EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Port Of Vancouver Extends Oil Terminal Lease

Mar 7, 2017

A Vancouver project to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country will continue for now. After a contentious meeting Tuesday filled with passionate testimony, Port of Vancouver commissioners approved a lease extension for the controversial project.

The standing-room-only meeting went on for more than three hours. People lined up as early as 8:30 in the morning to sign up for public comment. Many sat in an overflow room, waiting to testify.

King County Releases Findings On Sewage Plant Failure

Mar 7, 2017

King County released preliminary findings Tuesday of what went wrong at the West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant. This February, an electrical failure there caused flooding and a massive dump of sewage into Puget Sound.

First, an electrical failure shut down the pumps that move treated wastewater into the sound. While electricians were trying to fix that, devices that measure how much raw sewage is in the plant also failed. Tanks filled up, and the plant flooded.

Eastern Oregon Wolf Recovery Enters Next Phase

Mar 7, 2017

There’s good news and bad news for wolves in eastern Oregon. The good news: they just hit another population milestone, showing the recovery effort is working.

The bad news for the predators? It’s getting a little bit easier for humans to kill them.

Oregon wildlife officials have counted at least seven breeding pairs of wolves for three straight years in the eastern part of the state. This indicates a degree of stability in that wolf population. It also triggers a change to how wolves are managed in the region.

West Coast energy regulators met Tuesday in Seattle to renew their pledge to join forces in reducing the region's shared carbon footprint.

The chairs of the Washington, Oregon and California utility commissions cited as one of their goals the improved integration of the West Coast's power grids.

Washington's peak energy draw happens when people turn up their thermostats in the winter. Meanwhile, Californians' heavy reliance power is during the summer, when air conditioners are running, said Dave Danner, chair of the Utilities Commission of Washington.

For the fiscal year ending this June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has spent $28 million on Puget Sound restoration and monitoring. It has channeled those funds through tribes, nonprofits and local governments, which carry out the on-the-ground work.

Next year, that would drop to $2 million under the White House proposal revealed this week.

Many other EPA programs would be reduced or eliminated. Overall, the agency's funding would drop from to $6.16 billion next year from $8.24 billion this fiscal year. (That's down from a 2010 high of $10.3 billion).

What's the best way for Oregon to reduce its contributions to climate change? Supporters and opponents weighed in Wednesday at a legislative hearing on five bills that aim to reduce Oregon's carbon emissions.

A tiny brown bat wriggles about John Huckabee’s gloved hands, voicing its displeasure with a high-pitched series of screeches and squawks.

The wildlife biologist expertly grasps one of the bat's wings and unfolds it. Bending close, he searches for telltale signs of infection.

“There are a few small deep pigmented areas of scarring,” Huckabee said, turning the bat over in his hands. “But overall looks like he’s in very good shape.”

Three top elected officials in Oregon are now embroiled in a messy political struggle over whether to privatize an 82,500-acre state forest near Coos Bay.

The infighting among Gov. Kate Brown, Treasurer Tobias Read and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson — the three members of the State Land Board — is highly unusual in a state dominated by Democratic officials who tend to prize cooperation over confrontation.

State fishery managers on the West Coast are releasing ocean salmon forecasts this week. And things aren’t looking good – especially for fishermen off the coasts of Oregon and Northern California.

“I would generally characterize it as a very poor season for both coho and chinook," said Eric Schindler of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

He said things are looking especially bad for salmon returning to the Klamath River and its tributaries. The Klamath is the most important river for Oregon’s ocean chinook fishery.

President Trump on Tuesday issued an executive order that will start to rollback clean water rules. In the Northwest, environmentalists say that could be bad news for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. Farm and industry groups are lauding the order.

Advocates say the rule protects countless headwater streams and wetlands in the Pacific Northwest; if ununprotected they could eventually be developed with roads, housing, or more logging operations.

Cowlitz County has approved a key permit for a controversial methanol plant proposed on the Columbia River in the port city of Kalama.

The county’s hearing examiner Mark Scheibmeir concluded on Monday that the $1.8 billion project may proceed – provided developer NW Innovation Works complies with a long list of shoreline development permit conditions that require environmental and safety protections.

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson on Saturday criticized Gov. Kate Brown for reversing her position on privatizing the 83,000-acre Elliott State Forest.

Richardson — who last year became the first Republican elected to statewide office in Oregon since 2002 — spotlighted the controversial proposal to sell the forest during a speech to more than 1,500 social conservatives gathered in Portland. They were at the Oregon Convention Center for an annual event known as the Freedom Rally.

If there's one thing that's clear from Wilbur Ross's financial disclosure forms, it's that the billionaire nominee for secretary of commerce lives in a world most Americans can only fantasize about.

A track for vehicles was recently discovered illegally crossing the boundary into Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness, despite the Wilderness Act's prohibition against motorized access to such protected areas.

America’s energy future is often cast as a battle that pits fossil fuels such as coal and gas against wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. But in the Pacific Northwest, we've already slashed greenhouse gas emissions — and saved big bucks — with a clean energy source that often doesn't even get mentioned in policy debates.

Dan Cunningham is installing an adjustable metal frame, covered in red fabric, in the open front door at a house in Ashland, Oregon.

A lawsuit filed Thursday by salmon advocates aims to reverse a trend of high summer water temperatures on the Snake and Columbia Rivers.

The groups are asking the U.S. District Court in Seattle to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a warm water pollution standard for the rivers. The standard, called the “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL), sets limits on how high the water temperature can rise and still meet water quality requirements.

The EPA released a draft plan in 2003, but it was never finalized.

Environmental groups are pressuring Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Board of Forestry to find new leadership on forestry issues and increase protections for coastal drinking water flowing through private forestland.

That push accompanies legislative efforts to tighten rules for aerial pesticide spraying on forests and to enact sweeping reforms to the state’s Forest Practices Act, including restrictions on logging near streams and on slopes prone to landslide.

Steve Hinton has a pretty unusual mindset when it comes to his job.

“I try to think like a fish,” he says.

That’s a crucial part of Hinton’s job as the director of habitat restoration for the Swinomish Tribal Community and the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe. He spends a lot of his time trying to figure out how salmon will respond to obstacles in their way as they return from the Puget Sound, up the Skagit River, into little creeks and streams to spawn. One of the problems they encounter are road culverts.

At the Oregon State Land Board meeting on Tuesday morning, we'll learn more about the fate of the Elliott State Forest.

Last year, the state offered the 82,000-acre public forest near Coos Bay in southwest Oregon up for sale. One bid came in – led by a private timber firm. But the State Land Board decided to hold out and see if another, more publicly-minded offer would emerge.

Late last week Gov. Kate Brown released an alternate plan.

Sea Turtle Stranded Along Oregon Coast Dies

Feb 13, 2017

A sea turtle that washed up on Oregon’s beaches over the weekend has died.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium reported Monday the loggerhead turtle was stunned by cold waters, and succumbed to its injuries.

Loggerhead turtles are relatively rare to see on Oregon shores, with the last one to arriving here Christmas Eve 2007. It also died after just a single day of treatment.

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