EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Gold And Copper Mining In The Rainy Shadow Of A Volcano

Sep 21, 2017

Mining operations almost always touch off environmental opposition.

So, when there’s talk of an open-pit mine in the shadow of one of America’s most active volcanoes, in a place where heavy rains can slough toxic mine waste into rivers, controversy is bound to tinge the conversation.

The University of Washington’s Julian Marshall joins us to explain the significance of a 10-year air pollution study that found that air quality improved overall, but was worse for people of color, regardless of income.

Sarah Dudas doesn't mind shucking an oyster or a clam in the name of science.

But sit down with her and a plate of oysters on the half-shell or a bucket of steamed Manila clams, and she'll probably point out a bivalve's gonads or remark on its fertility.

A Washington state board has invalidated two key permits for a $1.8 billion methanol project proposed in Kalama, Washington

In denying the permits, Washington’s Shorelines Hearings Board sided with Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, three environmental groups that appealed the permits in June.

New details about a proposal to shrink the size and loosen protections for Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument are being greeted with anger and dismay by opponents.

Oregon lawmakers could use the five-week legislative session in 2018 to tackle an issue that fell short in this year’s session.

The so-called “cap and invest” proposal would set an upper limit on the amount of fossil fuels used by companies in Oregon. It would also limit the amount imported into the state, in the case of fuel distributors.

The bill would charge a fee on companies that exceed the limit, and the money generated would be used on projects that would reduce carbon emissions in Oregon.

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Rainfall across western Oregon could oust some of the state's more than two dozen wildfires this week. But trouble still looms in the form of landslides and a possible dry-out.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office says the Eagle Creek Fire is slowly growing on the southern and western edges of the fire.

As of Saturday, the fire in the Columbia River Gorge was burning more than 45,000 acres and was 32 percent contained. The fire ignited Sept. 2 and was human-caused, according to Oregon State Police.

Thousands of Northwest residents will be getting less electricity from burning coal. That’s because of a new agreement to fast-track the closure of a coal-fired power plant in Montana.

The announcement came Friday as part of a rate settlement from Puget Sound Energy. The investor-owned utility has agreed to be financially ready to close its coal plant in Montana nearly two decades ahead of what they’d originally planned.

To do this, PSE will increase customer’s electric rates by about 1 percent. That increase will be offset by a 4 percent cut in natural gas rates.

The Willamette Valley could get the most rain it's had in at least three months starting this weekend. 

As the region begins to retreat from a summer of unprecedented heat, cooler temperatures and more rain could provide relief for firefighters battling the nearly 42,000-acre Eagle Creek Fire burning in the Columbia River Gorge.

Ana Mendoza grabs her keys and walks out of her apartment at the Hacienda low-income housing complex in Portland’s Cully neighborhood.

She walks across the parking lot and unplugs one of three Honda Fit electric cars that residents and employees here can rent as needed.

It’s a little after 8 a.m., and she’s driving downtown to join a women’s leadership discussion for immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico, that starts at 9. She doesn’t own a car, so with the car-sharing option at Hacienda she’s already saved herself about an hour of travel time over taking the bus.

Air pollution can contribute to asthma and heart disease. And it puts children at greater risk of developmental and behavioral problems.

But not everyone is equally likely to be exposed to air pollution.

While regulations and cleaner energy have meant the air’s getting a little cleaner for everyone, a new study by University of Washington researchers shows that, at every income level, people of color are still exposed to more air pollution than white people.

Sarah Dudas doesn’t mind shucking an oyster or a clam in the name of science.

But sit down with her and a plate of oysters on the half-shell or a bucket of steamed Manila clams, and she’ll probably point out a bivalve’s gonads or remark on its fertility.

Don’t expect to take in the stellar views from the top of Angel’s Rest anytime soon.

That's just one of popular hiking trails in the Columbia River Gorge that lies inside the perimeter of the Eagle Creek wildfire (see complete list below).

Rachel Pawlitz of the Gorge National Scenic Area says some of the best-known trails in the Gorge – including Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls, Larch Mountain and, of course, Eagle Creek – will be off limits at least until spring.

When wildfires are burning around the state, it’s hard for the Oregon Department of Forestry to focus on anything else.

During a recent meeting of the Oregon Board of Forestry, state forester Peter Daugherty repeatedly explained how the agency has had to put a lot of routine forest management work — including fire prevention — on hold this summer.

"Pretty much all my time over the past month has been focused on the fire season," Daugherty said.

As the smoke settles, people are asking how to heal the Northwest’s forests. What’s to be done with the blackened trees, spread across hillsides?

One sore spot for people is the Columbia River Gorge.

In an effort to help rehabilitate the land, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., has introduced a bill that would expedite a controversial logging practice in the National Scenic Area: salvage logging.

The Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge continues to burn, though not nearly as wildly as it did a week ago.

At a Monday night meeting in Troutdale, fire and law enforcement officials briefed members of the public about how firefighters are tackling the roughly 34,000-acre blaze.

"We've developed a strategy that we're just going to have to let it burn," said Rick Miller, operations section chief on the Eagle Creek Fire.

On a clear day, Jocelyn Bentley-Prestwich can see Mount Adams from the vineyard where she works in Hood River. But lately, she’s had difficulty seeing to the end of her property line. 

With the Eagle Creek Fire burning along the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River has been cloaked in heavy smoke for more than a week. 

President Trump continues to learn things about his job and the rest of us continue to learn things about Donald Trump.

Last week, faced with one natural disaster festering in Texas and another impending in Florida, Trump used a storm relief bill to save Congress from a fiscal disaster of its own making.

Moreover, he did it by shunning his own party's leaders in the House and Senate and cutting a deal instead with the leaders of the opposition.

On Sept. 1, the U.S. Forest Service swore in Tony Tooke to lead the agency charged with managing the nation's 154 national forests and 20 grasslands across 43 different states.

Tooke said there are about 80 large fires (defined as those burning more than 100 acres) burning nationwide. Normally at this time of the year, that number looks more like 20. 

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