Mose Buchele/StateImpact Texas permalink
The island is an important stop for migratory birds.
The island is an important stop for migratory birds.
Nancy Brown with Fish & Wildlife observes a whooping crane in the distance
The attempts to clean up the spill are having an environmental impact of their own.
Within days of the spill, the spread of the bunker fuel was apparent. Oil was detected 12 miles offshore into the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, March 23, and globs of tar and oil were seen along Texas City shores and beaches in the area.
Cleanup efforts are being organized by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and officials say they are at least several weeks away from fully containing the fuel.
Weeks after a large oil spill in Galveston Bay, it’s still having an impact on sensitive wildlife habitats along the Texas Gulf Coast. On Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took reporters to see the impacts on Matagorda Island, an important wildlife refuge for migratory birds and several endangered species. Workers are now busy cleaning up tons of oil from the Island’s beaches.
Mose Buchele took the photos above of the spill’s impact on Matagorda Island. Check back tomorrow for his story on how the cleanup effort istelf could disturb the delicate ecosystem and endangered wildlife of the Gulf Coast.
As of Tuesday morning, TPWD reports that eight birds have been captured for treatment and 10 birds have been found dead.
Organizations such as the Houston Audubon Society search for and treat birds affected by the spill.
Responders load hundreds of feet of boom onto vessels.
An oil-soaked containment boom lies on the beach. More than 35,000 feet of boom has been deployed in response to the spill.
An aerial view of cleanup operations in the Houston Channel.
Responders are scrambling to contain the slimy mess left by an oil spill in Galveston Bay.
After a barge carrying tar-like heavy fuel collided with a vessel in the Houston Ship Channel on Saturday, cargo exports and imports have been put on hold. That’s raised concerns about the impact on Texas’ oil-dependent economy. The Coast Guard says parts of the channel have been re-opened to limited traffic, but the spill is also expected to have an environmental toll.
Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel report that the spill occurred at a particularly bad time for Gulf wildlife – birds, specifically. As of Tuesday morning, the department says eight birds have been captured for treatment, and 10 birds have been found dead covered in the oil. Continue Reading
Disposal wells like this one are the point where a small operation could turn out to be causing big tremors that can be felt miles away.
The Gator Services disposal well outside of Timpson in East Texas.
On a busy day, several tanker trucks will pull up and unload wastewater from fracking and drilling.
The North Texas towns of Reno and Azle have seen over thirty earthquakes since November, sometimes more than one a day. It’s been unsettling for residents like Barbara Brown.
“Damage to my home, sinkholes on my property. Nerves! And a lot of angst,” she said. “Because you just don’t know when they’re going to happen again.”
And it’s not the only town in the state that’s been hit with tremors. Texas has seen the number of recorded earthquakes increase tenfold since the drilling boom began several years ago. While studies have linked the quakes to oil and gas drilling activities, but state regulators and politicians say the science is far from settled.
So what does the science really say? Take a listen to the radio story:
This mirror like pool of water was dry during the great Texas drought of 2011.
Formations like these tell the story of the earths climate history.
Barbara Wortham recently presented new research on how to determine the age of speleothems..
Dr. Banner's research team measures the length of time for a single drop of water to fall in this cave.
Dr. Jay Banner and Barbara Wortham in a part of the caverns closed to the public.
Barbara Wortham at the lowest part of the caves.
Researchers venture off the public passages to learn carry out their work.
It’s easy to imagine that attitudes towards climate change would be different if everyone owned a device like the one Dr. Jay Banner showed me this winter in Georgetown, Texas. It’s a small instrument, about the size and shape of a walkie talkie, that measures carbon dioxide wherever you go.
“You can see that outside here, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 403 parts per million,” Banner says, holding it up for inspection on a frigid morning. “That’s a number we’re really worried about in our society today. Because, at the onset of the industrial revolution, we were at about 280 parts per million. We’re on our way towards doubling it.”
Scientists agree that carbon dioxide contributes to climate change. What researchers like Banner, a Professor of Geological Science at the University of Texas at Austin, want to understand is what climate change means for the world around us. That search has put him in some tight spots during his career, often deep underground, in the caves of Central Texas. Continue Reading
Volunteers clear a pile of debris from yard.
The creek clogged with debris, including dead animals.
Volunteers mobilize at a nearby church.
Volunteers hope to clear the creek one load at a time.
Creek littered with debris.
Animals rot in the water.
Photo albums found in the debris.
Volunteers at staging center organizing for cleanup.
After the floods on Halloween morning destroyed their home in Bluff Springs, a community just across the Austin city line in unincorporated Travis County, Debbie Lozano and her boyfriend slept in a tent in their yard.
“We got this creek right here, Boggy Creek, and then it runs in the back of the property into Onion Creek. So we got it double wammied!” she says, remembering a frantic escape in the night, the water rising to her chest.
They had no transportation, and didn’t want to leave their dogs behind. So when the flood receded they lit a campfire to stay warm, and began hauling their waterlogged possessions, what they could salvage, into the yard to dry.
Saturday, nine days after the flooding, volunteers arrived to rip out sheet rock and insulation from the house, clear debris and saw apart trees the waters had pushed against the property. Lozano said it was the first time anyone had come to help clean. She called the assistance a “miracle.”
Campbell says the food bank distributes between four and five million pounds of food a year. tributes
The Permian Basin oil boom has brought jobs and wealth to West Texas, but it’s also brought something less expected: hunger. During a recent trip to Odessa, StateImpact Texas’s Mose Buchele sat down with Libby Campbell, director of the West Texas Food Bank, to learn how, as she puts it, “not all tides raise all ships.”
1) Increased Property Values. With people moving to the Permian Basin from all over the country, property values have skyrocketed. You often hear stories of rents doubling when the time comes for a tenant to re-sign a lease. That’s put a strain on budgets and led to more hunger in the region.
“Maybe their rent was six or eight hundred dollars three or four years ago, it’s currently twelve or fifteen hundred dollars,” says Campbell. “You’ve kind of already busted your budget before you even get to the point that you’re purchasing food.”
The Texas Water Development Board’s most recent drought report showed that 97 percent of the state is still experiencing some level of drought. So what does a state that parched look like?
The agency, along with Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas Department of Agriculture, have come together to show you. Those three agencies have launched an initiative called “What Does Your Texas Drought Look Like?“, which encourages Texans to upload their drought-related photos to a public flickr page.
StateImpact Texas has collected ten pictures from the page in the slideshow below. You can see the rest of the photos (or upload your own) here.
Water usually flows out of these pipes in Brazoria County.
Water levels have reached historic lows at Lake Amistad.
Parched, cracked, soil is a common sight around Texas.
Infrastructure lays unused in the Olmito resaca near Brownsville.
O.C. Fisher Reservoir, near San Angelo, is completely dry.
A boat ramp sits in a dry Lake Colorado City State Park.
Taking a look inside the car
If the teams race too fast, the batteries will drain too quickly
A solar car approaches the pit
The battery, up close
It’s a sweltering Texas summer day in late June, and here at the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 race track in Austin, the stands are empty. Just last fall, they were filled with fans witnessing the deafening roar of cars going upward of 200 miles an hour.
But if you were to listen closely this summer day, you’d hear a barely audible zooming on the track. Peek down from the stands, and you’d see little pods zipping along the track at a brisk 45 miles an hour. They’re solar-powered cars, part of the annual Formula Sun Grand Prix competition, where several teams of college engineering students race against each other, and the constant drain of batteries.
Last year, a solar-powered yacht sailed all the way around the globe for the first time. A few weeks ago, a solar-powered plane completed a trip across the country. As oil prices and carbon emissions rise, could solar-powered transportation be a cheaper, cleaner way to get around? Continue Reading
Maria Galvin cleans up broken glass in the front of her business.
Searchers in protective suits walk through the blast zone of the fertilizer plant that exploded.
Meghan Clontz of Oklahoma City travelled to the town of West to be with family members after the massive explosion in the town
A tattered flag on the rainy morning of Thursday, April 18, in West, Texas.
Police and rescue workers stand near a building which was left destroyed.
An aerial view shows investigators walking through the aftermath of a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, near Waco, Texas April 18, 2013.
The apartment building where Darryl Garricks' grandchildren were when the blast hit. The children are OK.
Residents of West gather for a candlelight vigil on Thursday, April 19.
A flag is flown at half staff in West, Texas, near the scene of the fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday night in in the town of 2,8000 on Thursday, April 18, 2013.
After an explosion in the small town of West, Texas Wednesday night, some 14 are dead and 200 injured. The incident has displaced a number of people in the small Central Texas community, and questions have risen about the safety and regulation of the plant.
KUT photographers Filipa Rodrigues and Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon traveled to the town of West with StateImpact Texas to document the story. You can see their images, along with photos from wire services and state officials, in the gallery above.
Ruben and Riene Olivas worry what will happen to their business now that the plant has closed.
The streets of Plainview.
Statues of cattle can be found throughout town. A nod to the local importance of the industry.
Johnny Ray Muniz leaves his last shift at the Cargill Beef Processing Plant.
As Mayor Wendell Dunlap plans for the city's recovery, "your prayers are appreciated," he said.
A group picture taken the day the last cow came through the Cargill Plant.
The Cargill Excel Beef Processing plant in Plainview, Texas.
Irene and Ruben Olivas say the ripple effect of the plant closure threatens the bakery where they work.
By the time the cows arrived at Criselda Avila’s work station at the Cargill Excel Beef Processing Plant in Plainview, they had already been slaughtered, skinned and gutted. The carcasses came in hanging from a long chain that ran over the plant floor. They were divided up and divided again. Avila worked on skirt steaks.
“You gotta spread it open and then cut the little skirt off, and then throw that on the table and then peeling and just trimming the fat off is what it was,” she remembered recently, sitting in her living room. “You know, fajitas.”
It was numbingly repetitive work. More than 4,500 cows went through the plant every day. So when Avila was done with one, there was always another behind it. Then, on the last day of January, she saw something she never expected to see.
“There were the last few cows, then the last cow was coming down the chain, and people there were just banging our hooks,” she said. “People started crying, like ‘oh my god this is the end of it.’”
That was how the city of Plainview lost over 2,000 jobs. After years of drought, the U.S. cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1952. Cargill Meat Solutions, the company that owns the plant, says there are simply not enough cows in existence to keep the plant running. For years ranchers across Texas have been cutting back their herds in response to the historically dry weather, but this is the first time those cuts have reached up the supply chain, to hit the industrial heart of a Texas city. The plant closure could have wide sweeping ramifications across the region. Continue Reading