Last week, when the package of water conservation bills became law, 95 percent of the state was experiencing drought conditions. The water legislation signed on Friday will require water utilities to conduct annual water loss audits and notify customers of the results, and will also require the utilities to use part of their state assistance to repair leaks.
Leaking water mains can be a significant drain on Texas water resources, according to Luke Metzger, the director of Environment Texas. On average, Metzger said, over two percent of the water in municipal utility systems leaks out of broken mains, but the losses can be higher. In the summer of 2011, the city of Houston lost as much as 25 percent of its water to leaks. In a 2011 report, Environment Texas estimated that over 20 billion gallons of water could be saved annually by fixing municipal water leaks. Continue Reading →
Heather Otten, the Chief Development Officer for Baryonyx Corporation, manages the day to day operations of one such company. As StateImpact Texas previously reported, Baryonyx is part of a group called the GoWind Project, whose plan is to bring offshore wind farms to the Texas coast by 2016.
The GoWind Project is competing with seven other offshore wind operations for money from the Department of Energy, which will choose three of the projects for full funding next Spring.
Otten recently spoke to StateImpact Texas about the progress of the GoWind Project, offshore wind’s main challenges, and dinosaurs.
Q: Why don’t we have wind turbines in the Gulf of Mexico yet?
A: I think the simple answer to that is economics. Offshore wind projects are more expensive than onshore. There’s no limit in Texas really for onshore wind, and then we have, as you know, the natural gas, the fracking and everything, so with natural gas prices so low, power prices are low. So it really is purely economics. Continue Reading →
On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a major case pitting the water needs of North Texas against its northern neighbor. At issue was Texas’ ability to access water from the Red River in Oklahoma.
The Tarrant Regional Water District serves 11 counties in fast-growing North Texas, including the city of Fort Worth. It argued that the state is due that water under an interstate water sharing agreement. Because it was not flowing downstream, Texas had the right to go upstream, into Oklahoma, to get it.
Oklahoma passed laws banning that from happening. So, six years ago, the water district sued. It said the ban violated a water compact agreed to by the states.
This week the Supreme Court sided with Oklahoma, saying that state’s laws trump the interstate compact. Sarah Tran is a law professor at Southern Methodist University who calls the ruling a win for advocates of state sovereignty. She says Texas will have to go “back to the drawing board” to get access to the water.
So what does this mean for the future of water in North Texas?
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday issued a unanimous ruling for Oklahoma over a North Texas water district in a case over delivery of water from the Red River.
The case, Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, Rudolf J. et al, pitted fast-growing North Texas against the state of Oklahoma. The Tarrant Regional Water District, which serves Fort Worth and other North Texas communities, wanted to buy water from Oklahoma reservoirs, but Oklahoma passed laws that effectively meant it wouldn’t sell.
The Tarrant district sued six years ago and has spent $6 million on the lawsuit, according to water district spokesman Chad Lorance. On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Continue Reading →
Oil and gas companies and businessmen are big contributors to campaigns and lobbying in Texas.
Oil and gas and energy special interest groups outspent others by a large margin during the regular session of the Texas legislature this year. 19 cents of every dollar spent on lobbying belonged to the energy and natural resources industry, according to a new report by Texans for Public Justice, a state watchdog group. And oil and gas and energy companies and businessmen were big contributors to campaigns in the state last year, according to a separate report from the group.
Together, the two reports claim to show a “list of who sits in the owner’s box at the Texas Capitol,” says Andrew Wheat, research director at Texans for Public Justice. “These are the people who get their calls returned first.” The top lobby clients list is a who’s-who of oil and gas and power companies (and their interest groups) in the state. In a way that makes perfect sense, as much of the state’s economy is riding high from a fracking boom.
With such large amounts of money spent on elections and lobbying, did the interest groups get their money’s worth this session? Continue Reading →
A fledgling mockingbird seeks refuge in a tomato plant in Austin, Texas.
It’s a story familiar to pet owners.
About a week ago, I was watering our small raised garden when I noticed two baby mockingbirds hanging out in the tomato plants. There was a grown bird nearby, watching its offspring and chattering angrily at me. I didn’t think much of it until later, when I heard my wife scolding our dogs in the front yard. Eddie and Bobo, our fawn pugs, had found one of the baby birds and decided it was play time.
The aftermath of the explosion in the small town of West, Texas. FEMA has denied the state's request for funds to rebuild a school and repair roads.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will not provide relief funds requested by Texas to help rebuild the town of West, which was badly damaged (and in some parts, destroyed) by a fertilizer plant explosion in April. As the Associated Press first reported today, Texas’ request for FEMA money to help rebuild roads, a school and a damaged sewer system was denied by the federal agency. In a letter from FEMA to Texas Governor Rick Perry, the agency’s administrator writes that “the impact from this event is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.” You can read the letter in full below.
FEMA has provided aid to individual residents and households, but a major disaster declaration and public would provide money needed to rebuild parts of the city. The agency will also not provide unemployment assistance, crisis counseling, legal services and other aid. Continue Reading →
Electric cars can be three times cheaper to fill up than traditional gas-powered vehicles.
The next time you’re pumping gas on a hot, sticky summer day, watching the numbers tick upward as you fill the tank with fuel that can sometimes run $4 per gallon, you may be surprised to learn that the person cruising past in an electric car is not only avoiding stopping at the pump entirely—they’re also paying about one third of what you are to “fill up” their tank.
Charging an electric car costs the equivalent of paying about $1.14 per gallon at the pump, according to a new tool from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) called eGallon. In other words, the average electric car can travel the same distance on $1.14 of electricity as a similar, gasoline-powered car can travel on $3.65 of gas, which is the average national cost for a gallon of gasoline. In Texas, the costs of fueling both types of vehicles are slightly lower. Texans pay an average of $3.37 per gallon to fill up at the gas station, and $1.09 per gallon to charge an electric car.
Driving an electric vehicle, then, costs about three times less than driving a gasoline-powered one. And it may become a little easier to drive an electric car in Texas this year. Continue Reading →
Without most rice farming, municipal use made up a much greater share of LCRA water in 2012.
In 2012, for the first time in history, most rice farmers on the Lower Colorado River in South Texas were cut off from water for irrigation. According to an emergency drought plan, there wasn’t enough water in the Highland Lakes of Buchanan and Travis to send water downstream. In the months since, those lakes have continued to drop, and this year rice farmers were cut off once again. New numbers from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) show just how much was at stake in the decisions to withhold water: if normal amounts had been sent downstream for rice farming, the lakes could very well have dropped to their lowest levels in history.
In a typical year, agricultural use makes up more than twice the amount of water as municipal use on the Lower Colorado. But last year, after cutting off most rice farmers downstream, that situation was reversed. Without most rice farming, water use in Central Texas was nearly cut in half last year, going down 45 percent from 2011. Continue Reading →
In the war on air pollution in Texas’s smoggiest cities, investigators say the state has slashed their funding even as they continue to find illegal vehicle inspection operations thriving in their communities.
“Hundreds of thousands of vehicles have fraudulent inspection stickers on them right now,” said Lt. Eddie Hazel who heads an emissions fraud task force run out of the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s office. And he’s talking about just in the Houston area.