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

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."

Folks kayak and paddleboard on Lady Bird Lake
Julia Reihs / KUT

The City of Austin says toxic blue-green algae will likely stay in Lady Bird Lake until the weather cools off this fall. So far, it’s been blamed for the deaths of at least five dogs that swam in the lake, and Austin is not the only place dealing with the dangerous bacteria this summer.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

In Washington, D.C., on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans for a major rollback of rules aimed at reducing methane emissions from oil and gas infrastructure. In Texas, environmentalists and even some in the industry are arguing in favor of keeping the rules.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Toxic bacteria continue to pose a threat in Lady Bird Lake, according to recent city water testing. Austin's Watershed Protection Department says it's still finding toxic blooms of algae at Red Bud Isle, Barton Creek and downstream from Barton Springs Pool – and that it likely won't go away until mid-October.

Are Shared E-Scooters Good For The Planet? Only If They Replace Car Trips

Aug 25, 2019
Scooters
Emree Weaver for KUT

Shared dockless electric scooters, or e-scooters, transport riders over short distances in cities. Ride share companies promote them as an environmentally friendly choice that reduces dependence on cars.

To properly assess these claims, it’s important to consider all relevant environmental factors, including the materials and energy required to manufacture scooters, the impacts of collecting them daily for charging and redistributing, and the electricity that charges their batteries.

Quinlin Talyor, lifeguard
Michael Minasi for KUT

The triple-digit heatwave hitting Austin is becoming one for the record books. On Wednesday, it became the fifth longest ever recorded in the city's history, and more hot days are expected.  

Waller Creek near Sixth Street.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

What do you call the parks and greenspace along Waller Creek from the state Capitol to Lady Bird Lake? The Waller Creek Trail? The Waller Creek Greenbelt? The city and nonprofit that are redeveloping the area have a new idea. Now, they're calling it the “Waterloo Greenway.”

Rooftop air conditioning units
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Update at 5:11 p.m.: ERCOT says operations have returned to normal, but it is still encouraging conservation. 

Our original post follows: 

For the second time in a week, Texas' electric grid-operator has asked folks to conserve energy as it faces record demand during the current heatwave.

Hot cars
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Update at 5:26 p.m.: ERCOT announces the need for conservation has ended.

The original post follows:

Texas' electric grid-operator put out a call for conservation today as it faces record demand amid soaring temperatures.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced Monday that reproducing populations of zebra mussels have been found in Lake Lyndon B. Johnson and Lake Pflugerville – bringing the total number of statewide lakes infested with the invasive species to 17.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Texas is suing Exxon Mobil for alleged environmental violations following a fire that broke out last week at one of the company's Houston-area plants.

A dog jumps into Lady Bird Lake
KUT

Updated on Aug. 7 at 3:58 p.m.: Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano said Wednesday that Red Bud Isle would be closed to the public until further notice.

"The algae is especially prevalent near Red Bud Isle," he said, "with up to 40 percent of the water surface in that area covered."

Harris County and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are suing Exxon Mobil for allegedly violating the Texas Clean Air Act and Texas Water Code, during a fire that broke out at the company’s oil refinery in Baytown on Wednesday.

A wind farm on the Texas Gulf Coast
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

For the first time ever, wind has surpassed coal as an energy source in Texas. 

Data released this month by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas shows wind created 22 percent of the electricity used in the first half of the year, edging out coal by 1 percentage point.

Kyle, Texas
Julia Reihs / KUT

Kinder Morgan has filed a legal complaint against the City of Kyle, arguing a pipeline safety ordinance it adopted last month is illegal. The lawsuit is the latest clash between the company and opponents of the natural gas pipeline it’s planning through Central Texas.

Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

The cleanup of millions of gallons of waste and polluted water is far from over four months after a large fire burned for days at a Houston-area petrochemical storage site.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

A new study reveals more evidence that oil and gas companies are significantly under-reporting how much natural gas they burn off into the air in Texas.

A bird feeder and birdhouse on Hill Country property that the pipeline would go through.
Julia Reihs / KUT

A new front has opened in the legal battle against a 430-mile natural gas pipeline planned through the Texas Hill Country, this time focusing on how the project will impact the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This July is on track to be Earth’s hottest month ever recorded, and that spike in heat is part of a larger warming trend that could change the way governments and researchers measure extreme temperatures.

People across southern Louisiana are spending the weekend worried about flooding. The water is coming from every direction: the Mississippi River is swollen with rain that fell weeks ago farther north, and a storm called Barry is pushing ocean water onshore while it drops more rain from above.

It's a situation driven by climate change, and one that Louisiana has never dealt with, at least in recorded history. And it's raising questions about whether New Orleans and other communities are prepared for such an onslaught.

Flooding in Houston after Harvey
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday urged city leaders and residents to prepare for potential severe weather this weekend.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

You might have noticed the weather’s been cooler this year in Austin, at least relatively speaking. After all, it’s July and Austin hasn’t hit 100 degrees yet.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The City of Austin is expected to consider changes to the land development code and drainage rules by the end of the year, speeding up its timeline to mitigate increased flood risk in the area.  

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

DALLAS – A recent collaboration involving the Texas A&M Forest Service and NASA scientists could help urban planners in Texas more quickly coordinate recovery efforts following a natural disaster.

Julia Reihs / KUT

A Travis County judge has ruled construction on a natural gas pipeline through the Texas Hill Country can proceed. The state district court decision Tuesday marks a major setback for landowners and local governments that sued to stop energy company Kinder Morgan from using eminent domain to build the pipeline.

The control room at ERCOT headquarters
Julia Reihs / KUT

This summer, there's a higher likelihood than ever that Texas might not have enough electricity to go around. If you turn on the AC and nothing happens, you’ll want to know why. It helps to remember legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.

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