EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Oregon Bottle Deposit Set To Double Next Year

Jul 22, 2016

The bottle deposit rate in Oregon will double next year from 5 to 10 cents. Officials are trying to boost return rates, which have been slowly falling since Oregon became the first state to pass a bottle bill in 1971.

The law required a 5-cent deposit on certain drink containers, which is returned when people bring back containers. The results were immediate. Oregon achieved a 90 percent return rate, reducing litter and the number of containers in landfills significantly.

Friday is the public's last chance to comment on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's plan to limit carbon pollution from the state's biggest emitters. But with a carbon tax on the November ballot, it won't be voters' last word on the matter.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will accept comments for one more week on permanent rules for the state’s colored art glass industry.

Two major players and three small companies are located in Portland. The two larger companies’ air emissions have been under scrutiny since large concentrations of heavy metals were found in moss near their operations.

Bend Citizens Debate Climate Change Resolution

Jul 22, 2016

More than 130 people came to the Bend City Council chambers for Thursday’s meeting on a proposed climate change resolution.

The draft resolution sets goals for carbon emission reductions for City of Bend operations, kick-starts a process to develop community-wide emissions targets and outlines a path to develop a more specific climate plan with benchmarks and policies.

When a Union Pacific oil train derailed and burst into fire in Mosier, Oregon, in June, the initial damage was in plain view, as dark smoke billowed into the sky.

Now OPB has learned about invisible damage: elevated concentrations of benzene and other volatile organic compounds in groundwater near the derailment site.

Seabirds have been washing up dead on beaches in Washington and British Columbia this summer, and scientists can't say why.

Rhinoceros auklets are one of the most common birds in the network of inland waterways shared by Washington and British Columbia. Since May, volunteer "citizen scientists" on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula and across the water in Victoria, British Columbia, have found dozens of the puffin-like birds washed ashore.

This summer is proving to be a bonanza for whale-watchers.

According to The Pacific Whale Watch Association, tourists and researchers are seeing groups of humpback whales in the Salish Sea and Puget Sound nearly every day.

Humpbacks were nearly wiped out early in the last century because of whaling. But when hunting was banned in the 1960s they started to come back.

Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington, estimates as many as 500 humpbacks now spend the season off Washington and British Columbia.

House Budget Bill Would Block Owyhee Monument

Jul 19, 2016

The latest Congressional budget bill for the U.S. Department of the Interior includes a provision to block President Obama from designating an Owyhee National Monument in Southeast Oregon.

The bill, which passed in the House, includes language essentially banning Interior budget dollars from funding the creation of national monuments by the president. Malheur County is one of several mentioned in the bill.

Top Northwest officials and a member of President Obama’s cabinet will gather Tuesday for the renaming of a wildlife refuge near Olympia in honor of one of the region’s best known Native American leaders.

The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is being renamed in honor of late Nisqually tribal leader Billy Frank Jr.

Oregon State University and Stanford University developed an energy conservation program which showed that children’s energy-saving behaviors impact their parents’ own habits.

The program, called Girls Learning Environment and Energy, or GLEE, was tested on 30 Girl Scout troops in Northern California, and the results were positive, not only for the children but also for their entire families.

Researchers found that the energy-saving behavior the Girl Scouts gained continued for more than seven months after the program ended.

A plan to effectively remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list has been successfully added to a larger U.S. House appropriations bill.

The House voted to attach the amendment to legislation funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior.

Greg McMillan peered into the Metolius River on a chilly May morning. As he does three times a month, the president of the Deschutes River Alliance dropped a water collection device off the side of his powerboat.

“The water clarity here is just amazing,” McMillan said as he retrieved a sample.

He measured temperature, pH and turbidity of the river water. Meanwhile, an osprey flew overhead, clutching a small fish in its talons. Every few minutes, a silvery kokanee flung itself above the surface of the river.

More than a month after a Union Pacific Railroad oil train derailed and caught fire in the Columbia River Gorge, rules are in the works to increase the safety of oil by rail.

On the same day the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed rules requiring railroads to improve their spill response planning and transparency, Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden introduced their second bill tackling oil train safety.

A Portland firefighter and a national guardsman check for bodies in a pile of crumpled cars at the base of a blackened tower.

They pull a dummy out of one of the cars – one of the few "survivors" of this simulated post-earthquake emergency. They strap the critically injured victim onto a backboard and hook it to a set of dangling ropes.

“Basically, we have an overpass that’s crashed down," said Matthew Silva of Portland Fire & Rescue. "We’ve got three vehicles and multiple victims. They’re trapped at the bottom of this ravine at the bottom of the overpass.”

Court documents show the timber industry is footing the bill for Linn County’s $1.4 billion lawsuit over logging in Oregon state forests.

The county is suing the state on the grounds it has failed to maximize revenue from state-owned forestland.

The lawsuit claims the state is contractually required to allow more logging on state forestland to ensure funding for counties that deeded the land over to the state more than 70 years ago.

'Land Sharing' Opens Private Land To Campers

Jul 10, 2016

You’ve heard of car-sharing. Now here’s “land sharing.” A Portland start-up is expanding the share economy concept to private landowners and campers.

A new company called LandApart follows the AirBnB model, but for campers. People who want to camp or rent a cabin in a beautiful area can pay a private landowner for access.

CEO Ven Gist says the company is in part a response to sometimes-crowded public lands that are often not reservable.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture says it found no evidence of chemical drift after responding to an exposure complaint from a former member of the state’s Board of Forestry.

The agency opened an investigation after Peter Hayes of Washington County forest company Hyla Woods complained he and workers were exposed to weed killer sprayed on a nearby tree farm operated by Stimson Lumber.

Vegetation samples on Hyla Woods property taken by state investigators showed no evidence that chemicals had drifted from Stimson’s tree farm, which is more than a half-mile away.

The National Transportation Safety Board has responded to letter from Oregon’s senators about why it did not investigate last month’s oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge, saying its limited staff likely would not have gleaned any new safety recommendations from examining the incident.

The federal agency provided a 50-page response to Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, saying it “recognizes the impact of this accident on your constituents and understands the concerns of those affected.”

An Oregon judge has ordered more than $50,000 in fines and a one-year license suspension for a pesticide spraying company that violated worker protection laws and later disregarded an order to stop spraying.

Administrative Law Judge Jennifer Rackstraw ordered the Department of Agriculture to issue fines of $43,500 to Applebee Aviation and $10,000 to its owner, Mike Applebee, for 16 violations of state law.

On April 27, Steve Holm and three other inspectors drove right over a set of broken railroad bolts that later would cause a massive oil train explosion.

Holm rode shotgun as Union Pacific Railroad’s specially equipped pickup rolled along at 10 mph over its tracks through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

He stared out the front windshield at the steel rails, the wood ties beneath and the plates and bolts that held them together.

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