Environment

The Karankawa were said to be extinct. Now they’re reviving their culture — and fighting to protect their ancestors’ land.

Historians long thought the Karankawa people had disappeared. But now a group of descendants is fighting to protect a coastal area — where thousands of Karankawa artifacts were found — from an encroaching oil export facility. Read more on texastribune.org.

“People have already died”: In Houston, residents demand relief from chronic pollution during EPA chief’s visit.

During a Friday visit, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said his agency is “prepared to act” to force accelerated cleanups in historically polluted Houston neighborhoods. Read more on texastribune.org.

San Antonio built a pipeline to rural Central Texas to increase its water supply. Now local landowners say their wells are running dry.

A pipeline helped secure water for San Antonio for decades to come — at a potentially high cost to some rural residents who are losing groundwater to the big city. Is it a preview for the rest of the state as climate change brings more water scarcity and cities keep sprawling? Read more on texastribune.org.

How a Texas songbird and its endangered status became the center of a fight over the Hill Country

Scientists say a study that estimated far more golden-cheeked warblers in Texas than previously thought has been attacked and taken out of context as the state and federal government battle over the bird’s endangered status. Read more on texastribune.org.

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For the Houston Chronicle 2018-2020

Neighbors contend with rail yard after decades of contamination

A railroad yard asked the state to limit its responsibility to clean up decades of toxic waste. The community it neighbored didn’t know anything was wrong. In the historically Black neighborhood, it seems everyone knows someone who died of cancer or had the disease themselves. Now, they’re coming to terms with how contamination lurking below may have affected their lives. 

Impact: After the story published, state regulators asked Union Pacific to test the air in homes affected by contamination. Then, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee held a town hall on the issue. Four months later, the Texas Department of State Health Services identified a cancer cluster in the area. But, state agencies failed to notify the public until months later. Residents, increasingly angry and concerned, turned out by the hundreds for a town hall featuring Erin Brockovich. In March 2020, some Houston residents filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific.

One Houston neighborhood is putting Texas’ air quality rules to the test

Acres Homes residents are trying to stop a concrete batch plant in the heart of their neighborhood. But Texas’ environmental agency keeps moving the air emissions permit request forward. In Houston, where there are little land-use rules, the community is wondering: Is the public participation process just for show? 

Impact: After the story published, the state’s environmental agency referred the dispute to a state hearing. In January — one day before a judge was set to hear the case — the company withdrew its application for the permit to build the plant under public pressure. The next day, the company agreed to move out of the neighborhood.