Environment

Flickr/Beth Cortez-Neavel (CC BY-NC 4.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Obama administration announced what it calls the Clean Power Plan — an ambitious plan to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. From an international perspective, the plan could give the United States more weight in future discussions on curbing so-called greenhouse gases. But there’s some politics here as well: The move is seen by many analysts as legacy-building, and there’s no doubt Texas is in the crosshairs.

Travis Bubenik of Marfa Public Radio has been following this for Inside Energy. Bubenik sat down with The Texas Standard to discuss President Obama's new Clean Power Plan.

Laura Rice/Texas Standard

About 60 percent of the water we use in Texas comes from aquifers – natural underground reservoirs that often aren’t easily replenished. In Hays County, aquifers have raised a critical question: Who has the right to draw from the Trinity Aquifer, how much they can draw – and can anyone stop them?

A private company based out of Houston – Electro Purification (EP) – plans to pump groundwater from around the city of Wimberley and pipe it to other thirsty communities. EP has contracts to pipe more than 5 million gallons of water a day from this part of the Trinity Aquifer through the year 2036.

Louis Vest via Texas Tribune

GALENA PARK — In this city east of Houston, petrochemical facilities are a common part of the landscape and a major engine for the local economy.

But they can also be heavy emitters of what the Environmental Protection Agency labels “toxic air pollutants,” such as benzene, which have been linked to health problems like cancer, reproductive problems and birth defects. And at times, the facilities can emit huge amounts of pollution that normally wouldn't be allowed, but are exempt from rules because they happen only when facilities are starting up, shutting down or malfunctioning. 

flickr.com/seabamirum

It’s not yet autumn but fall webworms are showing up on trees across Central Texas.

The caterpillars form webbing on leaves – and spend much of their lives eating those leaves.

"Typically people notice they have fall webworms when they start to see the webbing actually starting to cover the tips of the branches and, if they look closely at those webs or they break open those webs, they'll actually see the caterpillars inside," Wizzie Brown says.

Dylan Baddour/StateImpact Texas

From StateImpact Texas:

The combined storage of the Highland Lakes is expected to approach its record low – 30 percent full – by the end of this summer. After that, forecasters say, the El Niño weather pattern could bring some relief. But how much rain would it take to get them full again?

The total volume of water in the Highland Lakes, the main reservoir for a million people in and around Austin, fell to its lowest level since 1952 (during Texas’ multi-year drought of record) in September 2013. Water flowing into the Highland Lakes hit record lows – just ten percent the annual average — in 2011, Texas’ driest year on record.

Historically, low levels like the ones we’re seeing now have been corrected by massive rain events.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

While fracking for oil along the Texas border has become a big business for petrol companies, a new entity seeks to tap into the lucrative market – drug smugglers.  

As infrastructure and activity increases to meet the demand of the booming industry, drug smugglers are starting to take advantage of the new roads and increased traffic, much of which is located on private ranch lands.  

“Because there are so many different companies, and so many different trucks going through that area, it provides a sort of way to blend in if you will,” National Journal writer Ben Geman tells The Texas Standard's David Brown. “Essentially what’s happening is you’ve got smugglers who are stashing marijuana, or other drugs, in trucks that are either 'cloned' to look like one of the industry trucks, or some type of truck that seems to fit right in driving around on these ranch lands.”

Sometimes some of the most destructive forces in nature can be stunningly beautiful.

On Sunday, storm chasers caught a supercell thunderstorm taking shape in Wyoming. It is absolutely spectacular — the stuff of science-fiction movies:

Karen Zamora for KUT News

How bad is the California drought? Bad enough Texas cattle ranchers can offer some  advice.

California has never seen so little rain over a 12-month period. But in Texas – the nation’s top cattle producing state – drought conditions are nothing new. Due to Texas' ongoing drought, ranchers in Texas lost 15 percent of their cattle from 2011 to 2013 – approximately two million animals.

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