Drought, oil and gas production, fast lanes and toll lanes made headlines in 2012 in the Tribune. Here's a look back at the year's biggest stories on energy and the environment and transportation.

Energy and the environment 

Water rose toward the top of policymakers’ agenda in 2012, as severe drought returned to much of Texas. At the close of 2012, lawmakers were beginning to wrestle with how to provide funding for water infrastructure projects around the state, as environmentalists urged a greater push for conservation.

The oil and gas boom continued, fueled by high oil prices and expanding shale discoveries. The Texas Railroad Commission began work on tightening rules that govern the well-drilling process. That process should be finalized early next year, when the Railroad Commission will also undergo a comprehensive review, conducted by the Legislature, about everything from its antiquated name to its enforcement practices.

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Meanwhile, the state’s power-grid regulators searched for ways to keep the lights on in the future, as the state grows. The three-member Public Utility Commission voted on two separate occasions to dramatically increase the cap on wholesale power prices in the state, allowing power companies to make more money at crunch times for the grid. The theory is that more profits will make them likelier to build new plants. Consumer advocates complained that nothing was required of the power companies in return.

Below are links to some of the Tribune's top energy and environment stories this year:

Texas Regulators Prepare Major Drilling Rule Changes 

Texas Power Market Changes Include Little Talk of Rates 

Texas Regulators Double Cap for Electricity Prices 

Despite Rain, West Texas Water Woes Continue  

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Texas Wind Boom Threatened by Expiring Tax Credit 

Texas' Petrochemical Boom Fuels Hopes and Concerns 

Midland's Latest Oil Boom Strains Housing, Schools 

Texas' Water Woes Spark Interest in Desalination 

In Era of Drought, Texas Cities Boost Water Rates 

Texas' Haul From BP Spill: $100 Million, and Counting 


Transportation issues that prompted heavy debate among Texans in 2012 included the opening of a toll road with an 85 mph speed limit — the fastest in the country — and the upcoming expansion of the Panama Canal, which could bring more traffic to Texas ports and roads. As more toll projects advanced around the state, lawmakers and business leaders grew more concerned about the outdated transportation funding system.

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Below are links to some of the Tribune's top transportation stories this year:

Panama Canal Expansion Raises Expectations in Houston

TxDOT Releases First Rural Transportation Plan

For TxDOT, a $2 Billion "Perception Problem"

Report: Texas Jobs Near Mass Transit, Commuters Aren't

Private Firm Planning Bullet Trains in Texas by 2020

Texas Releases List of State's Most Congested Roads

Plan for 85 MPH Road Draws Safety, Fairness Concerns

Fee Hike a Leading Contender to Raise Money for Roads

Texas Cities Differ on Texting-While-Driving Bans

Tolling Texans: Toll Projects Spread as State Funds Lag

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