Energy & Environment

Environment
8:26 am
Wed February 13, 2013

Texas Watches State of the Union with an Eye on Energy

U.S. President Barack Obama speaking to a crowd in Austin in 2010.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Even before the President’s State of the Union Address was over last night, some environmental and renewable energy groups were sending out congratulatory emails.

“We thank President Obama for his leadership” read one from the Solar Energy Industries Association. The speech outlined “clean energy solutions”  said the group Environment Texas.

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Environment
6:44 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

State Parks Still Deep in Drought

One seventh of Texas' 91 state parks have closed boat ramps and fishing piers.
Photo by Daniel Reese/KUT News

Despite recent rains, Texas state parks continue to feel the effects of the ongoing drought. That’s according to Texas Parks and Wildlife’s executive director Carter Smith, who spoke today at the House Natural Resources Committee Meeting at the State Capitol. 

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Weather
12:04 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

50 Million People In Path Of Potentially Historic Blizzard

Trying to stay warm, a woman in New York City hung on to her hood Friday.
Justin Lane EPA /LANDOV

Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 5:40 pm

(We'll be updating this post; most recently at 6:30 p.m. ET.)

Add up the populations in areas that the National Weather Service is warning will get at least 1 to 2 feet of snow starting Friday afternoon and you quickly see just how serious the situation will be.

About 50 million people are in the potentially historic storm's path.

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Environment
5:05 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Former VP Al Gore on 'The Future'

Credit courtesy Random House

We’re sitting on the edge of a massive global transformation.

Soon robots, globalization, consumption and pollution will all intersect to create a world that’s unlike anything humanity has every known. That’s according to former Vice President Al Gore’s new book, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change.

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Weather
7:12 am
Thu February 7, 2013

'Real Nightmare' Headed to New England; Blizzard Predicted Friday

The National Weather Service's latest forecast of the snow totals across New England. Most places can expect 18-24 inches of new snow. It will start falling Friday and the storm is expected to last through Saturday.
Weather.gov

Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 3:29 pm

4:30 p.m. ET — Latest from the National Weather Service:

"A major winter storm is expected to impact the Northeast and New England Friday into Saturday. As much as one to two feet of snow is forecast from the New York City metro area to Maine, with localized heavier amounts possible. This, in addition to wind gusts as high as 60-75 mph will create significant impacts to transportation and power. Coastal flooding is also possible from Boston northward."

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environment
6:35 pm
Fri February 1, 2013

East Texas Quakes Related to Oil and Gas Drilling?

Wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing is disposed in wastewater wells, some of which are located near Timpson, Texas.
Eddie Seal, Texas Tribune

Some people in the small East Texas town of Timpson are wondering if oil and gas drilling disposal wells are causing earthquakes in the area. The town registered its third earthquake in a week yesterday afternoon.

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Environment
5:10 am
Thu January 31, 2013

UT Students to Give Tree Seedlings to Bastrop

More than 40,000 lobolly tree seedlings are being extracted and sent to Bastrop.
UT's Campus Enviornmental Center

University of Texas at Austin students who are part of the Campus Environmental Center are helping to reforest the burnt lands of Bastrop by sending the city more than 40,000 loblolly pine tree seedlings.

Vlad Codrea, a graduate research assistant at UT, is overseeing the project at the tree nursery at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. From 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Thursday, the Campus Environmental Center will extract the tree seedlings from their containers and package them to be sent to Bastrop.

Codrea said the project actually began in March 2011, before the Bastrop fires, when he first asked for funding for a tree nursery from UT's Green Fee Committee. The Committee reviews environmental projects pitched by UT students and awards grant money so the students can complete these projects. Codrea was awarded a $54,198  grant over four years.

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Environment
7:54 am
Fri January 25, 2013

$29 Million: The Cost of Protecting Central Texas Salamanders

The Jollyville Plateau Salamander.
City of Austin by Mark Sanders

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it would cost $29 million over the next 23 years to designate critical habitat land for four central Texas salamanders.

The service wants to list the Austin blind salamander and three other species as endangered. It also wants to designate more than 6,457 acres of land in Travis, Williamson and Bell counties to help protect them. That acreage is up from 5,983 acres in a previous proposal.

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Environment
12:31 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

Texas Ranks Tenth in U.S. for Sustainable Building

UT's LEED Gold certified Student Activity Center.
University of Texas at Austin

Texas ranks tenth in the country in Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. That's according to a report issued by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that issues LEED certification.

The LEED 100-point scale rates the design, construction, and operation of buildings, neighborhoods, and homes to promote sustainable infrastructure. It looks at factors such as sustainability, water and energy efficiency, materials, indoor environmental quality, as well as design and innovation to issue one of four different levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

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Environment
5:30 am
Tue January 22, 2013

Scientists Close to Testing Tracers for Drilling Fluid

Andrew Barron, a researcher at Rice University, holds up a vial of "nano rust". This fluid may be used to identify drilling operations that are contaminating ground water.
Dave Fehling/StateImpact Texas

As the debate over the safety of fracking continues between politicians, environmentalists and oil companies, some scientists may have found a way to test the drilling procedure.

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Environment
5:31 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Drilling Regulators Tight-Lipped on Fracking Quakes

Drilling's subterranean effects are not a priority for Texas officials.
courtesy flickr.com/dayland

The science linking oil and gas drilling activity and earthquakes has been established for decades. And with the current boom in domestic drilling, more earthquakes are happening and states are taking action to fight them. But not in Texas, where the most drilling is taking place. For StateImpact Texas, KUT’s Mose Buchele reports.

Environment
3:57 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Drought Forecast Still Worrisome

Most of Texas remains in some state of drought.
U.S. Drought Monitor

A new reading on the Texas drought shows rains from last week helped drought severity fall for the first time since October. But it wasn’t a large decline, and as KUT’s Mose Buchele reports for StateImpact Texas, the long-term outlook is not good.

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Environment
5:37 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

LCRA Proposes Relief for Rice Farmers

Rice mills and related businesses in southeast Texas have suffered from the water shortages in recent years.
Jeff Heimsath/StateImpact Texas

The Lower Colorado River Authority approved a plan this week that could ease the strain on the Highland Lakes in the future. For StateImpact Texas, David Barer explains plans to build a new reservoir for downstream rice farmers.

It’s a decision that should have very positive impacts for the basin from top to bottom. So, looking forward for the board and staff moving forward in that.

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Weather
11:53 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Flash Flood Watch Canceled; Lighter Rains Expected (Update)

An updated map reflects less rain for Austin.
National Weather Service

Update: The flash flood watch for Travis and surrounding counties has been canceled. The National Weather Service says heavier storms have moved east of the region.

But Williamson County, which had closed several low-water crossings, reminds drivers that even if a road is open, people should use common sense.  

“People do need to be cautious, slow down, and if they do see water flowing over the roadway, don’t cross the roadway,” county spokesperson Connie Watson says. “And if you feel there are road conditions that are dangerous for people to be crossing and driving on them - perhaps we haven’t gotten there to close the road yet - you can certainly call 911 to report a dangerous road condition.”

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Water
8:05 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Amid a Trickle of Regulation, Private Wells Surging in Austin

A Tarrytown residence keeps its lawn green with well water.
Karen Bernstein for KUT News

Drilling private water wells in Austin

The ongoing drought in Central Texas sapped the green out of many lawns – and spurred private well drilling in Austin. It’s a costly and fairly unregulated way for homeowners to get at the water from the aquifer below. 

Computer records held by the state are backlogged and numbers are unreliable, but the Texas Water Development Board estimates that more than 150 wells have been drilled in Austin since 2006. At least 50 of those wells were drilled in the 78703 zip code. That encompasses West Austin, Tarrytown, and Pemberton Heights.

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Weather
5:04 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Flash Flood Watch: Turn Around, Don't Drown (But Try to Tweet)

Austin and Travis County may bear the brunt of the region's storm system.
National Weather Service

Austin’s in for a good soaking.

Central Texas' daylong rain is expected to continue overnight and through tomorrow. The National Weather Service says a flash flood watch is in effect through noon Wednesday for several counties: Bastrop, Caldwell, Dewitt, Fayette, Gonzales, Lavaca. Lee, Travis and Williamson. NWS is still expecting up to six inches in the Austin area.

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Weather
4:36 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Flash Floods, Hail, and Strong Winds Possible Tomorrow

Austin may see the most rain in a half a year beginning tonight and through Wednesday.
National Weather Service

A powerful storm system is headed into Austin, projected to bring the area its heaviest rainfall in six months. A low-level pressure system rolling in from California is expected to combine with moisture generated from the Gulf of Mexico. That means Austin can expecting three to five inches of rain, with isolated spots possibly receiving even more.

Scattered showers are expected to begin overnight, building in intensity Tuesday afternoon and lasting through Wednesday afternoon. And damaging winds, hail and flash flooding are all a possibility.

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Weather
3:39 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Texas Insurers Tally Their Losses in the 'War on Hail'

Hail that fell in Grand Prairie over the summer proved everything's bigger in Texas.
flickr.com/yumievriwan

Insurance companies doing business in Texas have counted their losses after reviewing the state’s  catastrophic weather events last year.

According to the Insurance Services Office, a catastrophic event is a weather or man-made event that causes at least $25 million or more in insured property losses and affects a significant number of people. Texas had seven catastrophic events in 2012, and it cost insurance companies some $2.3 billion in losses.

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Weather
6:56 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Drought Likely to Continue in Central Texas

Forecasters say little change for Central Texas drought over the next months.
Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

After tonight and tomorrow’s wintry weather passes through, we’re not expected to see a lot of moisture.

The National Weather Service updated its 3-month drought outlook this morning. It shows the drought will likely continue in Central Texas and the Hill Country… at least through March.

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Weather
5:40 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Showers, Sleet Possible in Austin

Austin is spared a winter weather advisory, but a wintry mix is expected.
National Weather Service

Update: (Jan. 3, 5:31 p.m.) National Weather Service reports temperatures in Austin will get down to around 39 degrees tonight. Chance of precipitation is 30 percent with little or no snow accumulation expected.

The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather outlook for Travis County.

Parts of Central Texas have already seen some sleet today. And scattered patches of light rain, occasionally mixed with light sleet are expected to blow into Travis County this afternoon. But the wintry weather isn’t expected to really make an impact until later tonight and into tomorrow morning.

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