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

A plume of smoke from the ITC facility fire in Deer Park, Texas after reigniting on Friday, March 22, 2019.
Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

An emergency dike has been repaired and a fire-damaged petrochemical tank stabilized during cleanup of leaking oil products that closed part of the Houston Ship Channel, the operator of the complex said Sunday.

Jaimie Meldrum/Handout via Reuters

Late Friday, the state of Texas sued Intercontinental Terminals — the Houston-based company whose petrochemical storage facility in the suburb of Deer Park caught fire last weekend and burned for days, sending a dramatic plume of black smoke over the nation’s fourth-largest city.

Residents Fret About Chemical Plant Fire, Despite Assurances

Mar 22, 2019
The Deer Park Fire Department at the Intercontinental Terminals Company facility fire in Deer Park, Texas on Tuesday.
Deer Park Fire Department

Kristin Crump and her two kids put damp cloths over their mouths on Thursday for the short walk from their suburban Houston front door to their car, defying an order to remain inside because of dangerous fumes coming from burned-out petrochemical tanks a couple of miles away.

Benzene Warning Lifted Near Houston-Area Petrochemical Plant

Mar 21, 2019
A plume of smoke above Intercontinental Terminal Company's Deer Park, Texas facility on Tuesday.
Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

Residents near a petrochemical storage terminal in the Houston suburb of Deer Park were warned to shelter in place for several hours on Thursday after elevated levels of benzene were detected in the air. The warning was lifted around noon after air-quality readings improved, but health officials said air monitoring will continue as firefighters and company officials work to stop any risk of a flare-up and to clean up the site.

Mose Buchele / KUT

The annual return of the monarch butterfly is underway. They started showing up in Austin about a week ago, according to the crowdsourced online tracker at Journey North.

And, if you catch a glimpse of their orange and black wings over the next few months, you could be witnessing part of the biggest migration of monarchs in recent memory. 

Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

Authorities say a plume of pitch-black smoke from a fire at a Houston-area petrochemicals terminal is traveling thousands of feet into the atmosphere and lessening concerns about air quality in the region.

Fire At Petrochemical Facility Outside Houston Isn't Dangerous, Company And Texas Officials Say

Mar 18, 2019
Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

Chemicals detected from a fire at a Deep Park petrochemical storage facility do not represent a public health concern, according to the company that owns the facility.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Several areas of Bastrop County are under a boil-water notice while officials work to fix a water-main break.

The break, which occurred at the Aqua Water Supply Corp. on Thursday afternoon, has caused low pressure in the water system. Officials said the loss of pressure can allow microbes into the water.

Jacob Wasilkowski/Petrichor Studio

It brings new meaning to “Texas Hill Country.”

This map called Earth at Night, Mountains of Light was developed by cartographer Jacob Wasilkowski using NASA satellite imagery to map the world according to nighttime brightness.

Emmanuelle Bourgue / Flickr

An iconic spring-fed swimming pool in West Texas that closed last year for repairs has reopened following $2 million in upgrades.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Central Texas residents were confronted this week with two conflicting forecasts for the upcoming wildflower season. But the reports did agree on one thing: Flowers are coming early again.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A couple years ago, Texas had a problem with abandoned oil and gas wells.

It still does.

That was the takeaway Wednesday from a hearing at the state Senate, where lawmakers learned the agency responsible for plugging wells can't seal them as quickly as they're being abandoned.  

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.

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