EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

The environmental review for what could be the largest coal export terminal in the country appears to have been put on hold.

SSA Marine is the company behind the proposed rail-to-ship coal terminal planned for the Puget Sound shoreline near Bellingham, Washington. It announced Friday that opposition from the Lummi Tribe was the main reason for its decision.

The tribe’s fishing grounds surround the project site, and the Lummi had asked the federal government to deny the permits for the coal terminal because it would violate their treaty fishing rights.

Health officials announced Friday that they have discovered a small but "statistically significant" increase in the number of bladder cancers in North Portland between 1999 and 2003.

The Oregon Health Authority has been looking at cancer rates in neighborhoods around two glass manufacturers in Portland after a notable increase in air pollution was detected earlier this year.

The manufacturers had been using heavy metals like cadmium and arsenic to color glass, and elevated levels were found nearby.

Oregonians listening to the Pandora streaming music website might hear a seemingly surprising commercial about Gov. Kate Brown and the environment.

The new ad, from the environmental advocacy group Oregon Wild, complains about how Brown has handled issues ranging from Portland air pollution to endangered wolves. It charges that she “is failing to protect the things that make the state special.”

Scientists were ecstatic. After years of worrying about the killer whale population in Puget Sound, eight baby orcas were born and thriving.

Then came photos of their bellies. Most of the babies are boys, they realized.

At least five – but probably six – of the new orcas are male. One remains a mystery. And just one is a girl. They call her Scarlet and say she’s spunky and growing like a weed.

But if she’s the only female, that means she’s the only whale in this age group that could conceive.

The Wild Fish Conservancy filed a lawsuit Thursday that accuses two federal agencies of violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to consider the impacts of Columbia River Basin hatcheries on threatened and endangered wild fish and their habitat.

A devastating disease that has killed millions of bats in the eastern United States has now been confirmed in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time white nose syndrome has been found west of the Rocky Mountains.

In mid-March, a hiker on a mountain trail east of Seattle found an ailing bat and brought it into a local animal hospital. Two days later, the bat was dead. A government lab confirmed it had an advanced case of white nose syndrome.

Oregon Kills 4 Wolves After Confirming Livestock Attacks

Mar 31, 2016

Oregon wildlife officials killed four wolves in northeastern Oregon Thursday after determining they are responsible for killing too many livestock.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife said Thursday that information transmitted from collared wolves in the Imnaha pack allowed the agency to confirm that four pack members have been chronically preying on livestock.

Seattle restaurant magnate Tom Douglas came out of his kitchen Wednesday to host a conference for chefs on the science connecting the food they serve and the environment from where it comes.

“More and more chefs are counted upon for knowing what is going on in our food supply chain. I want to know more about the system. I want to know what I as a chef should be supporting through purchases,” said Douglas, who operates more than a dozen restaurants, hosts a radio show and markets his own line of kitchen products and cookbooks.

Klamath Forest Wildfire Plan Faces Pushback

Mar 29, 2016

During the summer of 2014, wildfires burned more than 200,000 acres of the Klamath National Forest in northern California’s Siskiyou County. Last year, the U.S. Forest Service proposed a program of salvage logging, replanting and hazardous tree removal. That plan faced opposition from environmental groups and the Karuk Indian tribe. Now, a modified version of the plan has been approved, and was immediately met with a challenge in federal court.

Oregon’s water is tested for suspended solids, certain chemicals and heavy metals — but not for pharmaceuticals.

With prescription drug use on the rise unused meds too often end up in the landfill or flushed down the toilet. In Oregon, Lane County agencies are stepping up their message of what to do with unwanted drugs.

Sarah Grimm, the waste reduction specialist for Lane County Public Works, said she's seeing a problem in her industry: pharmaceutical meds being flushed down the toilet.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to release its proposed Portland Harbor Superfund Site cleanup plan early next month.

The plan, 16 years in the making, will include the agency’s preferred option for cleaning up a 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River that’s highly contaminated from more than a century of industrial use. The EPA has spent years investigating the site and developing a range of options for reducing contamination to an “acceptable” level.

Greg Davis/EarthFix

Studies estimate the impacts of climate change will curtail spending on winter recreation by billions of dollars in the coming decades. And that spells trouble for the Northwest businesses and communities that depend on snow sports.

But a new winter activity is starting to gain traction: fat bikes.

Air testing conducted early this month near two Portland glassmakers shows no urgent health risks, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Data collected from five monitors running 24 hours a day March 1-8 show no change in levels of metals in the air from the February testing results, and short-term health risk remains low, officials announced Thursday.

Nearly three years ago, the Port of Vancouver signed a lease with companies that want to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country. But the project has not gone as planned and may now be running out of time.

The Port of Vancouver has until Aug. 1 to decide if it wants to opt out of a lease with companies planning to build the terminal.

The opposition to the proposal has been intense, with the brunt of it felt by leaders at the port.

“The interesting thing in this whole phenomena has been the passion of the opponents," said port Commissioner Brian Wolfe.

Cantwell Opposes Mining Near Mount St. Helens

Mar 22, 2016

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said Monday that she’s concerned about an exploratory mining project that’s proposed on Goat Mountain, just north of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Ascot USA, Inc. wants to drill more than 60 exploratory holes on 23 sites in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The company’s searching for metals like gold, copper and silver.

Judge To Hear Water Case For Upper Deschutes

Mar 20, 2016

A federal judge in Eugene will hear a case Tuesday about water management in the Upper Deschutes River.

Officials from at least three governments are considering the establishment of a local air authority in the greater Portland area.

Multnomah County chair Deborah Kafoury said during her State of the County address Friday that Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality should do more to crack down on air pollution.

Until the agency does, Kafoury said the county plans to hire a consultant to look into forming a local air agency. She said the effort has extended beyond Multnomah County.

Oregon’s Top Utility Regulator Resigns

Mar 18, 2016

Oregon’s top regulator of power companies announced her resignation Friday in a letter to Gov. Kate Brown.

Susan Ackerman is a longtime utility lawyer who was appointed to the Oregon Public Utility Commission in 2010 and promoted to chairwoman in 2012. The three-member board regulates investor-owned utilities including their natural gas and electricity rates.

Puget Sound’s Dark Role In Orca Captures

Mar 18, 2016

SeaWorld says it will end its killer whale breeding program and will stop making the mammals perform tricks for stadium crowds. It’s a historic about-face from the days when SeaWorld hired people to capture wild killer whales in Puget Sound.

Tacoma native Ted Griffin wrangled orcas for aquariums in the mid-to-late 1960s.

“We were flying in helicopters and float planes, we got sea boats running up and down Puget Sound at 70 miles per hour,” Griffin said in an interview with KUOW in 2002.

Oregon regulators said Thursday air and soil samples continue to show low health risks for Portland residents. But the level of arsenic in some areas is elevated.

A new test for arsenic around Uroboros Glass in North Portland showed levels several times higher than the state guideline.

But David Farrer with the Oregon Health Authority said people needn’t be concerned.

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