Ann Choi for KUT News

Looking for one last summer getaway  before school starts? The San Antonio Botanical Garden has a suggestion to Austinites; go see some carnivorous plants.

"Many of these plants grow in the area where the soil is very poor – so capturing insects is almost like taking a vitamin pill for them," says Sasha Kodet, education director for the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

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