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Steve Lipsky shows the methane contamination of his well by igniting the gas with a lighter outside his family's home in Parker County near Weatherford on June 17.
Steve Lipsky shows the methane contamination of his well by igniting the gas with a lighter outside his family's home in Parker County near Weatherford on June 17.

Regulators Pan Study on Methane Gas in Wells

No one disputes that high levels of methane have shown up in several Parker County water wells. But the source of the gas has stirred a heated debate. The Railroad Commission says a new academic study pointing to drilling isn't enough for it to reopen the case.

A view of the Houston Ship Channel from the back of the Sam Houston tour boat in Feb. 2014.
A view of the Houston Ship Channel from the back of the Sam Houston tour boat in Feb. 2014.

Politics of Climate Change in Texas Have Shifted

Texas leaders weren't always so skeptical about climate change. But the state's rightward shift, coupled with a booming oil and gas economy, have changed the tenor of the debate. Scientists and environmental advocates say that's a growing problem for Texas, the country's biggest climate polluter. This story was produced in collaboration with The World, a program by Public Radio International.

Darwyn Hanna grows pecans and runs cattle on some of the land he owns in Bastrop County. He is contesting a water marketer's bid to pump about 15 billion gallons a year from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Bastrop County, saying the plan would devalue his property.
Darwyn Hanna grows pecans and runs cattle on some of the land he owns in Bastrop County. He is contesting a water marketer's bid to pump about 15 billion gallons a year from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Bastrop County, saying the plan would devalue his property.

Aquifer is No Quick Fix for Central Texas Thirst

As drought continues to grip Central Texas, those looking to provide water to the region’s fast-growing cities and suburbs see a solution in the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which they say has enough water to support growth for centuries in the area. But others fear the resource will be drained at their expense. 

 

Steve Brown (l.) and Ryan Sitton, Democratic and Republican nominees for Railroad Commissioner.
Steve Brown (l.) and Ryan Sitton, Democratic and Republican nominees for Railroad Commissioner.

Race for Railroad Commissioner Revives Overhaul Talk

Several thwarted legislative proposals to overhaul the Texas Railroad Commission — the state's curiously named oil and gas regulator — have resurfaced in the race for an open seat on the commission, illustrating key differences between the candidates' priorities.

Scientists say higher temperatures due to global warming are already diminishing water resources, and that climate change will cause the southern and western portions of the state to become drier. Those regions supply water for fast-growing cities like Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, as well as the Rio Grande Valley.
Scientists say higher temperatures due to global warming are already diminishing water resources, and that climate change will cause the southern and western portions of the state to become drier. Those regions supply water for fast-growing cities like Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, as well as the Rio Grande Valley.

Water Planners Focus on Bigger Texas, Not a Hotter One

As state water planners prepare to spend $2 billion in public funds to address Texas’ water needs in the coming decades, scientists say that state leaders' skepticism on climate change will only impair such planning. The scientists say higher temperatures due to global warming are already diminishing water resources.

Texas remains one of the most significant contributors to global warming in the world. Year after year, Texas spews out more greenhouse gases than any other state in the country.
Texas remains one of the most significant contributors to global warming in the world. Year after year, Texas spews out more greenhouse gases than any other state in the country.

Climate Scientists: Texas is Missing an Opportunity

Texas-based climate scientists — some of the world's most renowned — say that Texas could be a global leader in protecting against climate change. But if state agencies continue to fail to take climate change into account when planning for the state’s future, the scientists argue, Texans will suffer a direct impact.

 

 

The Disappearing Rio Grande Expedition

The Rio Grande has been the lifeblood of the land it flows through for more than 3,000 years. But its future has never been more uncertain. Reporter Colin McDonald and photojournalist Erich Schlegel are traveling the length of the Rio Grande, interviewing those who depend on it and cataloging its chemistry and biology from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico.

Steve Lipsky shows the methane contamination of his well by igniting the gas with a lighter outside his family's home in Parker County near Weatherford, Texas on June 17, 2014.
Steve Lipsky shows the methane contamination of his well by igniting the gas with a lighter outside his family's home in Parker County near Weatherford, Texas on June 17, 2014.

Methane Inquiry Closes, but Questions Linger

Responding to questions about whether fracking has pushed methane to migrate into a North Texas neighborhood’s water supply, the Railroad Commission of Texas last month effectively shut the door on its investigation, saying that oil and gas drilling was not to blame. But independent geoscientists remained divided on the issue.

Each day, dozens of trucks hook up to the Gulf Coast-run fracking fluid disposal well site near Gonzales, Texas.
Each day, dozens of trucks hook up to the Gulf Coast-run fracking fluid disposal well site near Gonzales, Texas.

Railroad Commission Sides With Driller on Well Protest

UPDATED: The Railroad Commission on Thursday sided with Marathon Oil Company’s bid to dismiss a groundwater conservation district’s protest of its application to inject waste into part of South Texas’ Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer.

Eloisa Tamez stands near the border fence built on land formerly owned by her family.
Eloisa Tamez stands near the border fence built on land formerly owned by her family.

Indigenous Texans Want UN Support Against Border Fence

Although the controversy over the U.S. border fence has been swirling for years, a Native American tribe has added a new layer to the debate. Its members allege the barrier is discriminatory toward Lipan Apaches, who have had to give up some tribal land to accommodate the wall. 

Gov. Rick Perry is shown on Nov. 15, 2013, at an Austin kickoff rally for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's re-election campaign.
Gov. Rick Perry is shown on Nov. 15, 2013, at an Austin kickoff rally for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's re-election campaign.

In Letter, Perry Faults Obama's Energy Policies

In a letter sent Friday to President Obama, Gov. Rick Perry accused the president of waging a war on coal and kicking the can down the road on the Keystone XL pipeline. Perry suggested that Washington should follow Texas’ lead in spurring energy production.

Modular concrete canisters containing nuclear waste are shown at the bottom of a storage pit near Andrews, Texas.
Modular concrete canisters containing nuclear waste are shown at the bottom of a storage pit near Andrews, Texas.

WCS's Hiring of Legislative Aide Draws Ethics Concerns

Betsy Madru, state Sen. Kel Seliger's former legislative director, now works for Waste Control Specialists, which runs a low-level radioactive waste site in Seliger's district. She says she understands why some would have questions about her move, but she added there was nothing improper.

Men work on the railroad tracks at the Union Pacific railyard in El Paso on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.
Men work on the railroad tracks at the Union Pacific railyard in El Paso on Tuesday, May 6, 2014.

Proposed Border Rail Project Gets Mixed Reviews

As Mexican officials contemplate relocating a major railway that connects the state of Chihuahua to Texas, trade experts in El Paso have mixed views on whether the investment is needed immediately. But activists in Ciudad Juárez say the trains need to go now. 

Lake Travis, a major water supply reservoir for Austin, is severely depleted due to drought. The State Water Plan calls for dozens more such reservoir projects to be built in the coming decades to meet Texas' future water needs.
Lake Travis, a major water supply reservoir for Austin, is severely depleted due to drought. The State Water Plan calls for dozens more such reservoir projects to be built in the coming decades to meet Texas' future water needs.

What's the Magic Number on Texas' Water Needs?

How much water does the state need in the coming decades? It depends on whom you ask. State water planners say that Texas needs 2.7 trillion more gallons of water a year by 2060. But some water law and planning specialists say state water planners have overestimated future agricultural demands and underestimated the impact of water conservation measures.

 

 

 

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst accepted the microphone from Texas landowner Tommy Henderson on April 28, 2014, during a gathering of politicians, landowners, law enforcement officials and news outlets on Red River land northeast of Byers, Texas. Dewhurst expressed support for ranchers in their fight with the BLM over land they say they own.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst accepted the microphone from Texas landowner Tommy Henderson on April 28, 2014, during a gathering of politicians, landowners, law enforcement officials and news outlets on Red River land northeast of Byers, Texas. Dewhurst expressed support for ranchers in their fight with the BLM over land they say they own.

For State Politicians, BLM Dispute is Fertile Turf

Several Texas politicians have helped draw national attention to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's plans to manage a 116-mile stretch of Red River land. Area lawmakers who have been working this year on a resolution welcome the extra attention on the issue.