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Preview: KERA-FM: Environment

KERA-FM: Environment

Assorted stories from KERA-FM

Last Build Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:00:00 -0500

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Texas Wind Capacity Is Number One In The Country

Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:00:00 -0500

From the top of El Centro College, there’s no escaping a skyline that is – in part – a tribute to the fossil fuel industry. Not exactly the place you’d...

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Video: Man-Made North Texas Wetland Provides Water For Humans And Wildlife

Wed, 22 Oct 2014 04:30:00 -0400

Texas is facing drought and a booming population. There's a unique project in North Texas that hopes to meet the state's growing thirst for water: A...

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A New Throne For Your Home: Dallas Gives Away High-Efficiency Toilets

Mon, 02 Jun 2014 23:19:36 -0400

New toilets. That's one way the city of Dallas is hoping to reduce water use. Over the last seven years, Dallas has given away more than 70,000 toilets,...

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When It Comes To Water Restrictions, How Far Should Fort Worth Go?

Tue, 01 Apr 2014 21:55:50 -0400

Update 10 p.m. Tuesday: The Fort Worth City Council has delayed for one week a vote to permanently restrict outdoor watering to twice a week. Council...

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One Of Nature's Most Amazing Migrations: Volunteers Tag Monarchs As They Move Through Texas

Fri, 11 Oct 2013 06:30:00 -0400

Right now Texans have a front-row seat for one of natures most amazing migrations -- monarchs are moving through the state. And in West Dallas, some

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Prairie For Sale: There's A Buyer, And A Price

Tue, 16 Jul 2013 17:52:33 -0400

Update, Tuesday 4:47 PM: Jarid Manos says that his group, the Great Plains Restoration Council, would likely try to work with the prospective buyer on

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Exide Says Bankruptcy Won't Affect Its Cleanup In Frisco

Mon, 10 Jun 2013 18:57:53 -0400

Exide Technologies says bankruptcy will not alter the cleanup of lead contamination at its closed Frisco plant.

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Pilot Bertrand Piccard Says Solar Impulse Is Vehicle For Change

Thu, 23 May 2013 01:34:23 -0400

Update: The Solar Impulse project says all of its scheduled open houses for Saturday at DFW are full. If they add other open houses the information will

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Agency Works To Prevent Another Dust Bowl

Mon, 19 Nov 2012 11:53:07 -0500

Could another Dust Bowl bury drought-prone states like Texas again?  That’s a question raised by a Ken Burns documentary airing last night and tonight on PBS.  In it eyewitnesses recall the terrifying clouds of dust that blanketed Texas and surrounding states in the 1930s.

“It would be just as calm as it could be.  Then when the dust got there, wham, it would hit ya,” Robert “Boots” McCoy of Texas County, Oklahoma, said.

“It was just a rollin’.  It was scary.  It scared the heck out of us,” he said.

To restore an ecological balance, Congress created the agency now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Kent Ferguson, a rangeland specialist in Texas, told me about the agency's challenges then and now.   

The conclusion of Ken Burns documentary, The Dust Bowl, airs tonight at 7 p.m. on KERA Channel 13.  

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Planes Sprayed Mosquitoes Again Monday

Tue, 21 Aug 2012 07:00:00 -0400

Dallas officials say 20 new West Nile virus cases have raised the County total to 262. KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports the second round of the air assault on mosquitoes launched last night at 9 even though leaders initially said that may not be effective.

Last night’s 2nd round of spraying was designed to kill newborn mosquitoes not yet hatched during the first spray. That’s why officials planned a 4 day gap between assaults. But bad weather forced back to back spraying over much of Dallas.

Laura McGowan, with Clarke, the company overseeing the poison delivery, says the plan will still work.

"When you have weather delays and things like that, the CDC factors that in all their recommendations. We want to make sure we interrupt the transmission cycle as it stands right now. This is part of their recommendation to go ahead with the 2nd spray on this time frame."

The County declined to release the latest count of infected mosquitoes pending more reliable numbers, but Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson says the combined ground and air assault is working.

"This should be a model for future cities and counties that as they look at different municipalities in their choices of whether they do aerial or they do ground , at the end of day they need to do both."

Thompson says CDC officials will arrive this week, and they will help assess the county’s war on West Nile. Meanwhile, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says residents can play a role.

"We need your help with that standing water from these recent rains. If there are elderly or disabled people in your neighborhood that can’t drain their own standing water, please take responsibility for them and go down there, remove those tires or those covers on cars and get that water off there."

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says anyone needing more help getting rid of standing water can call 3-1-1. Cities in Dallas County’s southern sector wishing a mosquito air assault have until this afternoon to make their request. Judge Jenkins says one has opted in so far.

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Fort Worth Sticks With Alternatives To Spraying For Mosquitoes

Fri, 03 Aug 2012 07:00:00 -0400

Many cities and counties in the Metroplex are spraying for mosquitoes to help control the spread of West Nile virus. But Fort Worth has decided there are better ways to protect residents.

As of Thursday afternoon, Tarrant County had 77 confirmed human cases of West Nile Virus and a single death. But unlike many neighboring communities, the City of Fort Worth has decided not to spray.

Hanlon: We haven’t had a spraying program in place for over 20 years.

Scott Hanlon is the Assistant Code Compliance Director for Fort Worth . Instead of spraying, he says the city urges citizens to protect themselves with repellant and long sleeved clothing. He says the city has also introduced mosquito-larva eating minnows into the ecosystem.

“Spraying has limited effectiveness. Nobody puts a spraying program in place with the idea that it is going to kill every mosquito in an area or it is going to solve all of your West Nile virus issues,” Hanlon said. “In addition to that, we’ve had citizens concerned with the spraying of chemicals into the air and its potential impacts on human health or environmental impacts," Hanlon said.”

The City of Dallas and Dallas County both spray for mosquitoes. Officials use the solution Aqualuer 20-20, which is permethrin based.

Permethrin is a synthetic insecticide.

The label on the spray recommends people immediately wash it off their skin and clothes.

Scott Sawlis, the chief entomologist with the Dallas County Health Department, says the department recommends people stay inside during spraying, but he’s not aware of anyone reporting a health problem.

“The product is an EPA approved product that is endorsed by EPA, CDC, the American Mosquito Control Association, and has been used in mosquito control programs for decades. The product is applied as an ultra low volume application, so the risk to humans is very, very low,” he said.

The product’s label cautions that it can be harmful to humans if swallowed. It is also toxic to bees and aquatic life and can only be sprayed on certain crops.

When agencies spray for mosquitoes, they urge people not to follow trucks, to bring animals indoors and to cover any fish ponds.

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Pipeline Opponents Cite Michigan Spill

Mon, 23 Jul 2012 15:27:04 -0400

The group Public Citizen wants the Texas Railroad Commission to further regulate oil pipelines. They’re concerned about the Seaway pipeline, which is owned by a company responsible for the biggest on-shore oil spill in U.S. history.

The National Transportation Safety Board just blasted Enbridge Energy, a Canadian company, for not following its own safety procedures in the Michigan pipeline spill.

Two years ago, more than 840,000 gallons of heavier tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River when the pipeline burst. More than 300 people got sick from inhaling toxic benzene.

Enbridge is half owner of Seaway, a 36-year old oil pipeline in Texas that has been converted from carrying light crude oil to transporting heavier tar sands oil. Canadian tar sands oil is diluted with condensate, a natural gas liquid, which allows it to flow through pipelines.

Public Citizen member Rita Beving is concerned because the Michigan oil spill happened when another older repurposed pipeline ripped.

"The spill up in Michigan happened through a 43-year old repurposed pipeline," Beving said. "The Seaway pipeline in our backyard is a 36-year-old pipeline. We need the railroad commission to be given the authority by our legislators to look after repurposed pipelines coming to Texas."

Seaway pipeline crosses 16 Texas counties including Grayson, Collin, Rockwall and Kaufman just north and east of Dallas.

Public Citizen recently brought Michigan oil spill victim Michelle Barlond Smith to Austin to testify before the state Energy Resources committee.

"I have lived through a tar sands oil spill and I want to challenge you, the great state of Texas, to step up and protect its citizens," Smith said.

Barlond Smith saw her neighbors become ill from the oil spill’s fumes.

"My neighbor’s children were throwing up in the street, projectile black, brown stuff. I watched as these people got sick and started screaming for help from my government," she said. "I was naive way back then in thinking that when something happens like this your government’s going to step in and save you. No."

Barlond Smith and Beving want additional government oversight and safeguards on converted pipelines and pumping stations that handle tar sands oil.

Houston-based Enterprise Products co-owns the Seaway pipeline with Enbridge, the Canadian company facing a record $3.7 million fine for the big spill. Enterprise Products’ Rick Rainey insists tar sands oil moving south through the Seaway pipeline is as safe as the Mexican and Venezuelan heavy crude previously shipped through the pipeline.

"The misconception is that it’s a tar like, gritty form of crude oil that’s going to be transported through Seaway, which is not the case at all," Rainey said. "The specifications are designed to limit solids like dirt and sand to protect the pipeline and those safeguards aren’t going away and they will also apply to what’s coming down from Canada."

Rainey says Enterprise Products will take a hard look at the government report on the Michigan oil spill and its recommendations for safer pipeline management and operator training. In the meantime, it plans to triple the amount of oil flowing through Seaway by early next year and build a second, parallel pipeline in 2014 that will also carry tar sands oil.

As a result of the Oil Pipeline Safety Act of 2011, the U.S. government is conducting a year-long study to find out if tar sands oil has any adverse effect on pipelines.

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Biologists Brace For Further Infestation From Zebra Mussels

Fri, 20 Jul 2012 01:13:33 -0400

Texas Parks and Wildlife says it will be difficult to stop newly discovered zebra mussels from spreading throughout the Trinity River basin all the way down to the Gulf.

Yesterday biologists confirmed the presence of the invasive mussels in Lake Ray Roberts near Denton. Until now, the only Texas lake with zebra mussels was Texoma in the Red River basin.

Brian Van Zee is the regional fisheries director for Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Listen to his interview with KERA’s Shelley Kofler to learn why the Lake Ray Roberts infestation has raised such alarm.

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Exide Opponents Take Steps to File Suit

Mon, 16 Jul 2012 18:55:31 -0400

Citizens who fought for the closure of the Exide lead battery plant in Frisco are now preparing to take legal action.

Members of Frisco Unleaded say environmental regulatory agencies have long known about lead contamination at the Exide battery recycling plant, but they haven’t done enough to make sure it’s cleaned up quickly.

Frisco Unleaded member Colette McCadden says the group on Monday notified Exide and regulatory agencies that it plans to file a lawsuit in 90 days.

“Our goal is to force Exide to remediate the property the actual plant sits on to the highest level possible, and unfortunately to date the TCEQ and the EPA have not enforced the law,” she said.

Last May the state’s environmental agency, the TCEQ, inspected the Exide plant and found elevated concentrations of lead and battery chips in the soil. Inspectors also found liquid seeping into an area near Stewart Creek.

In September the TCEQ told Exide it was working on a formal enforcement order. Citizens believe that order should have been in place by now.

But the TCEQ’s Terry Clawson says the process takes time. The TCEQ is waiting for Exide to provide an inventory listing all the contamination.

“They will do a cleanup plan,” Clawson said. “The TCEQ will ensure people the ongoing remediation of the site is going to be conducted in accordance with all state and federal regulations. And we are going to continue monitoring for all current and potential environmental issues,

The federal EPA says it is also awaiting Exide’s report so it can order a specific cleanup plan, and Exide says it is cooperating with both government agencies.

But the citizens say the pace of progress is so slow they could be living with the lead for years. They believe the courts will ensure a quicker, more thorough cleanup.

TCEQ Investigation Findings class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="0.774683544303797" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="800" id="doc_58083" scrolling="no" src="" width="600">TCEQ Notice of Enforcement at Exide class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="0.774683544303797" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="800" id="doc_80425" scrolling="no" src="" width="600">

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