Texas is facing an invasion of feral hogs. Can an app help?
The SXSW Interactive conference, also known as the week that launches a thousand apps, begins today. Start-ups will be pitching their app as The One to Out-Social Them All, whether it’s an app that helps you avoid humans, or, in case you’ve encountered too many humans, an app that can help you get tested for STDs.
But an app with a special impact for Texans outside the throng of techies is being promoted today, too. It’s to help farmers, ranchers and landowners better deal with the epidemic of invasive feral hogs.
“Epidemic” isn’t overstating it. According to research by Texas A&M Agrilife, there are at least an estimated 2,6 million feral hogs in the Lone Star State, doing $52 million of damage every year. The hogs cause car accidents, destroy crops and land, and threaten waterways. And, like the many people moving here, they love Texas: almost 80 percent of the state is a suitable habitat for the hogs, according to Agrilife.
How did get rid of them? That’s where the 99-cent Texas A&M Feral Hog Management app comes in. It will give you a recipe for feral hog bait, or show you how to build a snare. Or if you really want to make the most out of your hog-killing experience, there’s even a section on “pork-chopping,” the expensive (and arguably ineffective) practice of hunting feral hogs by helicopter. Continue Reading →
Update: TxDOT told the Houston Chronicle Thursday that they’re redesigned the road they’re building in Snook to avoid cutting down the Live Oaks that are hundreds of years old. The 103-year old Live Oak in Austin known as the “Taco Bell Tree” is still days away from a deadline to be moved, however. The Austin Heritage Tree Foundation is raising money to move the tree, but still needs thousands of dollars. “We have high expectations and hopes we’ll meet that goal,” Michael Fossum with the foundation says.
Original story: More than a thousand people a day are moving to Texas, and they have needs: Homes. Water. And roads. It’s that last bit where a unique part of Texas history and beauty is under threat from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
“Four of 10 trees on land owned by Regina McCurdy’s family for almost 150 years – oak trees estimated to be 200 to 300 years old and rare for this flat patch of Texas – are about to be cut down because transportation officials say they need to build a bypass around Snook, population 511 as of the 2010 census. The town is a few miles southwest of College Station.”
A similar battle is taking place in Austin, where a 130-year old Heritage Live Oak, known to locals as the “Taco Bell Tree,” is weeks away from potentially being cut down by TxDOT to expand an intersection. The Austin Heritage Tree Foundation has until March 17 to begin moving the tree, but needs to raise thousands more dollars first. Continue Reading →
For years, environmentalists and the gas drilling industry have been in a pitched battle over the possible health implications of hydro fracking. But to a great extent, the debate — as well as the emerging lawsuits and the various proposed regulations in numerous states — has been hampered by a shortage of science.
In 2011, when ProPublica first reported on the different health problems afflicting people living near gas drilling operations, only a handful of health studies had been published. Three years later, the science is far from settled, but there is a growing body of research to consider.
Below, ProPublica offers a survey of some of that work. The studies included are by no means a comprehensive review of the scientific literature. There are several others that characterize the chemicals in fracking fluids, air emissions and waste discharges. Some present results of community level surveys.
Yet, a long-term systematic study of the adverse effects of gas drilling on communities has yet to be undertaken. Researchers have pointed to the scarcity of funding available for large-scale studies as a major obstacle in tackling the issue.
A review of health-related studies published last month in Environmental Science & Technology concluded that the current scientific literature puts forward “both substantial concerns and major uncertainties to address.” Continue Reading →
Pump jack in Pierce Junction oilfield south of downtown Houston
A four-way primary race has narrowed to two. Former State Representative Wayne Christian will face off against Ryan Sitton to become the Republican nominee for an open seat on the Railroad Commission of Texas, the agency that regulates Texas oil and gas industry.
Christian and Sitton, an engineer who owns a consulting firm that works with oil and gas companies, have mostly campaigned on red-meat issues like criticizing the Obama administration and touting their conservative credentials, rather than rather than highlighting their positions on oil and gas regulation.
In the Democratic primary, Steve Brown, a former legislative aide, defeated Dale Henry, and will advance to the general election ballot for November. Brown is the only major party candidate so far to suggest that the Railroad Commission should do more to limit the recent surge in earthquakes in Texas linked to oil and gas disposal wells.
On the Democratic side, poll watchers were surprised to see Jim Hogan, a cattle rancher from Cleburne who raised zero dollars for the race and spent few more, in the lead with 39 percent (with 84 percent of precincts reporting). That’s despite having little to no profile in the race. (Many of the state’s Democratic heavyweights endorsed Hugh Fitzsimmons, who is placing a distant third.)
Hogan will likely face Richard “Kinky” Friedman, who’s running on a platform of hemp and pot legalization, and who state Democrats had actively tried to stop from winning. Friedman wasn’t far behind Hogan, getting 38 percent of the vote (with 84 percent of precincts reporting). We talked to Friedman about his plans to turn Texas “green” in February:
The Texas Ag Commissioner's role is about much more than just farming.
When Texans – mostly farmers and ranchers – sat down to write the state constitution in the 1800s, they didn’t see the need for an elected Agriculture Commissioner.
That oversight was quickly remedied.
Texas agriculture, crops and cattle are known across the country and around the world. Its “Go Texan” campaign can be seen in grocery stores and TV ads across the state: Why buy vegetables from California, when you can pick from that (noticeably labeled) batch from Texas?
But the office does more than sell the product. It also helps farmers and ranchers successfully grow it.
Controllers make daily forecasts of the next day’s electric demand and supply down to every five minutes.
Texans have lived for years with a looming energy crisis. Experts always saw it on the horizon and warned, periodically, of its arrival. The state was growing, they observed, and the electricity supply was not keeping up. When the reckoning came, it would come in the form of rolling blackouts. Such predictions often yielded reporting like this (by yours truly).
“Our view is that the growth in peak hour demand on hot summer afternoons will not be as strong as we had forecasted in the past,” Warren Lasher, ERCOT director of System Planning, told reporters on a Friday press call.
What changed is not the just amount of energy available (that’s growing, but slowly), it’s the fact that Texans’ electricity use has stopped rising with Texas’ economic growth. What’s behind it? Continue Reading →
Tomorrow is primary day in Texas, and in the race for the open seat on the Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, you might be curious to know where exactly the candidates stand on the issues. Those issues include swarms of earthquakes linked to oil and gas drilling activity; property rights battles with pipeline companies; and potential ethics reforms for the commissioners.
In a series of articles last week, we rounded up the candidates positions on these and other issues. Six of the candidates for Railroad Commissioner responded to our questionnaire, but three of the candidates, Republicans Malachi Boyuls, Wayne Christian and Ryan Sitton did not respond.
Each question below links to the candidates’ answers:
Turbulence is a menace to more than just airplane passengers. As wind power grows in Texas and beyond, its impact on wind turbines is becoming a challenge for energy generation.
In a recent study released by the University of Texas at San Antonio, mechanical engineering professor Kiran Bhaganagar found that placing turbines too closely together in a wind farm causes a wake effect that reduces productivity. In some cases it turbines can lose up to 90 percent of the power they are capable of producing.
Turbulence, a term that gained its reputation by shaking up airplane rides, is known in the science world as a bumpy effect caused by air with conflicting velocities.
On any given wind farm, Bhaganagar says, turbulent wind gains momentum and has an increasingly negative impact as it moves down the line of turbines.
A Cabot Oil and Gas natural gas drill is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site on January 17, 2012 in Springville, Pennsylvania.
If you know what the water in your wells was like before drilling started on your land, you have a better understanding of whether drilling has changed the water. That’s the basic idea behind “baseline testing” of groundwater before drilling starts.
That’s also one reason why some states, like Wyoming, have enacted rules based on recommendations by the American Petroleum Institute to require baseline testing of water quality and nearby water wells before drilling operations begin at well sites.
Texas has no such requirements.
As part of our candidates questionnaire we asked all of the people running for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission – the agency that regulates the Texas oil and gas industry – whether they think Texas should enact such requirements. Six of the nine candidates responses are below, all of the candidates that responded are in favor of baseline testing. Republican candidates Malachi Boyuls, Wayne Christian and Ryan Sitton did not respond.