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In 2015, Water, EPA Dominated Environment News in Texas

From a slew of new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules to undrinkable water at the Texas-Mexico border, these are the top environmental stories the Tribune covered in 2015.

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Even though the yearslong drought broke this year amid torrential rains and deadly flooding, water remained a huge issue and point of contention for Texas in 2015. Several controversial water supply projects in Central Texas grabbed headlines. And many people along the Texas-Mexico border don't have access to water, period. Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton spent much time suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a slew of new regulations. 

Here are the year's top five environment stories:

1. The EPA unveils multiple new regulations, prompting Texas suits

As President Obama’s last term in office winds down, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a variety of rules this year designed to better protect the nation’s air and water. Texas has sued over many of the regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to cut carbon emissions by shifting from coal power to natural gas and renewables, and the Waters of the U.S.which clarifies the federal government’s authority to restrict pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. 

2. The drought ends

Texas’ five-year drought ended in July after deadly floods plagued the state, creeping back and then disappearing again toward year’s end. Critics, however, continue to take issue with the soil moisture-based standard employed by the U.S. Drought Monitor, noting that many of the state’s reservoirs still are depleted even after heavy rains. 

3. More controversial water projects

A controversial water supply project in Hays County prompted state legislation this year, casting doubt on its feasibility. But another one in Burleson County, meant to bolster San Antonio’s long-term water supply, is on track despite lingering questions about its own viability. A common concern with both projects is that they may cannibalize the local water supply.

4. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality continues to fight scientific consensus

From the health effects associated with smog and arsenic exposure to climate change, the state environmental regulatory agency continued to cast doubt in 2015 on well-established science.

5. Undrinkable water at Texas-Mexico border

Along the Texas-Mexico border, nearly 90,000 people are believed to still live without running water. An untold number more — likely tens of thousands, but no one is sure — often have running water of such poor quality that they cannot know what poisons or diseases it might carry.

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