EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

On October 13, 2016 a 95-foot-long tug ran aground off the coast of Bella Bella, British Columbia, spilling an estimated 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The fuel swept into the waters where the Heiltsuk First Nation harvests shellfish, giving members of the tribe front-row seats to the circus that unfolded as spill-response teams tried to clean up the mess.

Democrats in the Washington Legislature are looking to bolster the state’s oil spill prevention efforts.

An expansion of a Kinder Morgan oil pipeline through British Columbia is expected to increase oil tanker traffic in Washington’s Salish Sea sevenfold. Meanwhile, Washington’s Department of Ecology estimates a shortfall of $4 million in its oil spill prevention program.

White House advisor and former Washington state Sen. Don Benton is part of the team implementing the president’s agenda at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Benton was sworn in as senior advisor Saturday, he said. The job is a temporary position, but could be extended. During the campaign, Benton served as Trump’s campaign chairman in Washington.

Biologist Shaun Clements stands in the winter mist in a coastal Oregon forest. He’s holding a small vial of clear liquid.

“We should be safe mixing it now, right?” he asks his colleague Kevin Weitemier above the sound of a rushing stream a few feet away.

Weitemier brings a second vial, full of stream water. In deliberate, seeming choreographed movements, usually associated with ritual, they pour the liquid back and forth between the small containers to mix -- two, then three times — never spilling a drop.

Clements looks down at the clock. It’s 12:29 pm.

Oregonians may be seeing a rare site in the coming years. A proposal to reintroduce the highly endangered California condor in Redwood National Park could mean North America’s largest land bird will once again take flight over the Pacific Northwest.

The California condor once soared over the West, from Baja to British Columbia.

6 Washington Fisheries Receive Disaster Designation

Jan 20, 2017

Unusual ocean and climate conditions have significantly reduced the number of fish available for American Indian tribes and commercial fleets to catch. That's led to the federal government's declaration that six fisheries in the state can now seek assistance to help bring things back to normal.

Why A Small Texas Town Wants Oregon’s Nuclear Waste

Jan 19, 2017

Communities from Oregon to New York may be clamoring to get nuclear waste out of their backyards, but one small town in west Texas is actively vying to store the nation’s spent nuclear fuel — at least for the next century or so.

“We don’t see it as some big, you know, dangerous, terrible, ominous figure," said Julia Wallace, executive director of the Andrews Chamber of Commerce. "It’s just another day’s work.”

In the final three months of 2016, railroads hauled 618 million gallons of oil through Washington. That means more than 1,500 rail cars every week hauling flammable crude through the state.

Those numbers come from new reports from the Washington Department of Ecology, which for the first time detail what kinds of oil are moving through which communities in the state, and in what amounts.

Operators of the biggest dam in the Northwest will now have to reduce oil spills that pollute the Columbia River. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation settled a lawsuit Thursday with the environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper.

Three Oregon conservation groups say a new plan to manage National Wildlife Refuges in the Klamath Basin doesn’t do enough to protect habitat. The groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Medford to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider additional options.

Washington is requiring dairies with 200 or more cows to apply for updated water quality permits. The new regulations are meant to curb water pollution from livestock manure.

This type of runoff can cause excessive nitrates in drinking water, which is harmful to infants, adults with compromised immune systems, and women who are trying to become pregnant. Pollution from manure can also contaminate shellfish beds and beaches.

The perfect day for an outdoor wedding or a baseball game? That’s a “mild day,” says Sarah Kapnick, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“I like to call mild weather days the ‘Goldilocks days,’” she says. “They’re not too hot. They’re not too cold. They’re just right.”

Kapnick is one of the co-authors of a study published Wednesday that has good news for picnickers and hikers in the Pacific Northwest: As climate change advances, we’ll have more mild weather.

Invasive Species Add Up To Big Losses For Washington

Jan 17, 2017

Invasive species could cost the state of Washington $1.3 billion a year if left unchecked, a new study found.

In mid-November, thousands of people took to the streets in cities across the nation, including Portland and Seattle, to express their unhappiness with Donald Trump's election.

Protesters gathered in the central Oregon city of Bend, too. But their numbers were much smaller.

Bend TV station KTVZ reported that a couple of hundred marchers sang and carried signs.

The Oregon Department of Transportation closed Interstate 84 in both directions between Troutdale and Hood River due to icy conditions just before 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Rain and freezing rain rolled into the Portland metro area early Tuesday afternoon. Roads in and around the city grew slick with new precipitation on top of melting snow left over from last week's storm.

Portlanders pride themselves on their cutting-edge green buildings.

In the early 2000s, the U.S. Green Building Council rated several Portland buildings Platinum — the highest level certification in the council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, or LEED.

The city scored many "firsts" in the U.S. for Platinum ratings: the first condominium in the Henry in the Pearl; the first historic renovation in the Gerding Theater; and the first med-science facility in OHSU’s Center for Health and Healing, to name just a few.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley says he does not believe President Obama will designate the Owyhee Canyonlands as a national monument before leaving office on Friday.

Merkley said Interior Secretary Sally Jewel told him a monument designation for the eastern Oregon lands has been shelved.

Obama has taken a series of monument actions in recent months, including expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon.

The timber industry thinks it may able to reverse President Barack Obama's expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Southern Oregon.

The president's decision to add 48,000 acres to the 65,000-acre national monument was praised by environmentalists and Oregon's two senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

But a timber industry trade group argued that Obama misused his power under the 1906 Antiquities Act.

New research shows Dungeness crab fisheries could suffer as the Pacific Ocean grows more acidic.

Increasing acidification from carbon pollution will drive down food supplies for crab, according to new scientific modeling from the University of Washington and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In a tiny island laboratory in the Northwesternmost corner of Washington, one marine biologist is on a mission: scan every known fish species in the world.

It’s a painstaking and smelly task, but one that promises to fundamentally change the way scientists and educators look at marine anatomy.

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