Energy & Environment

Environment
7:56 am
Wed March 6, 2013

Free Tree Seedlings at the State Capitol Today

East Texas has nearly 12 million acres of commercial forest land.
flickr.com/dhwright

The Texas Forestry Association is giving away 5,000 hardwood seedlings near the south steps of the Capitol this morning. The association will begin handing out the trees at 8:30 a.m. and will continue until 11:30 a.m. or until the supply runs out.

The seedling giveaway is a biennial tradition. The TFA began their seedling giveaway during the 72nd legislative session to raise public awareness of the tree planting efforts that take place across the state.

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weather
7:12 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

Free Red Cross App Warns of Tornadoes

Tornado damage outside Dallas in April 2012
StateFarm/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/statefarm/6914725716/

The Red Cross has a new smartphone app for iPhone and Android users that warns when a tornado may be nearby. 

“There’s actually an audible alarm that tells you there is a tornado warning where you are or for a location that you’re monitoring," says Sara Kennedy with the Red Cross of Central Texas. "Even if the app’s not open, it's in your pocket, it’s next to your bed, it actually will tell you.” 

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Environment
7:06 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

Effort Begins to Extinguish Austin Compost Fires

The (in)famous Dillo Dirt mud at Austin City Limits Fest 2009.
flickr.com/plutor

One week after strong winds sparked fires at City of Austin compost piles, Water Utility crews have started the process of putting them out.

The fires have been smoldering since Monday, February 25, in compost piles at the Hornsby Bend Biosolids Plant, where the fertilizer known as Dillo Dirt is produced. The fires were started by wind gusts of as much 50 mph.

The Austin Water Utility says air quality is being monitored with the use of "special" monitoring devices and says the amount of smoke should diminish this week. 

austin
5:15 am
Fri March 1, 2013

Plastic Bag Ban Now in Effect

Say goodbye to the old-style plastic shopping bag.
courtesy flickr.com/adav

If you’re going to the grocery store or planning a quick stop at the convenience store today, you’ll need to bring your own bag. Most businesses within the Austin city limits will have to abide by a new rule that prohibits them from providing paper or plastic single-use bags to customers.

While it will take getting used to, the switch to reusables that goes into effect today is good news to some Austinites.

Longtime environmentalists celebrated the end of an era with a party at Cherrywood Coffeehouse in Austin this week. Featured artist Bill Oliver pushed for a bag ban for decades.

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Environment
8:05 am
Fri February 22, 2013

Map: Prescribed Burn Closes Slaughter Creek Trail

Austin Water Utility conducts prescribed burns to restore native grasslands.
facebook.com/AustinWater

Slaughter Creek Trail in southwest Austin off of Ranch to Market 1826 will be closed all day today because of a planned prescribed burn.

Austin Water Utility’s Wildland Conservation Division plans to burn about 70 acres of land in the area in order to manage brush and encourage the growth of native grasses.

The burn is expected to take five to six hours. It's not clear when the burn will begin.

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Environment
12:54 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Judge OKs Transocean's $1 Billion Civil Settlement Over Gulf Oil Spill

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 11:10 am

A federal judge in New Orleans has approved a $1 billion civil settlement over its role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill where 11 men died in April of 2010, the AP reports.

As we reported back in January, federal authorities blamed Transocean "for acting negligently when the rig's crew proceeded with maneuvers to the deep-sea well in the face of clear danger signals that oil and natural gas were flowing."

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Environment
6:50 am
Tue February 19, 2013

Forecasting Climate With A Chance Of Backlash

Jim Gandy, chief meteorologist for WLTX, in Columbia, S.C.
Brian Dressler Courtesy of WLTX

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 4:31 pm

When it comes to climate change, Americans place great trust in their local TV weathercaster, which has led climate experts to see huge potential for public education.

The only problem? Polls show most weather presenters don't know much about climate science, and many who do are fearful of talking about something so polarizing.

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Environment
5:47 am
Mon February 18, 2013

Protesters Call On Obama To Reject Keystone XL Pipeline

Dr. J. William Hirzy, a chemistry professor at American Universiy, rests outside the rally route with a graph he uses to teach his students about the relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature.
Daniel M.N. Turner NPR

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 3:33 pm

Tens of thousands of protesters turned out on the National Mall Sunday to encourage President Obama to make good on his commitment to act on climate change.

In his Inaugural address from outside the U.S. Capitol, the president said: "We will respond to the threat of climate change knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

Just a few weeks later, next to the Washington Monument, Paul Birkeland was one of a couple dozen people holding a long white tube above their heads.

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Environment
5:12 am
Thu February 14, 2013

Lege Weighs Frackers' Water Needs

Oil and gas drillers are using more and more water.
Erik Reyna/KUT News

Fracking has opened up huge deposits of oil and gas in Texas and other parts of the county. It’s brought plenty of jobs – and profits – to the state. But it also requires something Texas has in short supply these days: water. 

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Environment
5:33 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

This Bill Aims to Quiet Down Texas' Water Wars

The Red River is one interstate point of contention over water rights.
courtesy flickr.com/texasbackroads

As Texas begins a third year of drought, conflicts with neighboring states over water are progressing as well. Now, as Terrence Henry reports for StateImpact Texas, one state lawmaker is hoping to bring some calm to Texas’ water wars.

There’s an abundance of water that’s available that flows into the Gulf of Mexico, and no one’s capturing the economic benefit from it.

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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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