EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

The hike down into remote Eagle Canyon is a steep, slippery affair. There are no trails, just staggered juniper and gullies of loose rocks – and the occasional line of barbed wire fence.

“It’s amazing to me how these fences were built down some of these scree slopes,” says Craig Terry about the hands who originally strung miles and miles of barbed wire on land that used to be Wagner and Pine Creek Ranches.

“And now we’re taking them out," he says.

Air pollution discovered in Portland has led some leaders to consider the formation of a local air quality agency.

Portland area leaders are reacting to the discovery earlier this month of arsenic, cadmium and chromium in the air of Southeast and North Portland. The elements are potentially harmful, even carcinogenic.

Glass manufacturers who the Department of Environmental Quality identified as the main sources of the chemicals have suspended their industrial use of those elements — though state officials note the companies were operating within permitted guidelines.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Thursday he's worried about the regulatory gap that allowed high levels of heavy metals pollution to be released into the air in Portland.

At a press conference Thursday, Wyden joined Sen. Jeff Merkley and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, both Oregon Democrats, to discuss the recent discovery of arsenic and cadmium in the air at levels that raise the risk of cancer.

Bull Run Quake Science

Feb 18, 2016

A Cascadia earthquake will spell trouble for Portland's water supply. But is there any way to know how bad the shaking will be? Divers explore the protected Bull Run Lake, source of Portland's water, in search of evidence from past earthquakes that could shed light on how big the "big one" will be for the Portland area.

Portland Water Bureau

Will Methanol Be The New Aroma Of Tacoma?

Feb 18, 2016

UPDATE: On Friday the company behind Tacoma's proposed methanol plant announced it was temporarily putting its proposal on hold, saying it has been "surprised by the tone and substance of vocal opposition." Click here for details.

Standing in front of a stained glass window in his showroom, Uroboros Glass President Eric Lovell walks through some of the colors and the metals used to make them.

"You're looking at chrome and copper greens, gold pinks and iron sulfide ambers," he said. "The yellow border there and the parrot feathers, reds and oranges, are the cadmium colors that are the current topic."

Inside the North Portland workshop, employees scoop glowing, molten glass out of 2200-degree furnaces.

The coal industry has been having a hard time lately.

Coal usage in the U.S. has been declining for years. That's prompted coal companies in the West to try to export their coal to Asia via ports in Washington, Oregon and California.

Q&A: What We Know About Portland's Toxic Air Emissions

Feb 16, 2016

Two air-pollution hotspots in Portland have many residents worried about exposure to arsenic, cadmium, and now hexavalent chromium, which can be highly carcinogenic.

The hotspots have drawn attention to two glassmakers, which have now suspended the use of any of those materials in their production processes.

This scare has drawn attention to what you’ve called a blind spot in air pollution regulations. Can you remind us what it is and how it was discovered?

Warm Waters Linked To Sea Star Wasting

Feb 16, 2016

During the height of the sea star die-offs in 2014, millions of stars up and down the West Coast were wasting away. At the same time, sea surface temperatures in the northeast Pacific Ocean were the warmest recorded in decades.

Scientists suspected a connection.

Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington and Kate Brown of Oregon were among the 17 state executives to sign onto a clean-energy agreement announced Tuesday.

The “Governors Accord for a New Energy Future” brings together Republican and Democratic governors from across the country.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is calling on the Oregon Health Authority and Department of Environmental Quality to take immediate action, after concerns that glass companies are releasing heavy metals into North and Southeast Portland air.

In a statement Monday, Brown ordered DEQ to begin soil testing in the affected communities. Heavy metals have the potential to linger in soil and be an exposure point for people.

Pika

Feb 11, 2016

Producers: Ed Jahn and Liz Cosko; Videographers: Nick Fisher and Liz Cosko; Editor: Michael Bendixen; Special Thanks: Outdoor Idaho, Idaho PTV

Two Democratic congressmen from Oregon said federal prosecutors should have acted much earlier to arrest Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Had authorities acted sooner, the lawmakers said it might have discouraged militants inspired by Bundy from occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Portland and Peter DeFazio of Springfield on Thursday called for tough federal prosecution against both Bundy and the militants who ended their nearly six-week long occupation the same day.

When the new baby orca L120 was spotted in just off of San Juan Island in Puget Sound, Ken Balcomb passed out cigars to celebrate.

But the long-time killer whale researcher knew that the southern resident orca pods needed a lot more than one new member. That was back in September 2014. Their numbers were down to 78, the smallest since 1985. L120 was the first baby orca born in two years.

Hundreds of people crowded into a Tacoma convention center Wednesday night to voice concerns about a methanol refinery proposed for the city’s Tideflats.

If it’s built, the refinery would be the largest of its kind in the world. It would take natural gas from British Columbia and convert it to methanol. Then it would be shipped to China to make plastics.

The $3.4 billion dollar plant is one of three proposed for Washington and Oregon by Northwest Innovation Works, a company backed by the Chinese government.

Portlanders Demand Action On Heavy Metal Air Pollution

Feb 10, 2016

Hundreds of people crowded into Cleveland High School Tuesday night with questions, concerns and demands for officials addressing Portland's air pollution.

State lawmakers this week began discussing a measure that could make Washington the first state to tax residents and businesses on their carbon emissions.

You can watch the two-hour work session, or watch the below video, which explains everything you need to know about carbon pricing in three minutes.

Second Portland Glass-Maker Suspends Use Of Cadmium

Feb 9, 2016

A second glass-making company in Portland has voluntarily suspended its use of cadmium in response to tests showing elevated levels of the metal in nearby moss.

Uroboros Glass in North Portland announced Thursday it would stop making red, yellow and orange glass colors because they rely on the use of cadmium, a heavy metal that can raise the risk of lung cancer at elevated levels of exposure.

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In December, Congress adjourned without passing legislation to ratify a trio of agreements meant to end the long-standing water wars in the Klamath Basin. This essentially killed the deal, which was arrived at through years of painstaking negotiations between farmers, ranchers, tribes and other groups.

Now, there’s a move to demolish four dams on the Klamath River through a separate regulatory process, bypassing the need for Congressional approval. This unexpected turn could shape the ongoing Klamath saga.

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