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

Steve Jurvetson via Texas Tribune

When Texas promised to protect a threatened lizard in the oil-rich Permian Basin, state officials entrusted the day-to-day oversight to a nonprofit that sounds like an environmental group: the Texas Habitat Conservation Foundation.

What’s not advertised is the occupation of the board members who created it.

STP Nuclear Operating Company

Austin Energy is getting some of its power again from the South Texas Project. STP is a nuclear power source in the Bay City area where one of four reactors was offline for the past few months because of a fire outside the unit.

On Tuesday it started operating again.

Flickr, Ronnie Pitman

The Lower Colorado River Authority is reminding people who live along the Highland Lakes that you need a contract to pump water from the lakes.

The reminder comes at a time when Central Texans are starting to think about lawn care.

The LCRA wants to keep track of the water removed from the lakes and help educate people about responsible water use. 


If you like seeing the wildflowers around Central Texas this spring, get ready for a bigger finish for the season.

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, they say there’s been a slow start, but could be late peak. Cooler weather has delayed the peak of some blooms and it looks like a good late season for flowers that need less rain.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune and Pedro Moura Pinheiro, Texas Tribune

With the drought getting worse by the day, a Texas mayor is turning to a higher power.

He’s asking people to pray for rain.

Odessa Mayor David Turner is calling on community and church leaders to make this Sunday, April 14th, a day of prayer for rainfall.

This weekend, Keep Texas Beautiful and the Texas Department of Transportation are joining together for 'Texas Trash-Off', which is Texas's "largest single-day litter cleanup" event.


If you see a vehicle belching smoke, there’s a way to report it.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality encourages drivers to report vehicles they see that are emitting dirty smoke for more than 10 consecutive seconds.

The TCEQ then sends a letter to the owner suggesting an inspection. Compliance is voluntary.


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.


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.

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

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.


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.”

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. 


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.

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."