Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

With snow levels way below normal, some Northwest ski teams have been scrambling to find slopes with enough snow to hold their scheduled races.

Competitions scheduled for courses at lower elevations on Mount Hood this weekend were either canceled or moved uphill to ski resorts with higher slopes.

Right now, snow levels across the Cascades are about 70 percent below average, according to Andy Bryant, a hydrologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Warm weather has precipitation falling as rain rather than snow everywhere but the mountain peaks.

New Oregon Rules Require 10 Percent Cleaner Fuels

Jan 7, 2015

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted 4-1 Wednesday to pass new rules that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels by 10 percent over a decade.

The rules require companies that import fuel into Oregon to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuel mix. That will mean substituting alternative fuels such as biofuel, natural gas, propane or electricity for gasoline and diesel.

LUMMI RESERVATION, Wash. -- The Lummi Nation issued a letter Monday to the U.S. government seeking to end the project's permitting process for a coal-shipping project encircled by their Puget Sound fishing grounds.

Beware the red tag, the scarlet letter of Seattle waste.

The bright red tag says you’ve violated the city’s new trash law, making it illegal to put food into trash cans.

“I’m sure neighbors are going to see these on their other neighbors’ cans,” said Rodney Watkins, a lead driver for Recology CleanScapes, a waste contractor for the city. He’s on the front lines of enforcing these rules.

Closing The Gender Gap Among Bicyclists

Jan 5, 2015

PORTLAND -- On most mornings, Hau Hagedorn bicycles to work with her husband, riding along with their three boys as they pedal to school.

It’s been a family ritual that began eight years ago when Hagedorn bicycled while her children rode along in a cargo trailer. It wasn’t an easy habit to start.

“I’m pretty petite and it’s quite a load when you’re hauling kids,” says Hagedorn, who lives in North Portland and works downtown. “It was hard at first, but I tried to focus on the health aspect.”

Hundreds of a small, blue-footed seabird called the Cassin’s auklet have been washing up dead on Northwest beaches. So far, scientists don’t know exactly why.

Diane Bilderback is a volunteer with COASST, a University of Washington citizen science project. Until this fall, she had found very few Cassin’s auklets washed ashore.

A bit farther up the coast, near North Bend, Ken and Cathy Denton were seeing similar numbers of dead auklets.

“We’ve seen a lot of common murres, but those are common,” Ken Denton said. “This is the most we’ve seen of something else.”

SEATTLE-- Orca experts with the Center for Whale Research spotted a very young calf cruising along in its mama's slip stream near Pender Island in British Columbia on Tuesday.

Ken Balcomb, the head of the Center for Whale Research, believes the calf was no more than a day or two old when he spotted it, and he couldn't say what sex it is. The baby pictures, however, are priceless. Check out a full slide show at the Center for Whale Research.

SEATTLE -- For the past few years, a growing number of trains have been bringing "rolling pipelines" of oil from North Dakota to ports and refineries in the Pacific Northwest.

And in that time, the Washington and Oregon legislatures have failed to come up with the money to pay for the cost of responding to the increasing risk of oil spills in their states. That could change in 2015.

Another Threat To Spotted Owls: Fire

Dec 30, 2014

Northern spotted owls living in central Oregon are scrappier than their westside counterparts. They have to search harder for food, and habitat isn’t as plum as the lush forests on the other side of the Cascade Mountains.

Laurie Turner, a forest wildlife biologist for the Deschutes National Forest, said in this sort of fringe habitat, spotted owls need more space, especially breeding pairs.

Oil tankers bring about 15 million gallons of oil every day into Washington state. Starting Jan. 1, those ships are required to have double hulls.

The oil-spill prevention measure has been in the works for decades, ever since Capt. Joseph Hazelwood ran the Exxon Valdez onto Alaska's Bligh Reef in 1989. Eleven million gallons of oil spilled into Prince William Sound, killing thousands of seabirds and sea otters, devastating the region's fisheries and unleashing action in Washington, D.C.

The monarch butterfly is in line for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday it is launching a year-long status review of the monarch population in response to a request from conservation groups.

The iconic butterflies face threats from pesticide use and habitat loss – particularly from the loss of milkweed plants, which are the sole food source for monarch caterpillars.

Oregon Expands Its Electronics Recycling Program

Dec 29, 2014

Oregon is expanding its electronic waste recycling program. Starting Jan 1, Oregon e-waste collection facilities will start accepting printers, computer keyboards and mice for recycling.

For the past six years, the Oregon E-Cycles program has collected computers, monitors and televisions for recycling at 270 drop-off sites across the state.

Most Christmas trees get kicked to the curb and ground up into mulch after the holidays. But a Portland-area conservation group is trying to change that.

The Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited has found used Christmas trees make great salmon habitat when placed in coastal waterways.

Next month, they're launching the third year of a program they call Christmas for Coho. They'll collect used Christmas trees on three Saturdays in January and place them in the Necanicum River, coastal stream in northwest Oregon.

Oregon hunters will be able to bag more cougars next year, following wildlife officials' increase in the number that can be killed statewide.

By the 1960s, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the cougar population in the state had fallen to about 200 animals. The reason, said spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy, was bounty hunting: killing animals for financial reward.

The company behind a project to export liquefied natural gas from the northwest corner of Oregon has run into a new challenge: The federal government might have permanent rights to use the site of its proposed shipping terminal.

The Oregon LNG project proposes a terminal on the Skipanon Peninsula in Warrenton, on the mouth of the Columbia River, that would receive North American natural gas via pipeline and ship it overseas.

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.

Portland Regional Government Approves Climate Strategy

Dec 18, 2014

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.

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.

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.

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

Dec 17, 2014

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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