Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

Earthfix
1:00 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Oregon Turns To Redemption Centers To Boost Return Of Empty Bottles And Cans

A row of sparkling clean reverse vending machines greet customers at the grand opening of the Medford BottleDrop center.
Jes Burns/EarthFix

Major changes are underway, with more on the horizon for Oregon’s pioneering bottle deposit system.

Those changes -- the biggest since the Bottle Bill's adoption a generation ago -- have been slowly playing out as grocery stores close their return stations in favor of centralized off-site redemption centers.

And the state will soon determine if the deposit paid for each bottle and can of soda, water or beer will remain at a nickel or double to a dime.

Those changes are all about increasing the rate of empties -- and deposits -- that get returned.

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NPR Story
5:41 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Portland Regional Government Approves Climate Strategy

Portland's regional government approved a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent over 20 years.
Robert Ashworth/Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/theslowlane/6111795654/in/photolist-aj5xV9-A2Ljj-pnF8-3KgewP-h4oj9-5sGrBy-6th1w2-qLMEd-94AzPm-cHEBt5-4xTLbM-yyRcK-8fmZZ9-oAWwNT-5s5wSw-5Mud4g-69n5vQ-5sGBeC-5sCdFp-cwReMh-

Portland's regional government approved a climate strategy Thursday that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the metro area by 29 percent over 20 years.

The strategy was required by a state law passed in 2009.

It includes options for encouraging public transit, biking and walking. It outlines street and highway improvements to move traffic more efficiently. And it calls for cleaner fuels and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

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Earthfix
4:19 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Stiff Tariffs Imposed To Help U.S. Solar Panel Makers Compete

File photo of solar panels. The U.S. Commerce Department is imposing steep tariffs on imported panels from China and Taiwan after ruling they were unfairly undercutting prices for U.S. competitors.
Flickr/Shelby Farms

The Obama administration delivered a trade war victory Tuesday to an Oregon solar manufacturer and others in the U.S. sector.

The Commerce Department sided with SolarWorld by upholding tariffs on solar panels imported from China and Taiwan.

The Commerce Department ruled that competitors from those two countries have been using illegal foreign government subsidies and dumping solar panels in the US market at below-cost prices.

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NPR Story
4:08 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Yakima Valley Dairies Pledge To Reduce Nitrate Pollution

A dairy in the Yakima Valley. After a more than a year of testing, dairies in Washington’s Lower Yakima Valley are trying to reduce pollution from manure.
Courtney Flatt

After a more than a year of testing, dairies in Washington’s Lower Yakima Valley are trying to reduce water pollution from manure. A report from the Environmental Protection Agency had found the dairies were likely sources of nitrate pollution to nearby residential wells.

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NPR Story
2:14 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Inslee: 'Our Worst Polluters Will Step Up And Pay'

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled a new transportation plan at a Eastside Transit Project site atop SR520 on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014
Ruby de Luna / KUOW

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been traveling around the state to unveil portions of his budget proposal. Tuesday morning he stopped in Medina, where workers are completing the Eastside Transit Project atop the 520 floating bridge, to announce his transportation plan.

On the governor’s wish list are safety projects like fixing bridges deemed structurally deficient and projects that will relieve congestion, like the choke point on Interstate 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

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NPR Story
5:20 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Washington Court Rules Against Landowners In Skagit Water Rights Case

Richard Fox on his Skagit County property. On Tuesday a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Fox and his wife, Marnie, challenging a rule that prevents them from drilling a well. The rule is meant to provide water for spawning salmon during dry months.
Ashley Ahearn / KUOW

EVERETT, Wash. -- A judge ruled against a couple Tuesday after they sued for the right to drill a well and build a new home on their property in Skagit County.

The case marks the latest battle in the ongoing fight over water rights in Washington's Skagit River valley.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel dismissed the case brought by property owners Richard and Marnie Fox. He told the couple that they can't build a home on their property because they don't have legal access to water.

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NPR Story
1:43 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Oso Report Assigns No Blame, Calls For Better Public Safety

A condemned house on the edge of the Ledgewood Beach landslide on Whidbey Island in Washington's Puget Sound.
John Ryan / KUOW

A new report from the SR 530 Landslide Commission makes 17 recommendations for improving public safety in a state that is dotted with landslide-prone slopes. Recommendations range from mapping Washington state's most dangerous ground in detail to improving emergency response.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Court Case Is The Latest Battle In Water Wars Of The Skagit River

Richard Fox and his wife, Marnie, want to build a house and garage on their property near the Skagit River. The state says they can't have access to the water necessary to approve their building permit.
Ashley Ahearn

SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. -- The house was going to be modest, 1,300 square feet with a big porch looking out over acres of fields. Next to it would be a garage with a caretaker’s apartment over it.

“I’m kind of an old guy already,” Richard Fox said, standing in the pouring rain on his property and gesturing to the spot where he and his wife’s dream retirement home was to be built. A handful of drenched cows looked on, vaguely curious.

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NPR Story
4:38 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Endangered Species Decision For Sage Grouse Delayed By Congressional Maneuvering

A rider in a spending bill making its way through Congress would delay a decision about whether to place the greater sage grouse on the Endangered Species list.
Vince Patton, Oregon Field Guide

Originally published on Sat December 13, 2014 8:32 pm

Editor's Note: This story was updated Saturday, Dec. 13.

One small point in a spending bill approved by Congress Saturday could be a big deal for sage grouse.

A spending bill rider would delay a decision about whether to extend endangered species protection to the greater sage grouse. A decision about whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act is currently scheduled for September, 2015.

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NPR Story
7:23 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Hearing On LNG Project In Southern Oregon Draws A Crowd

Opponents of the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal in Coos Bay rallied outside a public meeting in Medford Thursday.
Jes Burns/OPB

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 8:51 am

MEDFORD, Ore. - People stood six deep in the back of a Medford high school meeting room Thursday night for a hearing on a liquefied natural gas export terminal proposed for the Oregon Coast. It was the fourth in a series of community meetings held across Southern Oregon.

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NPR Story
6:11 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Yakama Nation Sues Army Corps Over Columbia River Cleanup

For decades the Army Corps of Engineers used Bradford Island near the Bonneville Dam as a dumping ground. Toxic chemicals leaked into the Columbia River. The island is also a historic fishing site for the Yakama Nation.
Flickr Creative Commons: A. F. Litt

For decades the Army Corps of Engineers used an island near the Bonneville Dam as a dumping ground. Toxic chemicals leaked into the Columbia River. The island is also a historic fishing site for the Yakama Nation.

The tribe is now suing the Corps to recover costs from helping clean up the contamination.

In 2003, the Corps removed electrical equipment and contaminated sediment found at the bottom of the river. In 2007, it dredged the area to remove more contaminated soil.

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Earthfix
8:00 am
Thu December 11, 2014

End Of Federal Timber Payments Means Leaner Times For Oregon Counties

Over the past century, shared federal timber harvest revenues have become the backbones of Oregon county budgets.
BLM http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOregon_BLM_Forestry_10_(6871708937).jpg

Federal timber payments to counties in the Pacific Northwest may be a thing of the past, after funding failed to make it into a Congressional spending bill this week.

For the past century, when timber was logged on federal land, the county where that land was located would get a cut of the profits. The reason: counties couldn’t collect property taxes on federal lands, yet still had to provide services there.

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NPR Story
7:30 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Seattle Billionaire Steps Into Coal Fight

A coal mining operation near Gillette, Wyoming. Seattle billionaire Paul Allen is bankrolling a lawsuit over the way the federal government leases public land for coal mining.
Michael Werner/KCTS9

SEATTLE -- As the Seattle Seahawks eye another run at the Super Bowl, their owner Paul Allen has chosen to tackle a different challenge: climate change.

Instead of giving money to environmental groups, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft is picking up the tab for a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior, which oversees the leasing of public land to coal mining companies.

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NPR Story
2:14 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Warming Ocean May Be Triggering Mega Methane Leaks Off Northwest Coast

Sonar image of bubbles rising from the seafloor off the Washington coast. The base of the column is one-third of a mile (515 meters) deep and the top of the plume is at 1/10 of a mile (180 meters) deep.
Brendan Philip / UW

SEATTLE -- As the waters of the Pacific warm, methane that was trapped in crystalline form beneath the seabed is being released. And fast.

New modeling suggests that 4 million tons of this potent greenhouse gas have escaped since 1970 from the ocean depths off Washington's coast.

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NPR Story
6:35 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

More Japanese Tsunami Debris Will Wash Up This Winter On Northwest Shores, Scientists Predict

Shipping tote dislodged during the Japanese tsunami washed ashore near Seal Rock, Ore. in late November. It was covered with about 200 blue mussels.
Oregon State University https://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/15318968024

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 5:13 pm

Winter storms off the Oregon and Washington coastlines are expected to bring a new wave of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Scientists say objects are already washing ashore – with potentially invasive organisms riding along.

In March, 2011 an earthquake and tsunami devastated a large swath of eastern Japan. The tsunami reached heights of over 100 feet in some places, washing large quantities of manmade materials out to sea. Japanese officials estimate that about 1.5 million tons of debris floated out into the Pacific.

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Earthfix
5:00 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

How One Complaint Reveals The Flaws In Oregon's Pesticide Regulation

The view from a clearcut on Seneca Jones timber land, the subject of a pesticide spray investigation, with the community of Tiller, Oregon, below.
Oregon Department of Agriculture

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 1:00 am

TILLER, Ore. -- The laws meant to prevent pesticides drifting across Oregon forests don’t always work.

Lori Valuch knows it. Her husband Joe knows it. And so do their neighbors, whose properties tested positive for stray weed killer last April after Valuch complained to the state Department of Agriculture.

"I realize they need to do spraying to control things on their land for the growth of their trees. But at the same time, I don’t want to be poisoned by it," Valuch said.

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NPR Story
3:35 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Carbon Tax Could Cut Oregon Emissions With Little Economic Harm, Study Finds

Tailpipe emissions would drop enough to meet goals for curbing greenhouse gases in Oregon with minimal economic hardship, a new story concludes.
Flickr/eutopication and hypoxia

A new study finds a statewide carbon tax would allow Oregon to reach its emissions reduction goals with little economic harm.

The Northwest Economic Research Center at Portland State University spent eight months examining the economic and environmental effects of a carbon tax in Oregon. Researchers considered taxes between $10 a ton and $150 a ton on greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, natural gas for heating and fossil fuels used to generate electricity.

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NPR Story
10:24 pm
Sun December 7, 2014

Endangered Puget Sound Orca Died While Pregnant, Scientists Learn

A photo taken November 29, 2014, in Speiden Channel, north of San Juan Island. J32 Rhapsody is in the lead, on the right. J32 Rhapsody was reported dead on Dec. 4, 2014.
Melisa Pinnow, courtesy of the Orca Network and the Center for Whale Research

Scientists determined this weekend that the dead orca that washed up on Vancouver Island last Thursday was pregnant when she died.

The young female was a member of the endangered southern resident killer whale families of Puget Sound.

Experts who conducted the necropsy on the whale said her fetus was between 5 and 6 feet long - about a half the length of the mother. The fetus was already decomposing, suggesting to scientists that the mother was attempting to expel her stillborn calf when she died.

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Earthfix
4:44 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Land Sell-Off Brings Scrutiny To Planning The Elliott State Forest's Future

Elliott State Forest
Oregon Department of Forestry https://www.flickr.com/photos/oregondepartmentofforestry/10876586254/in/photolist-hz8mad-4Kd1u3-4KahMi-hz8mWo-81SoP4-4KdtXs-4KafrT-4Kdp3G-hzaSDz-hz9Xig-6vikih-6iowqk-4KeyV9-6it9J1-6Dq2md-4K8GVt-4SatWF

The Oregon State Land Board is meeting in Salem Tuesday to discuss options for increasing revenues from the Elliott State Forest. Keeping the forest in public or tribal hands tops the list.

But Oregon Department of State Lands spokeswoman Julie Curtis does warn that future land sales are not completely off the table.

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Earthfix
4:43 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Wyden Pushes On With 2 Key Oregon Natural Resources Bills

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announces his O&C timber bill during a 2013 event in the Oregon Capitol.
wyden.sen.gov

As Congress prepares to adjourn this month, still unresolved is a pair of bills with wide-reaching implications for southern and western Oregon.

Over the past year, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has pushed hard for compromise measures that would address long-standing conflicts over logging and water. But now those bills are in limbo.

Just over a year ago, Wyden unveiled his plan to solve the protracted tug-of-war over logging on Oregon’s so-called “O&C” lands -- named for the Oregon & California Railroad that once held ownership to these forestlands.

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