Mose Buchele

Mose Buchele is the Austin-based broadcast reporter for KUT's NPR partnership StateImpact Texas . He has been on staff at KUT 90.5  since 2009, covering local and state issues.  Mose has also worked as a blogger on politics and an education reporter at his hometown paper in Western Massachusetts. He holds masters degrees in Latin American Studies and Journalism from UT Austin.

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When people use fracking to extract oil or natural gas from the ground, it produces vast amounts of wastewater. It’s too toxic to be flushed down the drain. So in Texas, and other states, a lot of it is pumped deep underground into things called disposal wells. Now, as KUT’s Mose Buchele reports for StateImpact Texas  a group of environmental organizations is threatening to sue the EPA over how it regulates the disposal of fracking wastewater. 

Courtesy of National Drought Mitigation Center

It was a big day last month when the US drought monitor map showed Texas to be drought free for the first time since 2010, at least in terms of soil conditions across the state. Well, since then, there’s been very little rainfall, and as KUT’s Mose Buchele reports, drought is creeping back into Texas. 

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

A military training exercise called “Operation Jade Helm” starts today across the country and in Bastrop. Military exercises happen all the time.  But this one gained a lot of attention when conspiracy theorists started protesting it, calling it part of a takeover by sinister forces in the Government. Those voices grew so loud that Texas Governor Greg Abbot even decided to send in state observers to monitor the operation.  So KUT’s Mose Buchele visited Bastrop to see how people there were feeling about the operation. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A Spanish-based wind power company is coming to Texas. The company G-R-I will build a 41 million dollar plant in Amarillo. As KUT’s Mose Buchele reports for StateImpact Texas, the announcement is good news for an industry that recently felt itself under threat by state lawmakers.

By now, the surprise of cheap gas has probably worn off.

But drivers on the hunt for the very best prices have noticed a new trend: Small, independent gas stations are often the first to cut prices when the price of crude oil falls. This has a lot to do with how gas is bought, sold and moved from pipeline to pump.

A Christmas tree strapped to the roof of a car, or shimmering in a cheerfully decorated living room is a common sight this time of year.  The USDA estimates the Christmas tree industry to be a $14.5 billion enterprise. While states like Oregon, North Carolina and Michigan lead in harvests, a new USDA survey shows Central Texas leads the state in production, but where are those trees coming from?

Officials from countries around the word have met for the last two weeks in Lima, Peru to talk global climate change.   At the heart of those talks is how to limit billions of tons of CO2 that are pumped into the atmosphere every year from coal burning power plants.  

But how do we keep track of the CO2 we’re releasing? And just how do we weigh something that floats in the first place? 

It turns out there is a venerable history to the science of weighing smoke.

From StateImpact Texas:

Stanley Rabke’s family has lived and worked on their Hill Country ranch since 1889. Generations of Rabkes have struggled with the extremes of Texas weather, but one storm sticks out in Stanley’s memory: it came after the drought of the 1950s.

“It rained and rained and rained,” he says. “Back then we raised turkeys, we lost thousands of turkeys that washed away in the creek.”

The disaster underscores an irony of life in Texas. “You hope and pray that you’re going to get a good rain, [but] on the other side of it, you hope you don’t get a flood,” says Rabke.

A quick walk from where the turkeys met their fate, some new technology that will help manage that risk is being installed — soil monitoring sensors in the ground.

The clean energy plan put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency aims to combat climate change by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by power plants.  But it may come at a price, according to a report released Monday by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the group that manages much of Texas electric grid.

The report says electricity bills could rise as much as 20 percent because of the carbon reduction goals, adding that the goals could also endanger electric reliability. Part of that is due to the way the plan would change Texas' energy mix.  

“What we found is that the likely impact of the clean power plan is going to be the retirement of a significant portion of the coal-fired capacity in ERCOT," says ERCOT Director of System Planning Warren Lasher.

The goal of the EPA’s clean energy plan is to reduce Texas carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

  This week Denton, Texas became the first city in the state to ban fracking within its city limits. The ban passed with nearly 59 percent of the vote.

Many in Denton worry about how fracking and associated activities impact their health and quality of life.  But opponents say the ban is bad for the economy. The drilling industry, which pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign against the ban, is concerned with the precedent Denton could set for other Texas towns.

Just hours after the vote, the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TxOGA) filed a legal challenge to the ban, as did the Texas General Land office with a suit.

There may be more legal challenges on the way.

The TxOGA lawsuit asserts that "the public policy of Texas is to encourage the full and effective exploitation of our mineral resources," says Tom Phillips, a lawyer with Baker Botts who is working on the challenge.