EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Five climate change activists who blocked an oil train north of Seattle were convicted Friday of trespassing. But the verdict against members of the "Delta 5" group was cheered by environmentalists because the jury did not find them guilty of obstruction.

The Delta 5 activists had hoped to argue that blocking the BNSF Railway train tracks in 2014 was necessary because of the looming threat of climate change.

To help you learn more about our state animal, Think Out Loud compiled this list after talking to Frances Backhouse, author of "Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver."

The armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is in its 11th day. Armed men who describe themselves as defenders of the Constitution and advocates for those who "work the land" took over the complex of buildings in Harney County, near Burns, on Saturday, Jan. 2.

For federal wildlife enforcement officers, time on the job means a lot of time alone, wandering remote areas. But one wildlife officer now has a new companion to keep him company on the trail: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's very first enforcement dog in the Northwest.

The first thing you might notice about the Ukkie is he that speaks Dutch.

“His name is actually Dutch slang for little one. He’s a little bit on the smaller side for a Belgian Malinois,” says officer Josh Hindman.

U.S. oil dropped below $30 a barrel during trading Tuesday. That’s the lowest price since December 2003.

The dip in price happened on the same day Washington state held a public hearing about a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

Oil was more than $100 per barrel when the Vancouver Energy Project was first announced back in the summer of 2013.

Still, backers of the oil terminal said the joint venture, between oil company Tesoro Corp. and logistics firm Savage Industries, is insulated from current market conditions.

Sinking Oil Prices Raise Questions Around Proposed Vancouver Terminal

Jan 12, 2016

As oil prices continue to sink, Washington state is still considering a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver. The state held a second public hearing on the proposed terminal Tuesday. At the time the terminal was first proposed, the price of oil topped $100 a barrel, but falling prices have many wondering about the economic viability of the terminal. However, the oil company, Vancouver Energy Project, says the need for the terminal is still high.

The Archive Project - January 6, 2016

Jan 12, 2016

“There’s something about putting yourself at the mercy of nature, where the risks are real, that enforces a certain humility that is valuable.” – Jon Krakauer

When new signs go up on the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge this year changing it to bear the name of Billy Frank Jr., he won't be there to see it.

But his son takes solace in knowing that lots of other people will.

"People will drive through the Nisqually area, a stone's throw from where my dad was raised, and see my dad's name for the rest of time," Willie Frank, Billy's son, said. "He's never going to be gone."

Five environmental activists who chained themselves to train tracks in Everett to protest oil and coal trains begin trial in Snohomish County District Court on Monday.

The activists face criminal charges alleging they trespassed on BNSF Railway property and blocked an oil train for eight hours on Sept. 2, 2014.

Amid a drop in demand for coal, a key investor in a proposed coal export project on the Columbia River filed for bankruptcy Monday.

Arch Coal is a 38-percent shareholder in the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals project, which would export 44 million tons of coal annually through a terminal in Longview, Washington. Arch owns mines in Colorado, Wyoming and five other states.

Officials with Arch Coal say the company's mines will stay open and the bankruptcy won't affect its employees.

Hundreds of people are expected to turn out Tuesday for the second public hearing on a proposed oil terminal in southwest Washington.

For the second time this month, the public will once again get to voice their thoughts about the Tesoro-Savage backed oil terminal called the Vancouver Energy Project.

The hearing is being lead by the Washington State Energy Site Evaluation Council.

We asked two weather experts from the Pacific Northwest 10 questions about the weather ahead in our area. From what mobile app is a must have to the urban myth that Portland is the wettest place in the country. What followed was a mix of vital information and interesting factoids from two weather aficionados that report on the Northwest area daily.

For a while, scientists assumed there was a link between lead exposure and adult deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Now, Oregon Health and Science University says it’s been able to confirm that link.

Children inherit a propensity for ADHD from their parents, but there’s also considerable evidence it can be triggered, or made worse by environmental factors — like lead.

No Power To Come From Puget Sound Tides

Jan 7, 2016

The utility wanted to put two turbines on the bottom of Puget Sound near Whidbey Island.

But at the very end of last year they surrendered their federal license.

It was a pilot project and would have been the first of its kind here. As the tides flowed in and out, the turbines would spin and generate enough power at maximum output for about 500 homes.

While Harney County residents are asking armed protesters to leave, many locals are sympathetic to their issues. Economists say the root may lie in the west’s rural economy.

Harney County is sparsely populated, with 7,000 residents living on 10,000 square miles of land. That used to mean a healthy timber industry.

But Josh Lehner with the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis says since 1978 Harney County has lost 99 percent of its wood product jobs, “All those manufacturing jobs are gone," he said.

Malheur Occupation: Who Has A Claim To This Land?

Jan 6, 2016

On Tuesday Jan. 5, LaVoy Finicum, a spokesperson for the armed occupiers in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, told OPB's Think Out Loud his group would like to see the federal government return the wetland area property rights to local ranchers.

Nancy Langston disagrees with Finicum's premise.

New carbon pollution rules in Washington will pack the biggest wallop for cement makers, oil refiners and paper mills.

These are among the industrial manufacturers that will be required to lower their greenhouse gas emissions under the draft rules released Wednesday by Washington. Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration.

Oregon Utilities Agree To Phase Out Coal-Fired Power

Jan 6, 2016

Oregon utilities have agreed to support a bill that would phase out coal-fired power in Oregon by 2030.

The agreement follows negotiations with the backers of a proposed ballot measure that set the same target for eliminating coal from the state's electrical supply.

The proposed legislation would only affect Pacific Power and Portland General Electric, which together serve about 70 percent of Oregon's electricity. It also calls for doubling the amount of renewable energy the utilities generate by 2040.

Community members in Harney County are scheduled to gather Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the county fairgrounds to discuss the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward wants the armed occupiers of the Wildlife Refuge headquarters to leave the county. In a recorded statement, Ward said the goal of the meeting is for the community to unite around that message.

Most ranchers aren’t taking the same hardline, anti-government stance as the armed militants who took over Eastern Oregon's Malheur Wildlife Refuge headquarters.

Still, their dissatisfaction and distrust of federal land managers are deep running and deeply rooted in environmental conflict.

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