Environment

Voters Have Two Very Different Choices For Texas' Next Oil And Gas Regulator

Oct 14, 2020
Republican Jim Wright is competing with Democrat Chrysta Castaneda for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission
Campaign websites

Texas voters have the opportunity to choose the next state oil and gas regulator – and the two candidates in the race would have very different approaches to that role.

Is It Time To Start Naming Heat Waves Like Hurricanes?

Sep 11, 2020
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Temperatures this week fell a bit after a cold front pushed through the state Wednesday and Thursday, offering some relief from stifling summer temperatures. But even though it may feel cooler out, the threat of extreme heat isn't going away.

Note: An audio version of this story aired on NPR's Planet Money. Listen to the episode here.

Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry containers, yogurt cups.

None of this plastic will be turned into new plastic things. All of it is buried.

Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From Texas Standard:

The nonprofit Circle of Blue recently launched its reporting project “Water, Texas,” a series about the challenges Texas faces in managing its most vital natural resource.

The organization’s senior editor and chief correspondent, Keith Schneider, told Texas Standard that his reporting in “Water, Texas,” focused on the tension between Texas' economic and environmental interests.

West Texas landscape
Julia Reihs / KUT

Texas is no stranger to droughts. From the bone-dry stretch of the 1950s, the state’s longest drought, to the fiery months of 2011, the state’s single driest year, droughts have shaped Texas' culture and economy.

But, according to the state climatologist of Texas, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

NASA/Public Domain

From Texas Standard:

Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. When it was first celebrated in 1970, more than 20 million people took to the streets and that action spurred the passage of environmental laws and regulations that are still in effect today. Large gatherings aren't possible this year because of COVID-19, but some groups are finding other ways to celebrate.

Lucio Vasquez/Houston Public Media

From Texas Standard:

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich came to Houston's Fifth Ward last week to raise awareness and demand solutions to the cancer cluster killing people in that neighborhood.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET

The Environmental Protection Agency is dramatically reducing the amount of U.S. waterways that get federal protection under the Clean Water Act — a move that is welcomed by many farmers, builders and mining companies but is opposed even by the agency's own science advisers.

Angel Portillo doesn't think about climate change much. It's not that he doesn't care. He just has other things to worry about. Climate change seems so far away, so big.

Lately though, Portillo says he has been thinking about it more often.

Standing on the banks of a swollen and surging Arkansas River, just upriver from a cluster of flooded businesses and homes, it's easy to see why.

"Stuff like this," he says, nodding at the frothy brown waters, "all of the tornadoes that have been happening — it just doesn't seem like a coincidence, you know?"

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Experts say carbon emissions need to be reduced and even removed from the atmosphere to avoid catastrophic climate change. Could carbon-neutral oil be a part of that? One company setting up shop in the West Texas oilfields says yes.

Up to 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species on Earth are at risk of extinction — many of them within decades — according to scientists and researchers who produced a sweeping U.N. report on how humanity's burgeoning growth is putting the world's biodiversity at perilous risk.

Mose Buchele / KUT

Capital Metro took a step Monday toward electrifying its bus fleet with the announcement of the location of a new bus-charging facility under construction in North Austin.

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.

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.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Texas-based oil giant Exxon Mobil got some good press this week when it announced it was donating $1 million to a campaign to enact a carbon tax in the U.S. But many worry the tax proposal would not slow emissions quickly enough and could harm the environment through its legislative giveaways to the oil and gas industry. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Austin City Council passed a resolution Thursday encouraging local stores to keep honoring the city’s so-called bag ban. It’s the latest response to a state Supreme Court ruling this year that found Texas cities and towns could not enforce regulations of single-use plastic bags.

Julia Reihs / KUT

The Parks and Recreation Recycling Task Force is recommending several different ways to pay for consistent recycling around Austin.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The oil and gas industry is releasing 60 percent more methane than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, according to a study published in latest edition of Science.

That’s bad news when it comes to global warming.

Julia Reihs / KUT

A decision expected soon from the state Supreme Court could hobble Austin's ability to regulate plastic bag litter and contamination.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Lead has been found in the drinking water of five Austin public schools, new data obtained by Environment Texas from the Austin Independent School District shows. It's the second time in the past year the toxic metal has been discovered in AISD schools and facilities.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

If you like going to the park to feed the ducks, you can thank the Migratory Bird Act of 1918.

“Ducks were nearly eliminated at one point," says Steve Holmer, vice president of policy for the American Bird Conservancy. "But through the law and through the effort of conservation, there has been a complete turnaround."

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Student activists around the country are pushing for universities not to invest in industries that contribute to global warming. But at the University of Texas, some environmentalists are taking a different approach, urging UT not to divest, but to adopt more climate-friendly drilling rules.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

When electric scooters flooded into Austin, the companies that rent them touted their environmental benefits: “Riders were able to prevent 445,334 pounds of carbon emissions,” a press release from Bird said. The startup LimeBike estimated its scooters reduced 8,500 pounds of CO2 here in just two weeks.

But those numbers are based on some shaky assumptions.

Mose Buchele / KUT

If you’ve spent your life in the city, maybe you’ve never experienced the smell near a dairy farm, cattle feedlot or a newly fertilized field.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Every year before Christmas, Loop 360 becomes the site of a uniquely Austin holiday tradition: The junipers along the highway are transformed into colorful Christmas trees.

People have strong opinions about the custom. Some say it’s a heartwarming expression of holiday spirit; others consider it a flagrant violation of Texas' anti-littering laws. But one thing no one really knows is how the tradition got started.

Galveston Bay Dolphin Research and Conservation Program

From Texas Standard.

Much debris has been cleared out, but three months after Harvey’s landfall, the ecological damage is still being assessed. Not long after the storm clouds cleared, oyster and shrimp farmers lamented the hit to their livelihoods from extensive rains and runoff.

But researchers at the University of Houston at Clear Lake have been looking at the storm’s effect on other marine life, too – and they’ve discovered that bottlenose dolphins, have developed some puzzling ailments after the storm. Kristi Fazioli, a research associate with the Environmental Institute of Houston at the University of Houston Clear Lake, helps study this population.

Kathleen Harnett White
Screenshot Texas Public Policy Foundation/YouTube

Kathleen Hartnett White is facing scrutiny from U.S. senators today as part of her nomination to lead President Trump’s Council on Environmental Quality. Hartnett White was Texas' top regulator for six years. Her nomination to the White House post has proved controversial, even in an administration that is no stranger to controversy.

Copyright TopFoto/The Image Works

The Great Smog was a pollution calamity that killed 12,000 people in London over five days in December 1952. At the same time, serial killer John Reginald Christie was preying on vulnerable women in the city and killed at least six.

Mose Buchele / KUT

The debate over rewriting Austin’s land use code has inflamed passions. People argue over how the plan, called CodeNEXT, will affect affordability, quality of life – the very character of Austin. Now, the proposal is exposing a division in Central Texas' tight-knit environmental community.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin constructing the first segment of President Trump’s border wall in November through a national wildlife refuge, using money it’s already received from Congress.

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