Reporting Texas
News and features from UT-Austin's School of Journalism

Environment

Increased Production Could Lead to More Methane in the Permian Basin

Beneath the stark, dusty landscape of West Texas lie copious energy-rich substances that have fueled American automobilse and the Texas economy for over a century. These resources are now playing a role in America’s response to the war in Ukraine, raising new concerns for environmental advocates

Diversify or Die: Texas Olive Oil Industry on its Knees after 2021 Freeze

Since the first olive orchards were planted in Texas in the 1990s, they have been damaged by hurricanes, drought and cold weather. Confused by mad temperature swings, trees have not set fruit. These events have compelled some olive growers to leave the business.

Most growers, however, are reevaluating their business models with an eye toward reducing the negative impact of Texas weather. They are embracing diversification — selling oil imported from other states or countries or finding new ways to use and market their orchards.

Invasive Aquatic Species Are Threatening Texas Waterways

Across the street from Sewell Park, while most people tried to get a suntan or go tubing on a cloudy day, a group of researchers worked to capture suckermouth armored catfish, an invasive species in the San Marcos River.

Invasive aquatic species such as the suckermouth armored catfish compete with native species for food, cause erosion and wreck ecological damage, experts say.

How Prescribed Burns Aid Endangered Species, Restore Grasslands and Help Train Troops (Among Other Things)

Experts say prescribed fires are a safe and cost-effective tool to improve habitat for endangered animals, restore grasslands, and remove invasive species. Of thousands of prescribed burns that are ignited every year, only about 1% escape, according to a study by the Great Plains Fire Science Exchange. 

Jan 22, 2022

Protesters Rally Against Oil Company’s Gulf Coast Expansion on Karankawa Site

 Chanting “respect our existence or expect our resistance,” nearly 400 people protested outside an Austin bank Saturday to try to stop construction of an oil terminal on ancient Indigenous land near Corpus Christi.

“We are still here, and we are still fighting,” said protest organizer Chiara Sunshine Beaumont, a descendant of the Karankawa people who once lived on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Saturday’s protest followed months of efforts by Indigenous groups in support of the Karankawa’s objections to expansion of oil export terminals owned by Enbridge, a Canadian petrochemical pipeline company. Beaumont said her group chose to protest Saturday outside a Bank of America on South Congress Avenue because the bank is a large underwriter of Enbridge’s projects.

Dec 29, 2021

Trained Master Naturalists Indispensable to Conservation Studies 

Founded in 1998, the Texas Master Naturalist Program is jointly sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. 

Dec 24, 2021

Texas Oil and Gas Pipelines are Causing More Oil Spills than the National Average

Oil and gas pipeline spills along the Texas coast are 16 times the national rate.

Dec 21, 2021

200 Chefs Demand More U.S. Action to Stop Illegal Fishing

Currently 20% to 32% of all wild-caught fish imported into the U.S. is considered to be a product of unreported and unregulated fishing.

Dec 15, 2021

Advocates Say Electric Cooperatives Adopting ‘Unfriendly’ Solar Policies

Liberty Hill resident Richard Hrabik has debated installing solar panels on his home since he moved in 38 years ago.  “I’ve always been interested, but it was never really affordable,” said Hrabik, a retired computer software engineer. “Now panels have gotten to where you can afford them. So, I decided to go for it.”
Not long after Hrabik had his panels installed, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative’s board of directors in December 2020 proposed a significant rate increase for its customers who have solar panels — a 20-25% increase, according to some estimates.

Kaiba White, an energy policy and outreach specialist with Public Citizen Texas, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, said PEC didn’t explain these moves adequately to customers. She’s been helping Hrabik and dozens of other PEC solar customers challenge the increases since the summer.

“When members started to find out about this, especially those with solar or who were considering solar, there was an outcry,” White said. 

Dec 13, 2021

Texas’ Famed Bigtooth Maple Trees Are Being Loved to Death by Deer

Since the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department opened Lost Maples State Natural Area to the public in 1979, thousands of people have enjoyed its colorful beauty in the Texas Hill Country. It has been particularly well-visited during the pandemic, with attendance reaching record highs.scientists have collected data indicating that the future of these trees and the pleasure many take from their color palette could be at risk. An overabundance of white-tailed deer has been killing young trees by browsing on them.

Dec 08, 2021

Climate Change Impacting Austin Real Estate Not So Hard to Fathom

After graduating from the University of Texas in May 2021, Sami Sparber ran into the same issue many Austin residents are facing – too few places available for rent or sale. “If you found a place to live, you had to apply right away because within hours or days that unit could be gone,” Sparber […]

Dec 04, 2021

Barton Springs’ Chilly Waters Warmed by the Clarity of Humanity

The stark gray clouds began to part, the sun glistened on the water, illuminating the rocks and algae below. A group of old men congregate behind the lifeguard tower, begin chatting and cracking jokes about Texas football. Two young men unroll their yoga mats and begin raising their palms toward the sun. Meanwhile, a pair […]

May 17, 2021

TreeFolks’s Carbon Credit Program Taking Root

When Tamara Stutz heard about a free tree planting program at her neighbor’s house, she was sold. Coordinators from TreeFolks, an Austin-based non-profit, had reached out to property owners in her neighborhood outside Manor offering to plant trees in an effort to prevent floods.

“This is a 100-year floodplain we are standing on,” Stutz said when Reporting Texas visited in April.

By February 2020, Stutz had more than 1,800 saplings planted on 3⅓ acres of her 30-acre farm. Her part of the bargain: Leave them alone. The trees would fend for themselves. Stutz was so delighted with how the saplings progressed that she asked TreeFolks to come again in 2021.

Stutz gets trees and protection against erosion and everyone benefits from the carbon dioxide-sequestering potential of her saplings. TreeFolks earns carbon credits for planting the trees, which the organization then sells to the City of Austin. 

A carbon credit is “a tradable credit granted to a country, company, etc., for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases by one metric ton,” […]

May 14, 2020

Renewing Battle Against the Fish Eating Lake Austin

Sterile grass carp did too good a job controlling hydrilla and ended up ruining Lake Austin as bass habitat.

May 10, 2020

Texas A&M Entomologist Provides Insight on Global Locust Devastation

Hojun Song, a professor in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M, has been researching grasshoppers and crickets, with a focus on the evolution of swarming locusts. Reporting Texas spoke with Song on the video conferencing app Zoom about his research.

 

Jan 10, 2020

South Austin Ecovillage Prepares for a Radically Different Future

Roots is an intentional community devoted to exploring more sustainable ways of life.

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