Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
1:00 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Protecting Northwest Forests As Bigger Wildfires Burn Longer

Susan Prichard takes a picture of an area of the Carlton Complex that was completely devestated by wildfire. The Carlton Complex was the largest fire in Washington's history.
Courtney Flatt

WINTHROP, Wash. -- This summer, the Carlton Complex wildfire swept through central Washington’s Methow Valley. The fire consumed more acres than any other fire in the state’s history. Now, ecologists are trying to make forests more sustainable to help prevent these large-scale fires.

Fire ecologist Susan Prichard was driving from Seattle to her home in Winthrop just as the Carlton Complex fire picked up.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Wed November 19, 2014

3 Ways Northwest Companies Are Turning Food Waste Into Energy

Professional Formula Drift driver Matt Coffman says the Thunderbolt food waste ethanol runs his car better than regular race fuel.
Michael Werner/KCTS9

This is the second part of a three-part series, “What A Waste: Why We Have To Stop Throwing Food Away.”

A pile of food waste can make rich compost for the garden. But some Northwest companies are going beyond composting. We discovered three companies that are turning it into energy to power homes, race cars and city buses.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Tue November 18, 2014

No One Said Curbside Composting Would Be Easy

Lawrence Klein, facility manager of the Seattle-based composting company Cedar Grove, walks past rows of maturing compost. Plastic and metal in the food waste adds to the cost of turning waste into compost for yards and gardens.
Katie Campbell

This is the second part of a three-part series, "What A Waste: Why We Have To Stop Throwing Food Away."

Seattle and Portland are working to reduce the environmental impacts of food waste by offering curbside composting. But no one said it would be easy. The cities have faced challenges from foul odors, lack of participation and plastic contamination.

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NPR Story
6:30 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

Wash. Governor Ready For New Push To Put A Price On Carbon

A file photo of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee at the Capitol in 2013, calling for state action to curb the emission of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global climate change.
TVW.org

SEATTLE -- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee took the handoff Monday for his latest run at putting a price on carbon emissions.

It happened at a gathering at Seattle City Hall, where the chair of his task force on climate change, Ada Healey, delivered a set of options to the Democratic governor.

"Here you go, there’s a bow on it. It’s red," she joked.

Options put forward for Inslee's consideration include a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system. The task force did not make recommendations on either approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.

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NPR Story
4:00 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

What Climate Change Means For A Land Of Glaciers

Erin Lowery is a fisheries biologist for Seattle City Light. His job is to figure out where salmon are spawning on the Skagit River and then make sure his employers dams release the right amount of water to allow the eggs to incubate safely.
Ryan Hasert

Originally published on Sun November 9, 2014 9:00 am

NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK, Wash. -- Jon Riedel’s white hair and light blue eyes match the icy tint of the landscape he’s studied for more than 30 years.

He moved to Washington soon after finishing his PhD at the University of Wisconsin because he says the glaciers of the Northwest are still writing the landscape, still carving out curves and valleys.

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Earthfix
12:00 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

Scientists Solve Mystery Of West Coast Starfish Die-Off

Researchers analyzed hundreds of sunflower starfish to figure out what's causing sea star wasting syndrome
Cornell University

SEATTLE -- After months of research, scientists have identified the pathogen at the heart of the starfish wasting disease that’s been killing starfish by the millions along the Pacific shores of North America, according to research published Monday.

They said it’s a virus that’s different from all other known viruses infecting marine organisms. They’ve dubbed it “sea star associated densovirus.”

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Earthfix
8:45 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Northwest Cities Show Food Waste Isn't A Total Loss

Libby Mills, 7, helps her mom Sara Mills in dumping the family’s food scraps into the yard waste container. Libby says, “It’s not very di fficult just to put something in a bin.”
Katie Campbell

This is the first part of a three-part series, "What A Waste: Why We Have To Stop Throwing Food Away."

Wasting 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. certainly has its drawbacks:

It's not feeding people in need, it's expensive and it does a lot of environmental damage.

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Earthfix
4:09 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Southern Oregon University Wants To Lead Pacific Northwest in Campus Biomass

Southern Oregon University Facilities Manager Drew Gilliland wants to replace the natural gas boilers on campus with biomass cogeneration.

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 12:20 pm

ASHLAND, Ore. -- Southern Oregon University is vying to join a small but growing number of campuses around the country turning to biomass energy -- or put more simply, burning wood and forest debris -- to produce power on campus.

Tucked away on the backside of Southern Oregon University is a modest 1950s-era warehouse. Puffs of cloud-white steam emerge from the smokestack on top. They're a result of burning natural gas to produce heat for the campus.

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Earthfix
6:07 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Klamath Basin Agreements Move Toward Senate Floor

The J.C. Boyle Dam, one of four that the Interior Department has recommended for removal from the Klamath River. It runs through Southern Oregon and Northern California.
Amelia Templeton

A long-negotiated series of agreements to manage water in the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon and Northern California received Senate committee passage Thursday.

“This legislation is the result of a historic collaboration of efforts,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden during the committee meeting.

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Earthfix
3:47 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Wyden's O&C Timber Bill Clears Senate Committee

O&C Lands in Western Oregon are currently administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
BLM http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_BLM_Forestry_06_(6871712301).jpg

Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 3:49 pm

The substitute bill would increase harvest levels even further than in previous legislative versions - from about 350 to 400 million board feet per year.

Despite the increased logging levels, Wyden says "major environmental groups" stand by the changes. The groups include The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Pew’s Campaign for America’s Wilderness, Pacific Rivers Council and the Wild Salmon Center.

“The legislation does this by protecting controversial lands and requiring ecological forestry in non-controversial areas,” he said.

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NPR Story
10:24 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Rogue Valley Residents Question University Biomass Proposal

A biomass plant at Missouri University. Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, wants to be the first campus in the Northwest with a power plant to run on biomass -- woody debris from the forest.
Flickr/CAFNR https://www.flickr.com/photos/cafnr/13454164705/in/photolist-muWn6q-muVhM6-muWAoN-muV5oi-muWoUW-muUBqx-muUzBx-muVfDD-muUxRD-muWioq-muWgtd-muUYSP-muUQBa-muUU1V-muUPgK-muU7qZ-muUiA4-muUfsk-muWd7U-fZeuEi

ASHLAND, Ore. - Southern Oregon University has a plan to make its campus the Northwest to install a biomass power plant.

Like many universities, Southern Oregon uses natural gas to heat its campus. But its current boiler system is getting old.

As a replacement, SOU wants to build a biomass cogeneration plant that would produce steam heat and electricity. The steam would be pumped out to campus buildings for heat. The electricity would be sold back to the grid.

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NPR Story
7:16 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Paying Wind Generators Not To Produce Power

The first powerhouse of the Bonneville Dam, 40 miles east of Portland, on the Columbia River.
WikiCommons

The Bonneville Power Administration operates the federal hydropower dams in the Columbia Basin. In springtime, during snow melt, there can be so much water in the river that – combined with the output of the dozens of wind farms that have cropped up in Oregon and Washington – there’s more electricity in the system than anyone can use.

Dam operators could dump the extra water over the spillways. But as the BPA’s Doug Johnson explains, that causes problems for salmon and other fish.

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NPR Story
6:40 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Wash. Forest Practices Board Adopts New Logging Guidelines

File photo of the Oso landslide, taken in March, 2014.
Snohomish County

Washington state essentially prohibits logging on unstable slopes -- since removing trees can worsen erosion and landslides. But it's not always obvious which slopes are unstable.

State officials Wednesday adopted a more cautious approach around slopes like the one that collapsed onto the town of Oso in March. That deep-seated landslide killed 43 people.

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NPR Story
1:00 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

What A Junk Food Diet Means For Seagulls In The Northwest

New research across several decades shows seagulls are eating more food from the garbage. Just like humans, their health is suffering as they eat more junk food.
Flickr Photo / Bev Sykes

Anyone who’s been to the beach knows that seagulls will eat pretty much anything.

New research from the University of British Columbia shows just how bad seagull diets in the Northwest have become.

Louise Blight analyzed hundreds of seagull feathers stored in museums around Washington and British Columbia over the past 150 years.

She found a decline in heavier carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the feathers.

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Earthfix
11:01 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Study: Communities Must Learn To Coexist With Wildfire

Firefighter at 2012 Barry Point Fire in Southern Oregon
BLM

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 8:30 am

“There’s a feeling that we have control over fires, and the fact is we don’t,” said Southern Oregon University ecologist Dennis Odion.

Odion is co-author of “Learning to Coexist with Wildfire,” published in the journal Nature last Thursday. The paper examined the findings of more than 100 studies, and says wildfire should be treated like other natural disasters.

“You know earthquakes and hurricanes are viewed as something that we prepare for and do our best to withstand.”

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NPR Story
2:47 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Research Suggests Sea Lions Are Eating More Columbia River Salmon

New research suggests sea lions are eating more salmon in the Columbia River than previously thought.
Courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

PORTLAND -- New research suggests sea lions are eating more salmon in the Columbia River than previously thought.

Data from tracking salmon over the past five years show a significant drop in survival below Bonneville Dam. Michelle Rub, a researcher with with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, says preliminary numbers show survival dropping from 90 percent in 2010 to 55 percent in 2014.

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Earthfix
2:13 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Harm From LNG Project On Oregon Coast Could Be Offset, Report Says

Tugboats in Coos Bay
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

That sums up the preliminary findings of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement Friday for the Jordan Cove project.

“Nothing in the EIS is a surprise to us,” said Michael Hinrichs, the public affairs director for Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector.

He said the company has spent two years analyzing the potential environmental impacts of the project.

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NPR Story
2:00 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

NW Colleges Showcase Innovations In Campus Sustainability

Portland Community College students Andrea White (left), Xiaofeng Huang (right back) and Gaetan-Dauphin Nzowo (right) harvest spinach in the Rock Creek Learning Garden. The garden grows produce for the cafeteria. Kitchen scraps are returned as compost.
Elaine Cole

In the Reuse Room at Portland State University, everything is free and the door is always open.

Students and staff can walk into the converted mailroom anytime to donate or take supplies, ranging from three-ring binders to iPods.

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Earthfix
5:49 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

Election Shifts Oregon Closer To Carbon Tax, Not So For Washington

Smoke stacks during a night scene in Tacoma, Wash. Election-night shifts in the Oregon state Senate moved it closer to a carbon tax. Washington might have distanced itself further.
Flickr/Tom Collins http://www.tomcollinsphotography.com/Projects/Night-Walk-around-Tacoma

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 5:50 pm

Environmentalists spent more than $1.5 million in Oregon and Washington in bids to secure Demcoratic majorities in state legislatures -- majorities they wanted for approving clean-fuel standards and a tax on carbon emissions.

The plan worked in Oregon. It didn't in Washington.

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NPR Story
4:22 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

4 Things To Know About The Columbia Generating Station Lawsuit

Environmental groups say the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant is harming fish. The groups are suing a Washington state permitting agency because they say a permit it issued violates the Clean Water Act.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission

RICHLAND, Wash. -- Three environmental groups say the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant is harming fish. The groups are suing a Washington state agency because they say it issued a permit that violates the Clean Water Act.

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