Top 10 Environmental Stories
Drought, wildfires, and more WTP4
1) Drought and Destruction Record-setting hot and dry conditions wreaked havoc across Central Texas, killing trees, crops, cattle, and wildlife and providing a landscape of kindling ripe for wildfires; our neighbors in Bastrop saw the worst of the catastrophic fires.
2) Rolling on Coal Enviros and public health advocates celebrated the Environmental Protection Agency's new safeguards to limit mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. Gov. Rick Perry accused the EPA of killing Texas jobs.
3) Pipeline Politics President Obama gave opponents of the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline the gift of more time when he delayed a decision to green-light the project or seek an alternative route; GOP forced a deadline into the payroll tax extension.
4) Water Torture With a new four-vote majority on City Council, the anti-Water Treatment Plant No. 4 contingent thought it'd have another shot at reviewing, then killing, the WTP4 project; they got the first part, but not the second, having decided construction was too far along to mothball the plant.
5) Just Paint It Green The Formula One racing event in Austin gained some green momentum after the city inked a "landmark environmental partnership" that would make the F1 site the greenest motor-sports facility in the world.
6) Plastic Fantastic Bag Ban It wasn't the most absolute stand, but City Council called for an end to plastic bags at retail and grocery store checkout lanes; city staffers are drafting a policy to kick-start the process of phasing out the bags. Paper, you're next.
7) Something in the Water Fluoride opponents may have lost a battle in calling for a warning label on water bills, but the issue refuses to die, and in fact will be a council campaign topic with at least one anti-fluoridation candidate on the trail.
8) Whither Weatherization? A miscue somewhere between Austin Energy and the City Manager's Office caused the city to lose a bundle of stimulus funds intended to cover the cost of weatherizing 54 low-income apartments.
9) Rate Increase vs. Conservation Austin Energy's new rate structure proposal carries a jacked-up monthly fee that opponents say would diminish the community's progress toward energy conservation. Pity the council incumbent running for re-election amid the rate debate.
10) The Race to Zero Waste One of City Council's last actions of 2011 was to approve a 30-year plan to whittle down the amount of trash sent to landfills; watch for pilot programs to help you figure out what to do with that old mattress.