Environment

Business
12:05 pm
Thu January 24, 2013

BBB: Austin Air Duct Company is Cleaning Customers' Wallets

The Better Business Bureau is warning Austin consumers from doing business with a local duct cleaning company.
flickr.com/icyaero-photography

An Austin-based air duct cleaning company is looking a little dirty.

A company known alternately as Austin City Air Ducts, ANS Air Ducts, AC Air Ducts and AOS Air Ducts, advertises cleaning services in ValPak coupons and on group buying websites like Eversave. But the Better Business Bureau says it received several complaints about the company from consumers in Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas/Forth Worth.

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Environment
12:31 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

Texas Ranks Tenth in U.S. for Sustainable Building

UT's LEED Gold certified Student Activity Center.
University of Texas at Austin

Texas ranks tenth in the country in Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. That's according to a report issued by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that issues LEED certification.

The LEED 100-point scale rates the design, construction, and operation of buildings, neighborhoods, and homes to promote sustainable infrastructure. It looks at factors such as sustainability, water and energy efficiency, materials, indoor environmental quality, as well as design and innovation to issue one of four different levels of certification: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

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Environment
5:30 am
Tue January 22, 2013

Scientists Close to Testing Tracers for Drilling Fluid

Andrew Barron, a researcher at Rice University, holds up a vial of "nano rust". This fluid may be used to identify drilling operations that are contaminating ground water.
Dave Fehling/StateImpact Texas

As the debate over the safety of fracking continues between politicians, environmentalists and oil companies, some scientists may have found a way to test the drilling procedure.

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Energy
4:59 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Wind Industry Secures Tax Credit, But Damage May Be Done

Wind turbines dwarf a church near Wilson, Kan. Although Congress voted to extend a wind energy tax credit, the temporary uncertainty dealt a blow to the industry.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 5:10 pm

The wind energy industry is dependent on something even more unpredictable than wind: Congress. Hidden in the turmoil over the "fiscal cliff" compromise was a tax credit for wind energy.

Uncertainty over the credit had lingered long before the last-minute political push, causing the industry to put off further long-term planning. So while the now-approved tax credit revives prospects for an industry facing tens of thousands of layoffs, don't expect to see many new turbines coming up soon.

Growing Uncertainty

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BP Oil Spill
1:44 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Transocean To Pay $1.4 Billion In Gulf Oil Spill Settlement

The Transocean Discoverer Enterprise drill ship collects oil from the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil well as workers try to stem the flow of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, June 12, 2010.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 3, 2013 5:10 pm

Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig where 11 men died in April 2010, has agreed to pay $1.4 billion in criminal and civil penalties to resolve Justice Department allegations over its role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

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Environment
3:22 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Austin Resource Recovery Wheels Out Pilot Compost Program

If it grows, it goes: a sampling of acceptable composting materials.
City of Austin

The brown bin and the blue bin have company: The green bin, for compost.

Austin Resource Recovery customers are familiar with the trash bin (the brown one) and the recycling bin (the blue container). But nearly 8,000 customers are now giving the 96-gallon green bin a tryout, in a pilot program to determine the feasibility of a citywide composting program.

In case you’ve been living under a rock – albeit one nowhere near a compost pile –  composting is the process of turning food scraps and organic, biodegradable refuse into a nutrient-rich soil appropriate for gardening and landscaping.

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Top Stories 2012
2:07 pm
Fri December 28, 2012

Top Stories of 2012: Fracking Rattles Texas

This graphic from ProPublica describes how fracking works.

2012 was a banner year for renewable energy. But in Texas and across the county, one energy story captured public attention like none other: fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling practice used to extract natural gas from hard-to-reach deposits. Hydraulic fracturing fluid is pumped deep into underground wells to break up natural gas deposits. The fluid is then removed, and deposited into disposal wells, while the gas deposits are collected.

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Energy
7:59 am
Mon December 24, 2012

Forget Fracking: 2012 Was A Powerful Year For Renewables

Wind turbines stand alongside an electrical tower at the National Wind Technology Center, run by the U.S. Department of Energy, outside Boulder, Colo.
Brennan Linsley AP

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 10:44 am

Natural gas may have reshaped the domestic energy market in 2012, lowering energy prices and marginalizing the coal industry, but America's shale boom hasn't undermined renewables.

In fact, while analysts were paying attention to fracking this year, a record number of solar panels were being slapped on roofs — enough to produce 3.2 gigawatts of electricity.

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Environment
3:57 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

Is the Power Grid Ready For the Electric Car?

A pair of electric vehicles parked outside the Blanton Museum. A discussion on electric cars is taking place there tonight.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Is the electric grid ready for an influx of electric cars?

That’s one of the topics under discussion Tuesday at a discussion on electric vehicles at the University of Texas.

The university’s Electric Vehicle Transportation and Electricity Convergence Center (EV-TEC) is hosting a panel discussion at the Blanton Museum with engineering and electromechanical experts, plus auto industry representatives. (Nissan and General Motors are listed as event sponsors.) The event begins at 4 p.m. this afternoon with a screening of “Revenge of the Electric Car.”

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Environment
3:58 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Review Finds Conflict of Interest in Fracking Study (Update)

Leader of a group behind a controversial fracking study, Dr. Charles "Chip" Groat retired.
University of Texas Energy Institute

Update and correction: In a press release, UT announced that ​Dr. Raymond Orbach had “resigned.” It did not say, however, that Orbach will be staying at UT as a tenured professor. Orbach has only resigned as head of the Energy Institute, effective Dec. 31. This post has since been corrected. 

Original post: One University of Texas professor has retired and another has stepped down from a leadership role after a review found a conflict of interest in a controversial report on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

As KUT News previously reported, the report from the UT Energy Institute, “Separating Fact From Fiction in Shale Gas Development,” stated that fracking, when executed properly, doesn’t contaminate groundwater. But StateImpact Texas reported that the study's leader failed to disclose financial ties to the drilling industry, including a seat on the board of a drilling company.  

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Environment
9:28 am
Fri November 30, 2012

Train Derails Near Philadelphia, Chemicals Reportedly Spilled

The scene of the derailment today in Paulsboro, N.J., from above.
NBC10 Philadephia

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 9:54 am

There's a developing story this morning from Paulsboro, N.J., south and across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, where several railroad tank cars have derailed and fallen into a creek after a bridge collapse.

It's being reported that the cars were transporting vinyl chloride, which could ignite and would be highly irritating if breathed in. There are local reports of about 18 people being treated for breathing problems.

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Environment
7:47 pm
Wed November 28, 2012

Sea Level Rising Much Faster Than U.N. Projections

A swan swims near the flooded home of the Maziekien family on November 21 in Mantoloking, New Jersey. Mantoloking was one of the hardest hit areas by Superstorm Sandy.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 29, 2012 8:27 am

A new peer-reviewed study by climate scientists finds the rise in sea level during the past two decades has been 60 percent faster than predictions from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The scientists also found that IPCC's estimates for warming temperatures was just right.

NBC News explains:

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Business
11:37 am
Wed November 28, 2012

EPA Temporarily Halts New Federal Contracts For BP

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burned on April 21, 2010.
U.S. Coast Guard Getty Images

Citing a "lack of business integrity," the Environmental Protection Agency announced it was temporarily suspending the oil giant BP from entering into new contracts with the federal government.

In a press release, the EPA said BP demonstrated the lack of integrity during the Deepwater Horizon "blowout, explosion, oil spill and response." This kind of suspension, the EPA explained, is "standard practice when a responsibility question is raised by action in a criminal case."

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Environment
10:22 am
Wed November 28, 2012

Eww... There's Too Much Fecal Bacteria in Four Austin Creeks

A storm drain empties into Waller Creek.
City of Austin Watershed Protection Department

The City of Austin and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) are asking the public to come out tonight to be involved in finding solutions for cleaning up four Austin streams.

Walnut Creek, Waller Creek, Taylor Slough and the Spicewood Tributary of Shoal Creek all exceed the acceptable standard for E. Coli. The high levels of fecal bacteria make the streams potentially unsafe for people to get in the water.

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Austin Energy
1:09 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

Here Comes an Electric Vehicle Corridor From Austin to San Antonio

A map of the Texas River Cities program area. Dots represent utility-owned charging stations.
texasrivercities.com

Plans for a regional electric vehicle corridor are getting a $500,000 boost from the Department of Energy.

Tuesday, Austin Energy announced the federal grant, meant to bolster the Texas River Cities (TRC) initiative. A new effort, Texas River Cities is a partnership between electricity providers from Williamson to Bexar counties, with buy-in from Austin Energy, San Antonio’s CPS Energy, and several other city utilities and electric cooperatives. The idea is to promote plug-in electric vehicle travel in and along the corridor by promoting their use, offering more charging stations and creating integrated charging infrastructure and payment structures. It would also help relieve "range anxiety," the fear that an electric car will run out of juice, which keeps some away from making the jump to them.

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