EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

California Gov. Jerry Brown wants President Barack Obama to permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling in his state. Brown says in a letter sent Tuesday to the president that allowing new drilling would be inconsistent with goals of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and combating climate change.

At an even launching the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, a new organization to protect oceans, Brown said he plans to ask Oregon and Washington to help him convince the current Administration to act.

Columbia River Cleanup Bill Passes Congress

Dec 13, 2016

Cleaning up and monitoring toxics in the Columbia River Basin could now be a little easier. Congress recently passed a bill that would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to start a voluntary grant program for environmental cleanup in the Columbia River system.

The Columbia River Basin, which was named as a “large aquatic ecosystem” in 2006, was the only system of that sort that didn’t receive dedicated funding to reduce toxins. Others included Puget Sound, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.

Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday sought an new alternative to selling a state forest in southwest Oregon to the only bidder to offer the full asking price.

At a meeting of the Oregon State Land Board, Brown called for setting aside $100 million in state bonding authority to allow for a new proposal on how the state should manage the Elliott State Forest going forward.

The car winds its way along a narrow gravel road of the Elliott State Forest. Allison Tarbox has a CB in hand, tuned to the local channel.

“Nine-and-a-half up the 2000,” she monotones into the ether as the vehicle passes a small numbered sign tacked to a tree.

The car’s at mile 9.5 heading “up” State Forest Road 2000. Tarbox, who’s with the Coos Watershed Association, calls out our position to give logging crews in the area a heads-up.

Union Pacific Railroad says it plans to appeal a decision blocking the expansion of its railroad track in Mosier, Oregon.

In November, the Wasco County Commission denied the proposed development on the basis that it would affect the Yakima Nation’s tribal treaty rights.

The county commission reversed an earlier decision by the Wasco County Planning Commission that approved the railroad expansion but imposed a number of conditions, including new pedestrian crossings.

Choice Of Scott Pruitt To Run EPA Frustrates Some Oregonians

Dec 9, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has ruffled some feathers in Oregon.

He’s sued the EPA for everything from the Clean Power Plan to the Clean Water Act.

But Pruitt’s assertion that it was states, and not the EPA, that were intended to be the nation's foremost environmental regulators, has antagonized Frank Potter.

He’s now retired and living in Portland. But Potter worked for Congress in the 1970s and helped draft the National Environmental Policy Act.

Eastern Washington lawmaker Cathy McMorris Rodgers is emerging as President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead natural resources policy as interior secretary.

Several news organizations, including the Associated Press and The New York Times reported this development Friday, based on information from unnamed sources.

Such an appointment would ensure that a Washington state resident remains at the helm of the Interior Department, which includes the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

An environmental group filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Washington state of failing to control water pollution along the coast and Puget Sound.

Portland-based Northwest Environmental Advocates is asking a U.S. district court to force two federal agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – to cut funding to the state as a form of punishment.

Emergency management experts are meeting on the Oregon coast this week to discuss tsunami preparedness.

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management’s tsunami conference is bringing together a wide variety of experts to talk about how to mitigate the effects of a tsunami that would strike the coast after a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.

That quake is expected to be at least magnitude 8.0 and could hit at any time. The resulting tsunami could bring 30- to 50-foot waves.

Castle Peak is so hidden from view that you can’t see it from any highway.

But it just might be the most important mountain in Idaho. Castle Peak and the surrounding Boulder-White Cloud Mountains have stirred up fights over mining, recreation and conservation — fights that have changed the course of political careers, including that of a self-described "Democratic lumberjack from North Idaho" named Cecil Andrus who became governor after taking a stand over the future of this rugged, mineral-rich wilderness.

Copyright 2016 ERTHFX. To see more, visit ERTHFX.

Federal land managers are getting their scientific ducks in a row before updating the most important forest management plan in the Northwest.

The Northwest Forest Plan covers 24 million acres of public land run by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management. It went into effect 22 years ago.

“Since that time, there’s been a wealth of new science, a tremendous focus on new issues,” says Tom Spies of USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station in Corvallis.

Battle Ready: The Military's NW Environmental Legacy

Dec 6, 2016

Seventy-five years ago, America was drawn into World War II and the Pacific Northwest answered the call with lumber, hydroelectricity, even a secret plutonium factory to arm atomic bombs. This documentary explores the hidden history of the military, the Northwest and the environment.

You can watch the documentary online and find out more here.

Sunday's victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its battle against an oil pipeline in North Dakota is big news for a tribal member living in the Pacific Northwest.

Ace Baker is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux who lives with his family on the Swinomish Reservation near La Conner, Washington. Baker spent about three weeks participating in protests.

He said it was "hard to believe" the news that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had denied the easements for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be build beneath the Missouri River. Construction has stopped.

The Portland Water Bureau is taking immediate steps to reduce the amount of lead in the water at taps across the Portland metro area. The move comes after a routine check of at-risk homes found too much lead in the water this fall, and state regulators ordered the Water Bureau to take immediate action.

A threatened sea bird that relies on coastal old growth forests to nest will be getting further protections in Oregon. This week, the Board of Forestry agreed to join with other state agencies to create a plan to conserve marbled murrelet habitat on state and private lands.

Environmental groups petitioned the state earlier this year to protect the murrelet, which is on both the federal and state endangered species lists. The Oregon Board of Forestry initially said “no,” but reversed its decision after the groups went to the courts.

The Plane That Won A War And Polluted A River

Dec 1, 2016

This is a condensed version of a story originally published Sept. 29, 2015. Read the complete story here.

There's an old photograph in my father’s office that I’ve always wondered about. In it my grandfather and nine other young airmen stand in front of their B-17 plane, shoulders squared, smiling for the camera. They were probably in England at the time, getting ready to fly bombing raids over Germany in 1943.

Growing up, Paul Skirvin milked a lot of cows.

“Dad went and borrowed the money,” he says. “And before we was through milking cows, we was milking about 60 head.”

This was outside of Portland in the 1930s and '40s. Skirvin was too young to fight in World War II. Soon after it ended he received a quick lesson in economics when he and his brother were hired to log off their neighbor’s land.

“We milked those cows all month and about the same as we’d make in a week logging.” he says.

Life At A Post-War Nuclear Weapons Factory

Dec 1, 2016

Seth Ellingsworth figured he was set for life. He was 22 and had just landed a coveted factory job in the company town he’d grown up in.

“I thought it was the greatest thing ever,” he said. “The place where people in the area worked that did well, I got a job there. I was really proud that I was a part of it.”

Now, at 35, Ellingsworth spends most days beset by tremors, struggling for oxygen, frequently confined to the ground floor of his home in Richland, Washington. It’s just outside his former place of work: the Hanford Nuclear Site.

Paul Fishman spots a rusty chunk of metal jutting out of the riverbank on Portland’s South Waterfront.

“Ah-ha!" he said. “Here’s a piece of ship’s hull."

The piece came from a World War II ship – one of the few signs of the post-war industry that used to be here.

During World War II, the site was one of several Willamette River shipyards devoted to building military vessels. But when victory made all those warships obsolete, this stretch of the waterfront became the scrapyard where many of those ships were torn apart.

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