Top 10 Environmental Stories

We've only got one planet

Tom "Smitty" Smith (Photo by John Anderson)

1) From Paris to Mexico City In April, Austin sent a delegation to the Paris conference that signed a new international agreement to act against climate change, adding the "C40" agreement that promises more substantial action at the city level – expanded and strengthened in December in Mexico.

2) Smitty Steps Down The Austin voice of climate protection, Tom "Smitty" Smith, announced his retirement after 35 years at the helm of Texas Public Citizen. Smitty is a happy warrior at the Capitol and City Hall for environmental protection, renewable energy, and political reform.

3) Stand for the Earth Austin allies and activists joined the international movement to support the struggle of the Dakota and Lakota tribes near the Standing Rock Sioux Reser­vation, where thousands protest the Dakota Access Pipeline Project. Like the oil, the struggle reverberates into Texas – where a similar West Texas pipeline is also being protested.

4) Will Onion Creek Survive? Dripping Springs announced plans to dump treated wastewater into Onion Creek, despite widespread local opposition. The state seems ready to allow it, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency balked.

5) Energy Futures Austin's big steps forward into solar and wind energy have lowered market prices, meaning synergy elsewhere and putting the city in the forefront of alternative development. City-owned Austin Ener­gy stands to lead the U.S. to the clean energy horizon.

6) Shit, Meet Fan An Austin Water project to compost more city sewage sludge into Dillo Dirt at Hornsby Bend ran smack into a corporate and Council dispute over the management contract. Sweeter smell by next year?

7) Growing Wild City Council declared Aug. 4 "Scooter Cheatham and Useful Wild Plants Day," in honor of Cheatham and Lynn Marshall's lifelong, encyclopedic project to document the vanishing vegetal cornucopia, now in Volume 4 (letter C). Plenty of material for more proclamations ....

8) Long-Distance Code The seemingly endless task of revising and simplifying Aus­tin's land-use ordinances – aka "CodeNEXT" – continues to simmer, with a draft promised for January but at least another year of inch-by-inch public debate. Anticipate a 2017 Top 10.

9) Back to the Farm The "Elgin Agrarian Community" – an experimental co-op development east of Austin – begins to take shape near Elgin's main street. A project for both sustainable living and cooperative management, and perhaps a sign of things to come.

10) Champing at Champions The long-running zoning battles over the "Champions Tracts" – five parcels of land at the once-remote intersection of Loop 360 and RM 2222 – returned to Council with renewed controversy, this time over neighborhood objections to a major housing development along City Park Road. Arguments simmer over public safety as well as environmental stewardship.

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