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

Andrew Harnik / AP

The U.S. will withdraw from the international climate agreement known as the Paris accord, President Trump announced Thursday. He said the U.S. will negotiate either re-entering the agreement or a work on a new deal that would put American workers first.

During his campaign, Trump vowed to "cancel" U.S. participation in the deal. World leaders and business figures had recently urged him to reconsider. Ultimately, the president decided to withdraw.

Courtesy of Christine Hawkes

Christine Hawkes says her work isn’t all that glamorous.

“Sometimes when people ask me what my job is, I say 'digging holes,'” she says. "You know? It’s a lot of what I do is just digging up soil.”

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

Ask Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter what caught his attention in a recent release of census data for Texas cities, and he’ll tell you: Houston, in Harris County.

“In the past three or four years, prior to the [2015-16] set of estimates, Harris County was the most significant growing county in the country numerically,” he says.

The City of Austin was selected to receive two grants totaling $300,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up brownfields, unused land that may be contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Building a better battery is the holy grail for people who want better technology. Now researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, say they may have found that battery — or something close. But their claims have sparked controversy.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

It’s still a long time before the congressional midterm elections in November 2018. But a lot of candidates are already showing interest in running. And many of them are embracing an environmental message that, traditionally, has been kept on the sidelines.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Texas leads the country in wind energy production and, because of the way the state’s electric grid is set up, most of that power stays right here. But a plan that would allow the state to make money exporting wind and solar power is moving slowly. 

Qiling Wang for KUT

Judging from how hot it has been, this year could end up being Austin’s hottest ever. Heat impacts health, happiness and the environment. So the city is trying a simple approach to reducing it: planting trees.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Depending on what thermometer you’re looking at, this year’s average temperature has been between 5 and 7 degrees hotter than usual so far in Austin. That could set 2017 up to be one of Austin’s hottest years ever.  People who research climate change already know a lot about how warmer temperatures disrupt human activity. But hot days may have an impact on our mental health that we’re only just starting to understand.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Since Scott Pruitt has taken the reigns of the Environmental Protection Agency, the agency has rolled back regulations, scrubbed information on global warming from its website and dismissed members of a key science advisory board. But that isn’t enough for some climate change skeptics and fossil fuel advocates, who would like to see the EPA rescind its entire rationale for battling global warming.

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

More people in Texas drink from water systems that are in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act than any other state in the country,  according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The City of Austin has unveiled a new blueprint for its zoning overhaul, known as CodeNEXT – a plan aims to manage growth and transportation challenges by rewriting Austin's land-use code.

But critics say, for a city that prides itself on its environmentalism, Austin has failed to take into account one important thing in CodeNEXT: the future impact of climate change.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

The population boom in Central Texas has brought a lot of challenges to the region – some expected, some less so. One question you may not have considered is what happens to all the extra sewage water produced by the growing population. Now, a bill at the state Capitol hopes to answer that very question.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin is among a handful of U.S. cities that could see a rush of newcomers in the next century as rising sea levels force people out of coastal areas, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The only peregrine falcon that lives year-round in Central Texas makes her home in a wooden box on the UT Tower. More than a month ago, the bird laid a clutch of eggs. But, as the weeks passed, it became unlikely that the eggs would hatch. So, the university agreed to remove the eggs for research. 

Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

In 2016, Texas was one of the fastest growing states in the country, adding almost a half-million people in a year’s time. With growth like that, securing future water supplies will become critical, so Sen. Ted Cruz filed a bill to loosen regulations around importing water from other states. The idea is to make it easier for Texas to buy water from its neighbors. But some worry it could lead to environmental destruction.

Courtesy of Chris DuCharme

If you walk by the UT Tower and you look up above the belfry, near the very top, you can just make out a small wooden box. In that box lives a lonely bird that might be the only peregrine falcon that’s a permanent resident in the area – but some hope she won’t stay lonely forever. 

Louis Vest via Texas Tribune

Since Republicans took full control of Washington, Central Texas Congressman Lamar Smith has become a leading voice in setting the party's agenda when it comes to science and environmental regulation. But some worry that agenda could have a chilling effect on research and policy. 

Mose Buchele / KUT

The bats that live under Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge are back from their winter home in Mexico. But this year, Texas is a little more dangerous for bats. That’s because an invasive fungus that decimates bat populations is now officially in the state.

David Bowser for Texas Tribune

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the federal government over the way it regulates nuclear waste storage.

Eddie Seal / Texas Tribune

The risk of damaging manmade earthquakes striking the Dallas-Fort Worth area is substantially lower than it was last year, according to a new earthquake hazard map released this week by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

In much of Texas the sun is out, flowers are in bloom and you might be getting that springtime feeling. However, it’s still mid-February and it’s not your imagination: This has been another very warm winter.  

flickr.com/wallyg

Republicans in Washington are planning to make good on promises to roll back federal regulations on everything from mining pollution to consumer protections for credit card holders.

To do it, they are using an obscure legislative tactic that’s been successful only once in history – a tactic has some legal scholars worried.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Intent on rolling back Obama-era regulations, Republican lawmakers in Washington have placed an EPA rule enacted in the wake of the fertilizer explosion plant in West, Texas, on the chopping block.

Brad.K/Flickr

A few months ago, Austin launched a new recycling program. A company called Simple Recycling agreed to pick up people’s unwanted clothing and textiles right from their homes. It began distributing big green bags for residents to fill and put at their curbs, just like trash or recycling.

Courtesy of Subhi Khudairi

When Donald Trump was running for president he vowed to boost the U.S. oil and gas industry, much of it found right here in Texas. Now that he’s in office, some of his policies seem aimed at doing just that. But others are having the opposite effect.

Marufish/Flickr

Imagine a house. Now imagine the roof. What do you see? Some shingles. Maybe a chimney? But really there’s so much more.

District 7 City Council Member Leslie Pool has sponsored a resolution to make more Austin homes solar-ready. Part of that means leaving roof space on new construction without the pipes and vents that prevent solar panels from being installed.

Ilana Panich-Linsman for KUT

This week has been a dizzying one for people working to understand and combat global warming.

Tweets on climate change from the account of the Badlands National Park were deleted. Plans to scrub climate information from Environmental Protection Agency websites were walked back by the Trump administration. Then, news broke that the budget for the EPA may be cut by $1 billion dollars.

By Fletcher6 via Wikimedia Commons

Former Gov. Rick Perry faces a confirmation vote in the Senate on Tuesday for his nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Energy. Among all the questions Perry’s appointment has raised, one that’s gotten little scrutiny is what it might mean for natural gas prices.

Ben Philpott / KUT

Today, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry goes before the U.S. Senate for his confirmation hearing in the hopes of becoming the next secretary of the Department of Energy. 

Of course, Perry famously derailed his presidential bid in 2011 by forgetting the department’s name even as he vowed to abolish it in a GOP primary debate. But, while the former governor may have been – and, according to a New York Times report, may still be – fuzzy on the agency's purview, he is certainly not the only one.

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