Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

Low Fuel Prices Benefit Northwest Farmers

Jan 30, 2015

Oregon farmers say that low fuel prices could mean a big boost to their bottom lines -- if prices remain low until the summer.

There's not much agricultural production happening right now in the Northwest. But if fuel prices stay down in the coming months, farmers throughout the region could feel the benefits.

Many farms rely on diesel fuel to transport products and run field machinery. Petroleum products are also used to make fertilizer.

This story is part of a series Oregon Public Broadcasting is doing on how well the Northwest is prepared for the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that scientists say will hit along the Cascadia Subduction Zone just off the Pacific Coast.

In this piece we look at:

Three times in three years Jay Wilson has returned to Kadonowaki, Japan. Each time, the weeds are a little bit taller, the concrete foundations are a little more weathered.

Shell Oil wants to build more tracks at its refinery in Anacortes, Washington, to receive oil by rail. At a packed hearing in Skagit County on Thursday, more than 100 people turned up to comment on the proposal.

Shell's refinery in Anacortes is the last of Washington's five oil refineries to apply for permits to receive oil by rail from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.

Earlier this month, the Cascade Locks City Council voted to approve a key step in the process of opening of a proposed Nestlé water bottling plant. The unanimous decision is the latest development in a six-year-long effort to bring the multinational company to the Columbia River Gorge.

The Port of Seattle could soon host drill rigs and barges belonging to Shell Oil.

Earlier this month the Port Commission voted to lease Terminal 5 in West Seattle to Shell to moor and perform maintenance on drilling equipment during the winter months.

On Wednesday, EarthJustice and eight other environmental groups called on the port to reconsider its decision.

Oregon’s Wolves Reach Recovery Milestone

Jan 28, 2015

Wolves in the eastern third of Oregon have reached a key milestone in the state’s recovery program. Officials have confirmed seven breeding pairs in 2014, the third year in a row a healthy number of pups have survived. Those two indicators of a recovering wolf population trigger phase two in the state's wold reintroduction plan.

Marijuana growing operations can be major power hogs. Now that they're legal in Oregon and Washington, experts are looking for ways to make them more energy efficient.

Indoor pot growing operations use as much electricity per square foot as data centers, according to energy attorney Richard Lorenz with Cable Huston.

"Just growing four marijuana plants uses as much energy as running 29 refrigerators," he said. "The carbon output is incredible."

Wolves are a frequent topic of discussion in the Pacific Northwest and in 2015 Oregon will begin changing how these animals are managed. In 2005, The Oregon Department Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) introduced the Wolf Conservation Management Plan to help stabilize the states' wolf population. The plan is reviewed every five years and is set to be reviewed again this year.

Solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, geothermal and waste-to-energy electricity production could account for 98 percent of Oregon’s and Washington’s electricity needs in just 15 years, according to two new reports.

The reports from the Wind Energy Foundation's Renewable America project, which promotes wind development, say developing renewables would create hundreds of thousands of jobs for the region.

Gov. Jay Inslee has been pushing for a “polluters pay” carbon reduction plan for the majority of his time in office. Tuesday marked the first time that plan went before the state legislature, when the House Environment Committee held a hearing of HB 1314. The bill, which was drafted by the governor’s office, has 37 sponsors, all Democrats.

Some people ride a bike instead of driving a car to reduce their contributions to climate change. Others shrink their carbon footprint by installing solar panels on their rooftops. Now, a Portland brewery has another suggestion: Drink low-carbon beer.

Migration Brewing introduced its new low-carbon brew on Thursday. It's a variation on the brewery's longtime red beer Blood, Sweat and Red, with half the carbon footprint. They call it the Little Foot Red.

A new distillery in the Tri-Cities is hoping to solar power your alcohol.

The founders of Solar Spirits are planning to distill vodka, gin and eventually whiskey – they would become one of the first distilleries in the Northwest to use solar power. The group calls their process “craft tech.”

This legislative session is looking like the make-or-break for any action on climate change from the Washington state legislature.

As Governor Jay Inslee and the Democrats continue to push for a cap and trade system, Republicans continue to voice strong opposition. Is there a middle ground?

You be the judge of that. Listen in as two leading senators - one Republican, one Democrat - sit down for a beer with EarthFix's Ashley Ahearn and talk about climate change -- with some detours in the conversation to discuss baby goats and Santa Claus, too.

Clean Water Services of Hillsboro has an advanced treatment process that can turn sewage into drinking water.

The company, which runs four wastewater treatment plants in the Portland metro area, wants to show off its "high-purity" system by turning recycled wastewater into beer.

But under current rules, the state of Oregon wouldn't allow anyone to drink it.

Can Coastal Communities Survive A Tsunami?

Jan 21, 2015

This story is part of a series Oregon Public Broadcasting is doing on how well the Northwest is prepared for the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that scientists say will hit along the Cascadia Subduction Zone just off the Pacific Coast.

In this piece we consider:

Communities up and down the Oregon Coast have known about the threat of a tsunami for years.

At approximately 9 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, Jan. 26, 1700, a magnitude 8 or 9 earthquake occurred on the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 600-mile stretch between Vancouver Island, British Columbia and Cape Mendocino, California.

Oral traditions of native people living in the Cascadia region reference numerous events of shaking and flooding in this time period, but those stories can’t be dated to specific calendar years.

Why Build A Hospital In A Tsunami Zone?

Jan 21, 2015

This story is part of a series Oregon Public Broadcasting is doing on how well the Northwest is prepared for the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that scientists say will hit along the Cascadia Subduction Zone just off the Pacific Coast.

In this piece we look at:

Gold Beach City Administrator Jodi Fritts was angry — or, as she put it in an email to state officials: "Incredible Hulk ANGRY."

Just Call Ashland 'Bee City, USA'

Jan 21, 2015

Southern Oregon hopes to attract more than just tourists now that Ashland has held up its end of the deal in becoming the state's second Bee City, USA.

The Ashland Daily Tidings reports City Council members first approved the resolution to make Ashland an official pollinator destination in December, and now with the city's first sign, the tagline is official.

A Portland start-up has tapped the city's water pipes as a new source of renewable hydropower that doesn't disrupt fish migration or stream flows.

Lucid Energy has installed a series of small hydroelectric generators inside a pipe that carries drinking water to the city. The company announced Tuesday that its new in-pipe hydro system is now producing power for Portland General Electric customers.

SSA Terminals will pay $215,000 dollars for violations of the Clean Water Act at its Harbor Island facility in Seattle.

After several years of litigation, brought by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, the company has agreed to reduce their pollution discharges into Elliott Bay. The settlement was announced in a consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Tuesday.

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