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

Salvador Castro for KUT

Kinder Morgan is hosting an open house in Hays County tonight about its Permian Highway Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline the company plans to run through Central Texas.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The zebra mussel stench plaguing residents' faucets should be gone in the next couple of days, the Austin Water Department said Monday.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas’ oil and gas industry is seeing a boom — thanks in large part to the relatively new oil-drilling method called fracking. Late last year, Texas oil helped push the country to become the largest producer of crude in the world. Around the same time, however, the boom came to an end for one town in the Hill Country.

A man carries a sign in protest of the planned pipeline at the Wimberley Community Center Tuesday night. His sign says, sign says, "Our Founding Fathers saw England's rule as unjust. I see Kinder Morgan's rule over my community as unjust."
Salvador Castro for KUT

A public meeting Tuesday on a planned natural gas pipeline in Central Texas often felt more like a protest, as Hays County residents shared concerns about the project and speakers vowed to fight it.

Julia Reihs / KUT

A fight over a pipeline is never only about the pipeline. It’s about the environment, property rights, public safety and a community’s sense of itself. Just such a fight is now brewing in the Texas Hill Country, where company Kinder Morgan plans to lay a part of its 430-mile natural gas Permian Highway Pipeline.

Robin Zielinski for the Center for Public Integrity

Companies drilling for fossil fuels in West Texas' Permian Basin are flaring off significantly more gas than they say they are, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

If the oil and gas boom continues as projected, the planet could experience "catastrophic climate change" by 2050, according to an analysis released yesterday.

The report from Oil Change International, a coalition of environmental groups, says continued growth in fossil fuel extraction – much of which occurs in Texas – could derail any hope of avoiding dire effects of climate change.

Tom Devitt

A team of biologists announced this week they’d found three new species of rare salamanders in Central Texas. The discovery of any new species is big news for science, but in Texas – where the fate of salamanders and people are often linked – it could also set up a new fight over endangered species protections.  

Sangita Menon / KUT

Austin has been selected as one of 25 cities to receive up to $2.5 million in funding and support as part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge. The contest was established to support mayors and cities working to fight climate change, specifically in the buildings and transportation sectors.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Texas is not a state known for strong environmental protections. The fact is, many green groups head into legislative sessions more concerned about stopping bills that might do harm than supporting bills that might help.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

AUSTIN — A commission convened by Gov. Greg Abbott to focus on rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey issued a report Thursday saying the state should take a series of steps to prepare for the next big storm, including hardening utilities against natural disasters, improving the debris removal processes and expanding a council devoted to emergency management.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Wastewater from Dripping Springs could flow into Austin's watershed by as soon as next year.

After years of back-and-forth, city officials say they expect the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to approve a permit from Dripping Springs to discharge wastewater into Onion Creek next month, paving the way for the City of Dripping Springs to begin diverting runoff after the new year.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Friday, while millions of Americans recovered at home from Turkey-induced torpors, the Trump administration released a report on climate change that forecasts a grim future for Texas. 

Austin firefighters in California
Lt. John Stirling / Austin Fire Department

A week after firefighters from across Texas were deployed to fight devastating wildfires in California, Austin Fire Department crews learned Monday they should be home in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration came out with an analysis this fall that found Austin and other parts of the state should expect more flooding in the future. And, as it turns out, Texas may see even more flooding than the Atlas 14 study suggests.

National Weather Service

A freeze warning will be in effect tonight for much of Central and South Texas — including Travis and surrounding counties. The warning begins at 8 p.m. and goes until 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Temperatures are expected to drop well below freezing by tomorrow morning. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport could set a new record low.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The City of Austin has lifted emergency water-use restrictions enacted last month, as the city dealt with problems with water treatment following record flooding in the Highland Lakes.

Austin Water says customers can now resume outdoor watering that was banned under the emergency restrictions. Austin remains at so-called conservation stage restrictions.

National Weather Service

A freeze warning is in effect for much of Central Texas starting at 8 p.m. Monday until 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The National Weather Service says temperatures will drop below freezing starting in the Hill Country this evening and spreading east to the I-35 corridor through the night.

Los Angeles Fire Department

Hundreds of Texas firefighters will start heading to California on Monday morning to help battle wildfires burning in Southern California. 

Montinique Monroe for KUT

Take a look around the next time you’re outside and you might see wings of orange and black fluttering in the sky.

Emree Weaver/KUT

Austin Water officials have lifted a boil-water notice for all its customers that’s been in place since Monday. They say the water is now safe to drink straight from the tap.

Emree Weaver for KUT

As problems with Austin’s water supply continue, the recommendation is to boil tap water for three minutes before consuming it. Most other uses are fine. But there are plenty of people out there who can’t feasibly boil all the water they — or their families — need.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Austin Water issued a boil-water notice and asked residents to reduce water consumption Monday after historic flooding overwhelmed its water treatment plants.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

An overnight spike in silt in Austin's tap water triggered an official boil-water notice from state regulators.

The water briefly exceeded the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s regulatory standards for drinking water quality, surpassing a limit of 5 turbidity units. The city's earlier boil-water notice was only precautionary.

Julia Reihs / KUT

A boil water notice remains in effect for Austin Water customers, and the city of Austin is pleading for people to slash their water consumption by 15 to 20 percent. Outdoor water use is being banned as part of what officials describe as an emergency situation. 

Travis County’s emergency management chief said the situation could last up to two weeks.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Austin Water officials are issuing an "urgent call" for people to reduce water usage immediately, as the utility struggles with debris, silt and mud in the water supply after historic flooding in the Highland Lakes. Lake Travis is the source of Austin's drinking water.

"Austin Water is experiencing reduced water treatment capacity," the utility said in an email. "It is taking more time to remove the higher levels of silt and debris."

The level of cloudiness in the lake water has increased by more than 100 times, according to Austin Water.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Update: The LCRA now says it will not open eight floodgates on Thursday, Oct. 18, but may in the coming days. 

It’s never happened before, but the Lower Colorado River Authority will likely open eight floodgates on the Mansfield Dam above Lake Austin by noon Thursday.

So, what can you expect if you live in Austin?

Andrea Garcia for KUT

Jonathan Hammond has lived in Marble Falls all 30 years of his life. Until yesterday, he'd never seen flooding so bad.

"This is just crazy absolutely crazy," Hammond said, standing on the Highway 281 bridge watching floodwaters rushed by.

Twitter via @TravisCOSW

The Lower Colorado River Authority is advising residents along Lake Travis to be wary of rising water as levels at Lake Travis are forecast to reach near-record highs.

A flood camera helps monitor conditions along the Colorado River in River Hills.
Eddie Gaspar for KUT

After a new study showed thousands of additional homes were at risk of flooding in Austin, the city is preparing to revamp rules on building within a floodplain.

The study, known as Atlas 14, revised the city's understanding of historical rainfall data, adding 3,000 properties to the city's 100-year floodplain – which impacts everything from what people pay for insurance to how they can build homes.

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