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

Solar panels
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The City of Georgetown earned international attention a few years ago by becoming the largest city in the U.S. to run completely on renewable power. Now, the city has chosen a subsidiary of Shell Oil to take over management of its energy holdings.

U.S. Geological Survey

Earthquake activity has skyrocketed in Texas over the last dozen years because of increased oil and gas activity. But those manmade quakes are not included in a long-term earthquake hazard map released Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

When the Trump administration announced plans to roll back Obama-era rules limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations, even some in industry cried foul. Many saw the regulations as a modest attempt to curb Earth-heating emissions.

A fire burns at a chemical plant in Port Neches
Kim Brent / Beaumont Enterprise

Officials in Jefferson County are telling the city's residents to evacuate amid air quality concerns a week after two explosions and a fire at a chemical plant in Port Neches.

The beach in Port Aransas
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Plans for a crude oil export terminal in Port Aransas have provoked strong opposition from environmentalists and local groups worried about what the project could mean for the Gulf Coast and the popular tourist community.

A fire burns at a chemical plant in Port Neches early Wednesday.
Kim Brent / Beaumont Enterprise

Officials lifted evacuation orders Friday for around 50,000 people on the Texas Gulf Coast, determining a massive fire was finally under control at a chemical plant rocked by two major explosions two days earlier.

Bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue bridge.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that has decimated bat populations, is spreading in Texas. Scientists are trying everything from vaccines to UV lights to control the disease. Now, they’re asking the public for help.

A fire burns at a chemical plant in Port Neches early Wednesday.
Kim Brent / Beaumont Enterprise

The Port Neches chemical plant where two explosions and an ongoing fire prompted widespread mandatory evacuations Wednesday has a years-long history of state and federal environmental violations.

A fire burns at a chemical plant in Port Neches early Wednesday.
Kim Brent / Beaumont Enterprise

Officials say they have no estimate for how much time is needed to bring under control a Texas chemical plant fire ignited by a series of explosions.

A feral hog
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Feral hogs attacked and killed a woman outside a Texas home about 40 miles east of Houston, authorities said Monday.

People sit in a banquet hall during a condemnation hearing.
Mose Buchele / KUT

Kay Pence owns a ranch in the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg. About a year ago, she got a call from the pipeline company Kinder Morgan. The caller told her the company planned to run a section of its 430-mile Permian Highway natural gas pipeline through her property. Pence didn’t like that.

A Rio Grande cooter, type of turtle
National Park Service

An environmental advocacy group is launching a broad lawsuit in an effort to secure federal protections for 274 plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act.

A fertilizer plant in West, Texas
Filipa Rodrigues / KUT

Days before President Barack Obama left office in 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule aimed at preventing tragedies like the 2013 explosion and fire in the tiny Central Texas town of West that killed a dozen first responders.

Nathan Bernier / KUT

Many Central Texas school districts have announced delayed openings this morning, as temperatures dip below freezing and ice has been reported on some roadways in the Austin area.

A house is flooded in Houston after Hurricane Harvey.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

About 2% of U.S. homes are at risk of being flooded by the end of the century, thanks to rising sea levels. And the reason for rising sea levels, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is climate change. But flood risk is not translating into lower property values in some areas along the coast.

Salvador Castro for KUT News

The city of Austin is signaling it intends to sue Kinder Morgan, the company behind the proposed Permian Highway Pipeline — a 430-mile natural gas line that has provoked major opposition in the Texas Hill Country. In filing its Notice of Intent to sue, Austin joins opposition already being mounted by San Marcos, Kyle, the Barton Springs Aquifer Conservation District and a property-owner group called the TREAD Coalition

Julia Reihs/KUT

Low levels of toxic blue-green algae are still present in Lady Bird Lake. According to the Watershed Protection Department, which takes samples from the lake biweekly, there needs to be consistently cool temperatures and increased water flow before any major changes happen. 

Cars drive down East Seventh Street as the sun sets.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Austin is among 30 cities worldwide where emissions have peaked, according to a new analysis from a coalition of cities dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The dunes sagebrush lizard
Center for Biological Diversity

Environmental groups are suing the Trump administration to secure federal protections for a reptile that makes its home among the shinnery oak sand dunes in West Texas and Southeast New Mexico.

A piece of an old pipeline that ran through the Hill Country in the early 1900s.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Charles Chaney Jr. has Utopia on his mind. The Texas City resident is a month away from retirement, and Utopia is the name of the scenic Hill Country town where his family has lived for generations. He had planned to build a house on land he owns there near his brother and sister.

Now, he’s not so sure.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Mention the year 2011 to any Austinite who lived here then, and expect to get an earful. It was the hottest year recorded in Austin's history – so hot and so dry that living through it has become a kind of shared trauma for many.

How Did Lake Travis' Sometimes Islands Get Their Name?

Sep 26, 2019
The Sometimes Islands in Lake Travis
Reshma Kirpalani / KUT

Every summer, more than 200,000 people visit Lake Travis to boat, swim and get some sun. But longtime Austin resident Robert Baumgardner is more interested in the geography of the lake than recreation. Specifically, he's interested in the Sometimes Islands.

LASA teacher David Walker looks out over the North Slope in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Karl Romanowicz

The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth. Twice as fast.

That’s not easy to grasp when you’re thousands of miles away. But over the summer, one Austin high school teacher went to see it firsthand.

A man with his dog sitting at the intersection of Airport and I-35.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

There was a time when it seemed like summer could have gone differently: A wet spring and relatively mild June had us thinking maybe this year wouldn’t be so bad.

Boy, that didn’t last long. 

Parkside students Levi King, Savvy Horne-Lalande and Gabriel Guerrero hold signs demanding action on climate change.
Julia Reihs / KUT

Austin students rallied at the state Capitol today to raise awareness of the climate crisis as part of an international youth climate strike. Organizers said they expect millions of people to take part in rallies around the world, ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in December.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Almost 60 horses have been released from a two-week quarantine in Bastrop County after an outbreak of vesicular stomatitis virus, or VSV, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission.

Judge Blocks Plan To Drain Four Central Texas Lakes

Sep 12, 2019
The dam at Lake McQueeny, near Seguin, is one of four remaining in the Guadalupe River Valley in Central Texas that are at risk of failure.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / Texas Tribune

A judge has temporarily blocked a water agency's plans to drain four lakes along the Guadalupe River where officials say there's a threat to public safety because of aging dams that could fail.

Judge Stephen Ables issued his order Wednesday as a court battle proceeds between the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and property owners with homes along the lakes east of San Antonio.

Harris County Fire Marshal's Office via AP

Nearly two-thirds of the plastics-producing plants in the Houston area have violated air pollution limits over the past five years, according to an analysis of public records from the Austin- and Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project.

A flooded home in Houston
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

If you’re looking to buy a house in Texas, the homeowner is now required to tell you if it has ever flooded. Likewise, if you own a home that’s flooded, be prepared to disclose that under expanded state regulations that took effect this month.

A community meeting on the Kinder Morgan pipeline
Salvador Castro for KUT

A law went into effect in Texas this week that increases penalties for demonstrators who interfere with oil and gas pipelines and other pieces of "critical infrastructure."

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