Since 1999, dozens of county courthouses — some dating to the 19th century — have been spruced up with the help of state funding, and workers have uncovered old artwork or other historic features. But advocates fear that the renovation program will be yet another casualty of the coming biennial budget shortfall.Full Story
Kate Galbraith has covered energy and environment for the Tribune since 2010. Previously she reported on clean energy for The New York Times from 2008 to 2009, serving as the lead writer for the Times' Green blog. She began her career at The Economist in 2000 and spent 2005 to 2007 in Austin as the magazine's Southwest correspondent. A Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University from 2007 to 2008, she has an undergraduate degree in English from Harvard and a master's degree from the London School of Economics. She is co-author of The Great Texas Wind Rush, a book about how the oil and gas state won the race to wind power.
Heavy truck traffic, some of it related to the wind industry, has increased sharply across the state in recent years, and it's taken a heavy toll on rural roadways. To its chagrin, the Texas Department of Transportation has little prospect of recouping repair costs.Full Story
So what if coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, faces tightening air-pollution standards from federal regulators? Texas is aggressively building new coal plants. An air-pollution permit recently approved for a plant in Matagorda County is one of six granted to projects that are not yet up and running, and four more projects — near Abilene, Odessa, Sweeny and Corpus Christi — have sought permits. Texas, which consumes far more coal power than any other state, already has 19 operating coal-fired power plants, the majority of which are in East Texas.Full Story
Whoever wins the governor's race in November will face a variety of pressing questions concerning one of the state's biggest industries: energy. Texas is a top producer of natural gas, oil and, more recently, wind power. As things stand now, the state is coping with a federal moratorium on new deepwater oil drilling, bracing for federal action on climate change and other air pollution, preparing for an influx of electric cars and debating whether to enact a mandate for renewable energy sources other than wind. How do Rick Perry and Bill White come down on the issues?Full Story
Each year in the United States, idling trucks and cars burn several billion gallons of fuel, emitting various pollutants without driving a single mile. The Texas Legislature passed legislation in 2005 limiting big trucks to five minutes of idling time, but local governments aren't obligated to enforce the law, and the debate over exemptions continues to roil.Full Story
Come January, the Environmental Protection Agency will begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions around the country for the first time — but not if Texas can help it. Attorney General Greg Abbott last week lodged legal challenges in a federal court against EPA actions on multiple fronts, including a reiteration of the state's long-standing argument against the agency's scientific foundation for determining the dangers of greenhouse gas pollution.Full Story
The executive director of the Sierra Club on the perils of coal ash, why wind is a good thing, the priorities of state environmental-quality officials and how Texas oil companies are working to roll back California's global warming regulation.Full Story
This week, the Tribune put together a three-part series exploring the state's $5 billion transmission-line build-out to support wind power, which is mostly generated in West Texas but needs to be shipped to cities in Central and East Texas. The project is known as CREZ, short for Competitive Renewable Energy Zones.Full Story
While West Texas has become the nation's wind-power hub, the Panhandle's ferocious winds go largely untapped. That could change with a slew of proposed transmission line projects that could, in turn, enable forests of turbines — if landowners can be soothed. Part three of a three-part series.Full Story
The epicenter of the fight over the state's wind power transmission lines is the Hill Country, where landowners are spending lots of money and time to keep the lines from being built. They're trotting out every conceivable argument, and they may just succeed. Part two of a three-part series.Full Story
Texas already harvests more wind power than any state in the nation, bringing the promise of clean energy to millions of homes and businesses. Trouble is, getting that power from remote, windy West Texas to the big cities requires a massive, $5 billion network of transmission lines — which property owners in the Hill County and elsewhere don't want in their back yards. As construction gets under way on the new lines, an army of lawyers and angry landowners is working to stymie the state's renewable energy plans. Part one of a three-part series.Full Story
When Longhorn football kicks off at home this month, so will a brand-new marketing effort urging boosters to buy, of all things, green electricity. Colt McCoy's family has already signed up with Texas Longhorns Energy, which promises customers 100 percent power from Texas wind. The Aggies will roll out a similar deal on Friday. The programs are another sign of the universities' branding heft — even though they may not be the best deal within the confusing Texas electricity market.Full Story
Texas has always operated its own electricity grid, separate from the two other grids that span the rest of the nation. But a project quietly emerging in eastern New Mexico could curb that independence — and affect energy prices here in ways that remain much in dispute.Full Story
Texas has the most acres of any state enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which seeks to prevent another Dust Bowl by paying farmers to plant grass instead of crops. But the program has fallen on hard times, and its participants worry they will, too.