EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Washington’s Attorney General said Friday that he is opposed to a proposal to build the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver, Wash.

“Protecting the environment and public safety are top priorities of my office,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “The bottom line is that the potential benefits of this project are dramatically outweighed by the potential risks and costs of a spill.”

Washington state regulators have issued a $176 million fine against Volkswagen for violating air quality laws by equipping diesel cars with software programmed to cheat emissions tests.

Volkswagen deceived more than 21,000 customers in Washington and 13,000 in Oregon who bought vehicles made from 2009-16 that emitted high levels of air pollutants linked with asthma attacks and premature death from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.

For the last five weeks, Washington’s energy council has conducted a trial-like review of the Vancouver Energy Project. Those proceedings end with a public hearing Friday.

A judge has presided over what's known as the adjudicative portion of the energy council's review process. Proponents have been able to make their case for the oil terminal, while opponents have made their arguments too. There’s even been cross examinations as both sides have strived to depict the dangers or benefits of the oil terminal.

A recent independent investigation into Portland Public Schools’ handling of high lead levels in school drinking water forced Superintendent Carole Smith’s retirement. But it also revealed deeper problems: a school district where management practices were even more deficient than the aging schools kids attend every day.

It's a problem all-too-familiar to the people responsible for making sure our schools are safe, every day.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, warning that “we are the last generation” that can combat climate change, is featured in a video produced by filmmaker James Cameron for airing Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention.

The 5 1/2-minute video portrays climate change as a slow-moving disaster movie, replete with scenes of devastation from hurricanes, floods, drought and wildfires.

After last month's fiery oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge, federal regulators put the blame on Union Pacific Road for failing to maintain its track.

Soon questions arose about the railroad's safety record. Watchdog groups compared Union Pacific's track maintenance standards to those employed by BNSF Railway, the West's other major carrier, which also runs oil trains through the Columbia Gorge. (BNSF's tracks run along the Washington side of the river.)

Wild Horse Advocates Sue BLM Over Spay Procedures

Jul 26, 2016

An advocacy organization has announced it will sue the Bureau of Land Management over proposed spaying procedures for wild horses in eastern Oregon.

America has more than 560 wildlife refuges. Most of them are what you’d expect: remote, untrammeled places where humans are visitors.

Oregon Timber Harvest Slips For 2nd Consecutive Year

Jul 25, 2016

Oregon’s timber harvest dropped 8 percent last year.

Before the great recession, Oregon was producing about 4 billion board feet of lumber a year. That dropped after the recession as people stopped building houses.

But it’s been climbing and for the last few years it’s been above 4 billion board feet again, thanks in part to a strong Chinese economy.

This year’s fire season has had a slow start. The winter’s thicker snowpack and cooler temperatures this summer have helped keep large fires at bay, said Carol Connolly with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

"Part of the difference is the weather," Connolly explained. "We haven’t had the hot dry conditions that we’ve experienced the last few years. We have not had the lightning activity."

Oregon Bottle Deposit Set To Double Next Year

Jul 22, 2016

The bottle deposit rate in Oregon will double next year from 5 to 10 cents. Officials are trying to boost return rates, which have been slowly falling since Oregon became the first state to pass a bottle bill in 1971.

The law required a 5-cent deposit on certain drink containers, which is returned when people bring back containers. The results were immediate. Oregon achieved a 90 percent return rate, reducing litter and the number of containers in landfills significantly.

Friday is the public's last chance to comment on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's plan to limit carbon pollution from the state's biggest emitters. But with a carbon tax on the November ballot, it won't be voters' last word on the matter.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will accept comments for one more week on permanent rules for the state’s colored art glass industry.

Two major players and three small companies are located in Portland. The two larger companies’ air emissions have been under scrutiny since large concentrations of heavy metals were found in moss near their operations.

Bend Citizens Debate Climate Change Resolution

Jul 22, 2016

More than 130 people came to the Bend City Council chambers for Thursday’s meeting on a proposed climate change resolution.

The draft resolution sets goals for carbon emission reductions for City of Bend operations, kick-starts a process to develop community-wide emissions targets and outlines a path to develop a more specific climate plan with benchmarks and policies.

When a Union Pacific oil train derailed and burst into fire in Mosier, Oregon, in June, the initial damage was in plain view, as dark smoke billowed into the sky.

Now OPB has learned about invisible damage: elevated concentrations of benzene and other volatile organic compounds in groundwater near the derailment site.

Seabirds have been washing up dead on beaches in Washington and British Columbia this summer, and scientists can't say why.

Rhinoceros auklets are one of the most common birds in the network of inland waterways shared by Washington and British Columbia. Since May, volunteer "citizen scientists" on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula and across the water in Victoria, British Columbia, have found dozens of the puffin-like birds washed ashore.

This summer is proving to be a bonanza for whale-watchers.

According to The Pacific Whale Watch Association, tourists and researchers are seeing groups of humpback whales in the Salish Sea and Puget Sound nearly every day.

Humpbacks were nearly wiped out early in the last century because of whaling. But when hunting was banned in the 1960s they started to come back.

Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington, estimates as many as 500 humpbacks now spend the season off Washington and British Columbia.

House Budget Bill Would Block Owyhee Monument

Jul 19, 2016

The latest Congressional budget bill for the U.S. Department of the Interior includes a provision to block President Obama from designating an Owyhee National Monument in Southeast Oregon.

The bill, which passed in the House, includes language essentially banning Interior budget dollars from funding the creation of national monuments by the president. Malheur County is one of several mentioned in the bill.

Top Northwest officials and a member of President Obama’s cabinet will gather Tuesday for the renaming of a wildlife refuge near Olympia in honor of one of the region’s best known Native American leaders.

The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is being renamed in honor of late Nisqually tribal leader Billy Frank Jr.

Oregon State University and Stanford University developed an energy conservation program which showed that children’s energy-saving behaviors impact their parents’ own habits.

The program, called Girls Learning Environment and Energy, or GLEE, was tested on 30 Girl Scout troops in Northern California, and the results were positive, not only for the children but also for their entire families.

Researchers found that the energy-saving behavior the Girl Scouts gained continued for more than seven months after the program ended.

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