TCEQ’s decision, announced in a letter from Executive Director Richard Hyde to the LCRA on Friday, comes as the latest unprecedented move in the agency’s attempts to combat persisting drought conditions. At the center of these measures are restrictions on water releases for agriculture downstream of the Highland Lakes chain, mostly to rice farmers, and Hyde suggested that the LCRA’s proposed plan doesn’t appropriately address these releases.
“As the TCEQ worked through this amendment and also received input on the emergency relief requested by LCRA in the last year, it became apparent that even since the time that application was submitted, additional data and changes to the Water Management Plan were warranted,” Hyde wrote. Continue Reading →
An exploratory well drills for oil in the Monterey Shale, California, April 29, 2013. Voters in Denton, Texas could decide whether or not to outlaw fracking within their city's limits through a ballot initiative.
Nearly as many people signed a petition to outlaw fracking within the city limits of Denton as voted in the last municipal election.
Denton’s Drilling Awareness Group (DAG) will formally file its petition with the City Secretary this afternoon. The petition has 1,871 signatures, though just 596 (25 percent of the last election’s 2,385 votes) were enough.
“A lot of the work really begins now to make sure we turn out people to the polls,” DAG Vice President Adam Briggle said.
The City Secretary has 20 days to verify that the signatures on the petition are registered Denton voters, after which it will move on to the City Council. Denton’s City Council must then vote on the initiative within 60 days, and can pass the initiative directly into law. Continue Reading →
A female Alligator Snapping Turtle at the West Midlands Safari Park in Bewdley, Worcestershire. The Alligator Snapping Turtle is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world, and was recently found to be not one but three distinct species.
A new study places one of Texas’ strangest—and most imposing—reptiles in a very precarious position.
Published in Zootaxa, the study confirms that the alligator snapping turtle, thought to be just a single species, is actually three genetically distinct species. Alligator snapping turtles, dinosaurian creatures that range throughout river systems in the American Southeast, are the largest freshwater turtles in the world, and the findings put Texas’ already at-risk turtles and their neighboring cousins in further danger.
Though the population split between the three species isn’t equal, simply put, there are now fewer turtles of each species to stand up to pressures from illegal harvesting and habitat loss.
A rig contracted by Apache Corp drills a horizontal well in a search for oil and natural gas in the Wolfcamp shale located in the Permian Basin in West Texas. A successful petition in Denton could bring fracking bans to communities around the state.
Come elections in November, the city of Denton could be split between two very different futures.
The Denton Drilling Awareness Group (DAG) recently got enough signatures on a petition to place an ordinance banning fracking within city limits on local ballots. Though other communities in Texas have passed restrictions on fracking, a moratorium on drilling activity within Denton could spur the rise of similar legislation across the state.
If the ban passes it will likely provoke a precedent-setting legal battle that would help clarify the authority of local governments over oil and gas operations in Texas. Continue Reading →
Gasoline is the most prevalent source of groundwater contaminant in Texas, according to a Joint Groundwater Monitoring and Contamination Report put out last year by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Of 2,083 total cases in the last five years, almost half (922) were because of a gasoline leak. The map above plots every reported contamination case from 2008 to 2012, the most recent year of data.
A small pool of water is all that remains in a portion of Bridgeport Lake in September 2013.
Texans looking for relief from the drought are eagerly anticipating the chances of an El Niño event starting this summer, which could bring much wetter conditions. But the focus should actually be on the near-term, according to Victor Murphy, climate service program manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Fort Worth. Murphy says that the next three months, April, May and June, will be crucial to staving off another critically dry—and hot—summer.
April, May and June are typically the wettest months of the Texas year, and little to no rain could lead to dry soil and hot days.
“What happens during those three months, between now and June, is going to be just huge going forward into the summertime, but unfortunately we do not have any kind of a clear climate signal to hang our hats on with regards to making a forecast,” he said. Continue Reading →
Cooling towers of a nuclear power plant in Grohnde, Germany. An interim charge for the Texas legislature could change the United States' management of nuclear waste.
The United States’ total high-level radioactive waste could fit inside a football stadium with room to spare. Right now, it’s distributed between the country’s 100 commercial nuclear power plants and stored on site. But all that waste could be headed to Texas in the coming years.
One of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ interim charges for the 83rd legislature (basically study material that could come in handy during the next session when it comes time to file legislation) has exactly that goal in mind.
The charge, addressed to the House Committee on Environmental Regulation, says to “make specific recommendations on the state and federal actions necessary to permit a high-level radioactive waste disposal or interim storage facility in Texas.” While Texas already allows low-level radioactive waste storage, this new suggestion has drawn its fair share of controversy, intrigue and confusion. So let’s take a look at the ins and outs of nuclear waste storage, and how it could pan out in the Lone Star State.
After a 17-hour hearing last week, State Administrative Law Judges William Newchurch and Travis Vickery came to the conclusion that the LCRA-requested trigger level of 1.1 million acre-feet was actually insufficient, and recommended modifying the order to an even higher leve, to 1.4 million acre-feet. Right now the Highland Lakes have 761,700 acre-feet of water.
“The likelihood of reaching either of those trigger levels is almost negligible at this point, and so that certainly diminishes the importance of having a trigger level,” TCEQ chairman Bryan Shaw said. “The issue of properly managing water in the Lower Colorado River and these releases is much more complex than simply pulling a trigger number out of the air.” Continue Reading →
The drought has affected Texans across the state. Haskell Simon, a rice farmer in Bay City, could go without water a third year in a row.
Update: State administrative law judges recommended today a higher trigger point for cutting off water from the Highland Lakes for rice farmers this year, saying “emergency conditions exist which present an imminent threat to the public health and safety.” If adopted, these recommendations would mean there is almost no chance of most rice farmers downstream on the Lower Colorado of getting water for irrigation. This would be the third year in a row of water cutoffs for the rice farmers. Under the proposed cutoff, unless the lakes are nearly 70 percent full, water will not be sent downstream for most farmers. The lakes are currently 38 percent full.
Original Story, Feb. 13: There’s less and less water in the Highland Lakes of Central Texas these days, and the fight over who gets what’s left has laid bare the ugly politics of drought. With each passing day, it seems the comity and compassion between groups competing for the water drops in step with the falling lake levels. Now those interests will need to wait longer before regulators make a decision on giving water to farmers this year.
Despite the dropping temperatures and extreme cold weather events like the Polar Vortex earlier this month, the science hasn’t changed on global warming. University of Texas at Austin atmospheric scientist Dr. Ned Vizy says that more extreme cold snaps are actually a predictable symptom of an warming climate.
“Over the past decade or so, you’re seeing a greater occurrence of these extreme events such as cold snaps, the tornado outbreak up in Oklahoma, the droughts,” he says. Continue Reading →
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