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

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody https://twitter.com/SheriffChody

After areas of Williamson County received more than six inches of rain overnight, the South Fork San Gabriel River in Georgetown has reached moderate flood stage. That prompted officials to evacuate some people living along the river including in the lower level of the Shady River RV Resort off East State Highway 29.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Around 3,000 more Austin properties will find themselves in high-risk floodplains thanks to a new National Weather Service study called Atlas 14. Those new flood designations could impact everything from what you pay for insurance to how you build your home.

Wikimedia Commons

Divers have found large amounts of invasive zebra mussels at intake pipes that feed Austin’s water supply, opening up a costly new challenge for the city’s water utility.

Hurricane Florence is moving relentlessly toward the Southeastern U.S. It's a large, powerful cyclone that will likely bring storm surge and high winds to coastal communities.

But climate scientists say one of the biggest threats posed by Florence is rain.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A plan to build a publicly funded seawall to protect oil refineries has highlighted gaps in how oil and gas companies inform investors of potential risks associated with climate change.

Vivian Abagiu / UT Austin

Scientists say they’ve invented a new tool to fight mosquito-borne illnesses. The technology could help public health officials rapidly track and fight the spread of diseases like Zika and dengue fever.

All it takes is a cellphone, a small 3D-printed plastic box and a chemical mixture, says Sanchita Bhadra, a molecular biologist at UT Austin who worked on the project.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

More than half of Austin waterways have unsafe levels of fecal bacteria, according to a study out today. The analysis from Environment Texas found 46 of the 76 sites tested in Austin exceeded safe levels of bacteria at least once last year. 

Brian Zabcik, a clean water advocate with Environment Texas, said nearly half of the 1,450 freshwater sites tested across the state had similar problems.

"Of those locations, 49 percent had at least one day of unsafe bacteria level last year," Zabcik said, "bacteria levels that were too high to safely go swimming."

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin has had 48 triple-digit days so far this year. That puts this summer on track to be the third hottest ever recorded in the city in terms of average temperature. It also continues a trend of warming in the region that became more pronounced around the turn of the century.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Turtles across the state can breathe a sigh of relief this weekend, thanks to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. In a vote this week, the statewide environmental regulator prohibited commercial hunting of Texas turtles – a measure that's been slow-moving for years.

It was just after 7:30 p.m. on July 26 when dispatchers heard Jeremy Stoke's mayday call. The fire inspector had been in his pickup heading to evacuate a neighborhood in northwest Redding, Calif., when he was trapped by the blaze himself.

Only silence answered the dispatchers' replies. They found Stoke's body the next day.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The Parks and Recreation Recycling Task Force is recommending several different ways to pay for consistent recycling around Austin.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Chemical plants and oil refineries spewed millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into the air and on the ground after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas a year ago. Some parts of the state did a better job than others in controlling those emissions and spills, according to a new report that tries to take lessons from Harvey to better prepare for the next storm.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

Four large wildfires have broken out in Central Texas in just about a week. It’s part of a bad year for Texas fires, and climate researchers say the uptick in fires bears the fingerprints of climate change.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Take a rapidly growing state, add a scorching heat wave, and you have a recipe for historically high electricity use. So it was that Texas broke the record for power demand three times in the last week. Through it all, the state’s electric grid operated without major disruption.

That success nevertheless revealed some interesting things about the ways we generate and consume electricity.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard: 

You may have heard that term ‘heat advisory’ quite a bit during this latest heat wave. It’s a notice the National Weather Service sends out to tell people that they need to take precautions to stay safe in the heat – especially people who work outside.

In the Dallas Fort Worth Area, a heat index of 105 degrees triggers a heat advisory. And the reason it’s 105 degrees has to do with geography and, well, you. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

You’ve probably noticed it’s been a hazy summer in Austin. And you may have heard that's because of massive clouds of dust blown across the ocean from Africa. That fact alone inspires awe.

But it turns out there is much more to these dust clouds than the distance they travel.

Tom Pennington

With a heat wave sweeping the state, Texans' demand for power broke records two days in a row this week, prompting the state’s electric grid operator — which predicted the scenario months ago — to offer assurances that the electric sector “is doing what they can to keep the power on for consumers.”

Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Scott Pruitt will no longer lead the Environmental Protection Agency, President Trump announced Thursday afternoon via Twitter.

Eddie Gaspar for KUT

Texas leads the nation in flash-flood deaths, with more than 75 percent of those deaths occurring at low-water crossings. Now, a part of the state known as “flash flood alley” is turning to technology to help.

City workers in Austin are visiting creeks at low-water crossings to install cameras that will make images of flooding available to the public in real-time.

How Does This Aquarium Fish Thrive In Waller Creek?

Jun 28, 2018
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin is the unique home to a thriving wild population of one of the most common pet fish in the world: the variable platy fish (on sale for $1.59 at Petco).

The platy is colorful, cheap and now the most abundant fish in Waller Creek, which runs about seven miles from North Austin down to Lady Bird Lake. There is no other known established wild population in the U.S.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Texas Supreme Court has ruled Laredo can't ban the use of single-use bags. At issue was whether the city could ban bags under the state law regulating so-called solid waste management.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The oil and gas industry is releasing 60 percent more methane than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, according to a study published in latest edition of Science.

That’s bad news when it comes to global warming.

Julia Reihs / KUT

A decision expected soon from the state Supreme Court could hobble Austin's ability to regulate plastic bag litter and contamination.

Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The stars at night could get bigger and brighter in Fredericksburg, as it works to achieve "dark-sky" designation from the International Dark-Sky Association. The effort by the Hill Country city aims to reduce the light pollution to both boost the quality of its stargazing and increase tourism.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said this week that the Department of Energy is working on a plan to subsidize coal and nuclear power in the name of national security. While the details are scarce, the idea’s been the subject of speculation and criticism from energy experts, environmentalists and grid operators.

Texas Tribune

Texas is ready for the next Hurricane Harvey, Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday after participating in a briefing with President Donald Trump to prepare for the upcoming storm season.

Julia Reihs / KUT

Austin-based ThunderCloud Subs says it's phasing out cups made of polystyrene, commonly referred to as Styrofoam. The announcement comes after the nonprofit Environment Texas petitioned the sandwich chain to make the change.

Hurricanes are moving more slowly over both land and water, and that's bad news for communities in their path.

In the past 70 years, tropical cyclones around the world have slowed down 10 percent, and in some regions of the world, the change has been even more significant, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

That means storms are spending more time hanging out, battering buildings with wind and dropping more rain.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Energy Secretary Rick Perry spoke in Austin today about a new Department of Energy plan to bail out failing coal and nuclear power plants in the name of national security.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Last month was the hottest May ever recorded in the Austin area. If that has you worried about what's in store, you have good reason to be: A vicious circle of self-perpetuating heat descends on Texas in the summer.  

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