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

dasroofless/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/roofless/5779444286/

No end in sight to the drought, now affecting almost all of Texas. Austin has been under Stage 2 water restrictions since last summer. What do we face from State 3?

This week, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicated that less than two percent of Texas is not experiencing drought conditions. The rest of the state has worsened. Here in Austin, chances of rain over the next five days hover between 20 to 40 percent. Experts doubt that will amount to much. Still, water restrictions here will stay at stage 2 … for now.

Bobby Blanchard, KUT News

The normally burnt orange University of Texas campus is looking a little more purple.

Today, campus and city officials celebrated the completion of a project that installed purple pipes on campus. The university is estimating these pipes, connected to Austin Water’s reclaimed water system, will save the campus 70 million gallons of drinking water annually.

courtesy flickr.com/yelpar

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the TCEQ counted six illegal piles of tires in Travis County. In fact, the TCEQ has identified only one pile in Travis County with a tire count between 7,300 and 299,999. We regret the error. 

Original story: Next time you’re driving your car, look at all the tires around you. When those tires wear out, they have to go somewhere.

Every year, more than 24 million tires leave the roads in Texas. And many of them are dumped illegally. A proposal before the Legislature today aims to reduce that problem.

flickr.com/roofless

The cost of groceries in Texas has gone up as a result of drought conditions in Texas and across the country.

A survey from the Texas Farmers Bureau finds that the price of a uniform basket of goods for an average Texas shopper is $46.40, a five and a half percent rise over last fiscal quarter.

Flickr, Colleen Sullivan

Another freeze warning goes into effect early Tuesday morning. The local office of the National Weather Service has the warning in effect from 3 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Temperatures are expected to go below freezing overnight, mainly from Austin to the north and west into the Hill Country.

Justin Girdler (@just_g)

The calendar now says spring!

Some much-needed rain fell over Central Texas last night and this morning. Rain totals could range from a tenth of an inch to one inch. 

U.S. Drought Monitor

The latest outlook on the drought shows Texas is drier this week than last. The U.S. Drought Monitor says almost 89 percent of Texas is in drought.

In Travis County, the drought ranges from moderate to severe. The Highland Lakes that supply Austin with water are 41 percent full. David Walker at the Lower Colorado River Authority says their worst-case scenario could see lakes drop to their lowest level on record this year.

Free Tree Seedlings at the State Capitol Today

Mar 6, 2013
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.

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.” 

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. 

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

(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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