Environment

StateImpact Texas
11:56 am
Tue October 15, 2013

How Hundreds of 'Significant Hazard' Dams Escape State Inspection

Credit TCEQ

This is part two of a series devoted to looking at the infrastructure of dams in Texas, and what can be done to improve it. You can find part one here.

In 2008, the Texas State Auditor’s office released the kind of report that keeps public officials awake at night.  It found that state regulators were not ensuring the proper maintenance of thousands of dams in Texas. The audit found that state inspectors had never visited hundreds of dams that could cause loss of life if they failed.

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Energy & Environment
6:30 am
Fri September 27, 2013

How Bad Was the BP Oil Spill? Three Years On, Some Answers

A Gulf of Mexico copepod: Not pretty, but essential to an ecosystem.
Credit www.fcps.edu

The extent of the environmental damage in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the BP oil disaster is largely unknown to the public; much of the data remains sealed because of litigation. But now scientists at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi are shedding important new light on the subject. And the news is not good. 

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Energy & Environment
8:24 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Why Are Texas Children Suing Environmental Regulators?

Children are suing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, saying the agency should regulate air pollution under the Public Trust Doctrine.
KUT News

Texas children are suing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, claiming the TCEQ should have to protect the quality of the air the same way it’s required to protect the quality of water.

As part of a nationwide movement, the youth are asking the agency to protect water under the public trust doctrine – the historic idea that the state is responsible for the quality of a shared resource.

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barton springs
3:52 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Feds OK 20-Year Plan to Protect Barton Springs Salamanders, Keep Pool Open

Despite new federal protections for two Barton Springs salamanders, a habitat agreement has been reached that will keep Barton Springs Pool open.
I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Swimmers and salamanders can continue their peaceful coexistence at Barton Springs Pool.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is granting the City of Austin a new 20-year permit, keeping the pool open to the public while protecting the habitats of both the Barton Springs Salamander and the Austin Blind Salamander.

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Energy & Environment
9:58 am
Wed September 4, 2013

ERCOT Says Plenty Of Electricity Available Through Winter

Flickr user jetsandzeppelins cc

Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 9:04 am

Texas is expected to have sufficient levels of stored power to serve peak demands this fall and winter. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas released its Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy on Tuesday.

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Drought
11:04 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Austin Lakefront Institution Closes Doors For Lack Of Water

Dockside at Carlos 'n Charlie's on Lake Travis.
Pete Clark

Originally published on Sun September 8, 2013 2:54 pm

Carlos 'n Charlie's restaurant on Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, will be having its last last call on Monday. But don't bother coming by boat.

The restaurant has been a lakeside hotspot since it opened in 1995. Back then, docking at the restaurant's wharf was a popular way to take in the party atmosphere, which part-owner Pete Clark describes as like "a cheap Spring break movie."

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Environment
10:02 am
Wed August 21, 2013

Austin Salamanders Protected Under Endangered Species Act

The Austin Blind Salamader lives in the dark aquifer underneath Barton Springs.
Dr. David Hills

Meet two of the newest creatures to receive federal Endangered Species Act protection: the Austin Blind Salamander and the Jollyville Plateau Salamander.

The Austin Blind Salamander – sightless, due to living deep in the Edwards Aquifer that feeds Barton Springs – was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Jollyville Plateau Salamander, native to streams and karst formations in Travis and Williamson Counties, was listed as threatened this week.

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Environment
4:34 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Today's an 'Ozone Action Day' – What You Need to Know

If required, the TCEQ will issue another air pollution watch by 3 p.m. today.
flickr.com/StuSeeger

Update: Today's the third Ozone Action Day of the year. Austin remains dangerously close to falling out of attainment of the clean air standard of 75 parts of ozone per billion. At last check, Austin was at 72.

“Being a non-attainment area it’s much harder to recruit business. It also accounts for a lot of absenteeism in schools because a lot of children have asthma and air pollution has been found to directly exacerbate asthma in children," Deanna Altenhoff, Executive Director of Clean Air of Central Texas, said.

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Weather
3:27 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

Tropical System Gathering in Gulf Could Bring Rain to Austin

A low-pressure formation in the Gulf of Mexico could bring rain to Austin early next week.
National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center

A tropical system is developing in the Gulf of Mexico that could have an affect on Austin weather in the days ahead.

Aaron Treadway, a forecaster at the National Weather Service, says computer models have been "all over the place" in recent days – but data now suggests the system’s heading toward the Texas coast, somewhere from Northern Mexico to Louisiana.

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Wildfires
4:09 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

2013 Wildfire Season Proving To Be More Mild Than Wild

Firefighters battle a wildfire earlier this month in Cabazon, Calif.
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 2:31 pm

With 15,000 firefighters deployed and three dozen major wildfires currently burning in five Western states, this would seem to be a wildfire season for the record books. And in one tragic aspect, it is. But by most measures, 2013 is the second-mildest fire season in the past decade ... so far.

Here's the season to date, by the numbers (provided by the National Interagency Fire Center) and with some historic statistics for comparison.

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Environment
3:38 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

How You Can Help Draw the Blueprint for Austin's Urban Forest

A healthy tree at Brentwood Park. With city help, several ailing trees there were returned to health.
Natalie Krebs for KUT News

The City of Austin is drafting its first comprehensive Urban Forest Plan.

The city hopes to work with Austinites to pinpoint areas of problem tree conditions and to look at possible solutions to transform the drought-stricken city into a truly green one.

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Environment
4:42 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

How Do You Relocate 30,000 Austin Honeybees? Very Carefully.

Randy Oakley and Samuel Oakley set up a one-way trap and a decoy beehive to lure out more than 30,000 honeybees.
Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority

Some 30,000 honeybees are about to find a more suitable home.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is relocating a massive beehive found in a large oak tree on Highway 183 near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

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Environment
4:44 pm
Tue July 16, 2013

New UT Program Takes the Fight to Invasive Species

Although common throughout much of the United States, Fire ants are an exotic, invasive species.
flickr.com/onthespiral

Before crushing those pesky fire ants crawling across your porch, did you ever consider the critters’ effect on the ecosystem? The University of Texas’ newly formed Texas Invasive Species program has $2.7 million dollars to answer those questions and more.

The program, formed with a six-year grant from the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation, utilizes researchers from the Brackenridge Field Laboratory to investigate and protect Texas's ecosystems from exotic invasive species.

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Weather
7:23 am
Mon July 15, 2013

Central Texas Under Flash Flood Watch Through Tuesday Morning

We haven't had to worry about using umbrellas for awhile here in the Austin area. Rainy weather and cooler temps are predicted for the next few days.
Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Much of Central Texas, including Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties, is under a flash flood watch through Tuesday morning. A flash flood watch means flash flooding is possible in or near the watch area.

The National Weather Service says parts of Central Texas can expect between an inch and three inches of rain during the watch period. But isolated patches of up to five inches of rain are not out of the question.

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Texas
3:15 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Country Troubadour Kevin Fowler Wants You to 'Take Care of Texas'

Kevin Fowler is the face of the new "Take Care of Texas" campaign.

Today the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Texas Parks and Wildlife announced a new statewide public service campaign: “Take Care of Texas.”

The campaign featuring a jingle written and performed by Texas country music star Kevin Fowler. The tune stresses the importance of water and energy conservation, especially during this period of extended drought.

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Texas
12:08 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Judge Overturns Ruling Reeling In Texas' Red Snapper Season

Texas' attorney general applauds a decision that overturned a proposed shortening of the state’s red snapper fishing season.
flickr.com/myfwcmedia

A federal district judge has overturned a federal emergency rule that would shorten the red snapper fishing season to as few as 12 days in Texas – down from a projected 22 days.

Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger says that he is disappointed in the ruling. The federal decision that would have shortened the season was put in place to stop the overfishing of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Texas
10:57 am
Tue June 4, 2013

TCEQ Needs More Time to Examine LCRA Water Plan

The LCRA is operating under emergency drought relief. Under those orders, most downstream rice farmers did not receive Highland Lakes water for their crops in 2012 or 2013.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is taking more time to review the Lower Colorado River Authority’s water management plan. The additional evaluation could take about a year.

The water management plan directs how the LCRA uses lakes Travis and Buchanan to meet the needs of water users. The state wants to meet with stakeholders and collect more data before approving the new plan.

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Science
5:08 pm
Sun May 5, 2013

Solar-Powered Airplane Completes First Leg Of U.S. Flight

The Solar Impulse takes off from Moffett Field NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., Friday, as a team member rides an electric bike alongside the plane.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun May 5, 2013 4:04 pm

The Solar Impulse, an airplane traveling across the United States using only solar power, is in Phoenix today, after reaching Arizona from California Saturday. It took the plane about 20 hours to travel from Mountain View, Calif., near San Francisco.

The aircraft is capable of flying at night as well as in daytime; the plane had about 75 percent of its battery power remaining when it landed in Arizona.

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Environment
2:49 pm
Fri May 3, 2013

NASA: Warming Climate Likely Means More Floods, Droughts

Flash floods followed heavy rains in northern India in September.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 11:53 am

The Earth's wettest regions are likely to get wetter while the most arid will get drier due to warming of the atmosphere caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, according to a new NASA analysis of more than a dozen climate models.

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West Plant Explosion
6:52 am
Mon April 22, 2013

After Fertilizer Explosion, Concern Over Safety, Regulation & Zoning

Candlelight vigil in West.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The investigation into what caused the fire at the West Fertilizer Plant that led to Wednesday's explosion is still ongoing. But officials say they’ve found no sign of criminal activity.

Investigators will also look into any safety or regulatory issues at the plant. But even at this early stage, there are signs that not all was right with the plant. The disaster has also brought up questions about how well regulation of facilities like these works in Texas.

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