environment

Energy & Environment
1:41 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Cleanup Continues After Oil Spill Near Houston Ship Channel

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 3:47 pm

This post was updated at 4:47 p.m. ET.

The cleanup of an oil spill near the Houston Ship Channel is continuing today, and authorities say they have opened one of the country's biggest ports in a limited capacity this afternoon.

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Energy & Environment
3:29 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

U.S. Issues Keystone XL Pipeline Environmental Review

Pipefitters work on construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline's southern portion outside Tulsa, Okla., last January.
PR Newswire

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 4:11 pm

The State Department says that production of Canadian tar-sand crude, which has a bigger greenhouse gas footprint than other types of oil, is unlikely to be increased if the Keystone XL pipeline goes ahead — and therefore would do little to contribute to climate change.

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Recycling
12:09 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

On America Recycles Day, UT Students Go for the Record with Box Castle

A student works on the box castle.
Emily Mathis for KUT News

The sound of masking tape being stretched and torn, cardboard boxes being folded, and students laughing and chattering filled Gregory Plaza on Friday morning, as more than a hundred students gathered to build the first cardboard box castle at the University of Texas.

The box building comes as a part of America Recycles Day, and the project is quickly becoming a national fad. In universities across the country, students gather to build a temporary structure made entirely of cardboard boxes and held together with masking tape.

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Energy & Environment
10:23 am
Thu October 17, 2013

For Rain Barrel Users, Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Water?

Rainwater harvesters are loving Austin’s wet weather. This residential rainwater collection system uses tanks from Austin-based Poly-Mart.
Dick Peterson

Austin's recent rains have caused a fair amount of trouble. But some folks made out like bandits during the recent deluge.

Many urban rain collectors watched recent downpours overwhelm their rain barrels and cisterns. It raises a question: Can too much rain be a bad thing, even for rainwater harvesters?

Most rain harvesters say: Nope.

Karen Collins, who collects rain at her home in Austin and on farmland north of Liberty Hill, is optimistic about the surge in rain. “It’s wonderful,” she says. “My tanks are completely full. I am in great shape. There are times in the summer when I don’t have any rainwater.”

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Austin
11:53 am
Fri April 26, 2013

Austin - Soon You’ll Be Able to Irrigate the Yard With Your Washing Machine Wastewater

An upscale greywater garden, built in Los Angeles.
flickr.com/jeremylevinedesign

In an eco-friendly city like Austin, you’d think reclaimed water systems for the home would be a no-brainer. Instead, the entire city has only one fully licensed greywater system. But that could soon change.

Greywater systems (or graywater, or grey water – there’s no universally accepted spelling) take used water from sinks, showers and washing machines and funnel it to uses like landscaping instead of sending it down the drain. (Greywater doesn’t include toilet water.)

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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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Texas
7:07 am
Fri November 2, 2012

La Niña Could Bring More Drought to Texas

Daniel Reese for KUT News

After the brutal drought of 2011, welcome rains this year put minds at ease in many parts of Texas. But any respite may be short-lived.

The best hope Texas had for a full recovery from its long drought was a wet upcoming winter. But recent weather models show that’s growing less and less likely. The reason? The El Niño weather pattern meteorologists expected is not forming in the Atlantic.

State Climatologist John Neilsen-Gammon tell StateImpact Texas the bad news doesn’t end there.

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Environment
11:12 am
Fri October 12, 2012

Why Longhorns Owe Their Survival in Part to Oklahoma

Jason French, Texas Tribune

It might not be the safest week to mention this, but here goes:

The Texas longhorns owe their survival in large part to Oklahoma.

Oklahoma and the federal government, that is.

We’re talking cattle, of course, not football. Here’s what happened: A century ago, the longhorn breed teetered on the edge of extinction. After the Civil War, the great herds that had lumbered up the Chisholm Trail from Texas to the railways depots in Kansas for shipment east had suddenly fallen out of favor. Texas ranchers had become enamored with Herefords and Angus, which grew faster and were often less cantankerous than the lean, hardy longhorn, which was descended from Spanish and Anglo cattle and had sometimes roamed wild.

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Bond Election
2:12 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Prop 13: Watershed Protection and Open Space

The city says Prop 13 protects water quality by funding land purchases in the Barton Springs Watershed contributing and recharge zones.
KUT News

This November, Austin voters will be asked to decide on 18 propositions, including seven bond propositions totaling $385 million. KUT News is examining all seven of the spending propositions; today we take a look at Prop 13, which would spend $30 million purchasing land and conservation easements for open space and water quality protection. 

According to the city, the bond would help preserve Austin's water quality by funding land buys in the Barton Springs Watershed, where water filters into the Edwards Aquifer.

“It’s preserving the lands, keeping it from urbanization, which inevitably leads to some degradation of water quality,” says Michael Personett,  assistant director for the city’s Watershed Protection program.

The bond would also add to the city's undeveloped space by funding the purchase of land conservation easements in environmentally sensitive areas. Easements are essentially agreements between the city and landowners that keep land in the hands of its original owner while preventing outside development. The owner gets some extra cash, and the city gets assurances water quality won't deteriorate in that area.

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Environment
2:28 pm
Sat October 6, 2012

Freezing in the Texas Heat

Many visitors to Texas are bothered by the heavy use of air conditioning.
flickr.com/a_siegel/

Mincheol Kwon is a visiting reporter at KUT. He hails from CBS-Christian Broadcasting System, a South Korean radio station in Seoul. He is also studying audio journalism at the Journalism School of Texas State University at San Marcos.

Planning a summertime trip to Texas? It makes sense to worry about the heat. But you might also give some thought to exactly the opposite.

“I have to live with the cold!” said UT graduate student Taehyun Cho on a recent afternoon.

He’s talking about Texans’ tendency to crank up the AC to near-arctic levels.

"Exposed to the heat [outside] and then suddenly to the cold, my biological rhythm has broken,” said Cho. “Today I was in class shivering."

The extreme fluctuations between indoor and outdoor temperatures may seem normal to many locals, but it strikes people from other cultures not just as strange, but as unhealthy. In Korea, they even have a word for it. It roughly translates as “air conditioning-itis.”

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SXSW
12:07 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

SXSW Eco Powers Through a Second Year

Advances in renewable energy were a hot topic at this year's SXSW Eco conference.
flickr.com/lancecheungmedia

The second-annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco conference comes to an end today.

SXSW Eco is an offshoot of the wildly-popular SXSW festival that takes over Austin for a good chunk of March each year, and has since grown from its roots in music and film to encompass technology and education.

SXSW Eco is still a comparatively smaller affair, viewed against the whopping $190 million in estimated economic impact SXSW brings overall. But this year’s festival expanded its focus onto five themes: Scalable, ecological solutions; collaborations between disparate communities on global issues like climate change; advances in technology and design; green economics; and visions for an environmentally sustainable future.

The team with KUT News’ StateImpact Texas has been filing dispatches from Eco, starting with an interview with Michael E. Mann, a Penn State University professor whose work includes the iconic “hockey stick” graph showing a rise in global temperatures since the dawn of the industrial age – work that his made him a target of climate change deniers.

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Texas
2:52 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Report Finds Texas 'Energy Inefficient'

Texas wasn't ranked very high in energy efficiency according to ACEEE Scorecard
http://www.flickr.com/ixtlilton

The ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) has released its 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. According to their findings, Texas didn't do so well.

The report ranks the 50 states and the District of Columbia according to their policies and programs regarding the use of energy in buildings, transportation, and industry. This year, Texas is ranked #33

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Austin
12:15 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Austin Gets Green with SXSW Eco

Philippe Cousteau. grandson of the famous ocean explorer, headlines the SXSW Eco Conference and Festival
facebook.com/pages/Fans-of-Philippe-Cousteau/

The Second Annual SXSW Eco Conference and Festival kicks off today and is aptly named Evolving the Environmental Conversation.

The three day conference will bring in experts from all over the globe who are working to find sustainable environmental solutions. Attendees will get top-level presentations and discussions with professionals in the public, private and academic sectors. SXSW Eco hopes that the participants will gain access to information that will allow them to both collaborate and advance solutions for the challenges facing the environment, economy and society. 

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Environment
11:15 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Weekend Dallas Earthquakes Occur in Fracking Hot Spot

A diagram illustrating the fracking process. Disposal of fracking fluid has been linked to earthquakes in the Dallas region.
sustainability.gov/

A series of small earthquakes in the Dallas region over the weekend are reviving discussion of the link between quakes and the oil and gas industry practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Fracking is the practice of pumping hydraulic fracturing fluid into wells to break up and extract oil shale and natural gas deposits. Just how fracking is linked to earthquakes is a hot topic around the country, Texas especially.

The Dallas Morning News reports two quakes rattled the Dallas region on Saturday, followed by another quake on Sunday. Both quakes were in the Barnett Shale, which is rich in natural gas.

StateImpact Texas writes that it’s not the actual act of fracking itself that leads to earthquakes, but rather the disposal of the fracking fluid remaining after the process, which is usually shot into disposal wells deep underground.

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Austin
5:07 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

A Big Mess: Cleaning Up After This Morning's Fuel Spill

Austin Fire Department Crews are specially trained to respond to hazardous materials situations.
Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The frontage road of Interstate 35 between FM 1327 and Slaughter Lane is expected to be closed for much of the day after a fuel spill this morning.

For much of the morning, all northbound lanes of the highway were also closed in the area — causing major traffic delays.

The Austin Fire Department says an estimated 700 gallons of fuel spilled on the roadway when an 18-wheeler overturned, creating a need for careful cleanup that shut the highway through morning rush hour.

But AFD Battalion Chief Palmer Buck says, in years past, the closures would have been even longer because the department would have had to wait for the trucking company to send a cleanup team.

“The Austin Fire Department is one of the few teams that has the equipment and the expertise to do this," Buck says. "A decade ago, we would have had to wait six to eight hours before the operation even started, so we would be talking about sometime this evening before we got the roads open."

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