EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

This spring has been strange in Oregon’s Lane County.

“It rained every day. I’m exaggerating, but only by two days,” said farmer Jason Hunton.

As Mother Nature reared her ugly head, Hunton had to sit and watch his fields. Hunton farms organic and conventional land in Junction City, Oregon.

A series of public meetings for the Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project began Tuesday afternoon on Oregon’s south coast.

It was the first public meeting since the Canadian company Veresen refiled its permit application with the federal government. The company is proposing to build an LNG export terminal near Coos Bay, in addition to the 235-mile Pacific Connector Pipeline that will connect the terminal to natural gas supplies in the mountain West.

When a bark beetle outbreak started killing off decades-old pine trees in a research forest in western Montana, Forest Service researcher Sharon Hood made the best of the situation. She and other researchers started studying which trees were dying, hoping that information would help land managers.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a request by Portland General Electric to sell nine oil storage tanks on the Columbia River near Clatskanie.

PGE is selling the tanks to the fuel distributor Global Partners LP, which owns the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery at Port Westward.

Environmental groups asked utility regulators to kill the sale to protect public safety because the tanks could be used to develop an oil-by-rail terminal.

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As many as 20,000 people are converging on a meadow in the Malheur National Forest in Oregon’s Grant County this week for the Rainbow Gathering.

The annual event attracts hippies and travelers from around the country. But a small team of federal prosecutors and judges will also be there.

The U.S. Forest Service is working with federal judges from the District of Oregon and assistant prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to set up a temporary court in Grant County that can handle federal citations during the gathering.

A climate activist from Oregon will not serve jail time for his part in an oil pipeline protest last fall. A Washington judge instead sentenced the so-called “valve turner” to a month of community service and six months of probation.

Ken Ward of Corbett was one of five activists who turned valves off on several pipelines bringing oil from Canada to the United States. A Skagit, Washington, jury convicted him of second-degree burglary earlier this month.

More than two dozen Oregon businesses are banding together to fight climate change through a new organization called the Oregon Business Alliance For Climate.

The group’s mission is to mobilize industry support for putting a price on carbon emissions in Oregon. Its 27 founding members include home builder Neil Kelly Company, real estate developer Gerding Edlen, construction company Skanska, Umpqua Bank, New Seasons Market, Widmer Brewing and Willamette Valley Vineyards.

Challenging The Idea That Electric Vehicles Are For The Rich

Jun 20, 2017

Poor people spend more of their income on gas and transportation and their neighborhoods often are more exposed to air pollution.

At the EV Roadmap Conference in Portland Tuesday, experts discussed how electric cars could help on both fronts.

The national conference drew more than 600 people to Portland to discuss all kinds of issues related to expanding the use of electric vehicles, from financing more charging stations to the possibility of self-charging autonomous electric cars.

Steve and Sandy Swanson were in a festive mood. It was an early December day and their house was ready for Christmas.

“We already had our Christmas tree up,” Swanson remembers. “The house looked beautiful.”

But, then, a representative of the Navy knocked on the door of their home on top of a ridge on Whidbey Island,

“She walked in, and she seemed genuinely moved by the bad news she was going to have to tell us,” Swanson says.

Four months after a disastrous wastewater spill in Puget Sound, water quality levels are normal.

Hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage and stormwater spilled from the West Point treatment plant near Discovery Park. Local lawmakers called it a disaster, and it cost King County millions of dollars in repairs.

Earlier this year, the Navy scraped the hull of the U.S.S. Independence to prepare it for dismantlement. That likely released heavy metals into the waters of Puget Sound, which is bad for salmon and orcas. The Navy didn’t get a permit for the work, so environmental groups sued this week.

But in Bremerton? It's going to take more than that to shake this town's love of the Navy.

A federal judge will allow the Trump administration to complete its review of national monuments before deciding how to move forward with a lawsuit involving the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

Two timber companies in southern Oregon have filed a lawsuit against the expansion, arguing the enlarged Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is a violation of presidential authority and could hamper their logging operations.

Millions of tubular sea creatures called pyrosomes have taken over the Pacific Ocean in an unprecedented bloom that has scientists baffled.

These bumpy, translucent organisms look like sea cucumbers that range in size from six inches to more than two feet long. But they’re actually made up of hundreds of tiny animals knit together with tissue into a filter-feeding cylinder.

Wildfire Smoke Pollution Is Worse Than We Thought

Jun 16, 2017

All that black smoke you see floating up from a wildfire — it’s full of small particles that are bad for your lungs and heart.

It turns out, the small particles are a lot worse than researchers previously thought. A new study found there are three times as much pollution in wildfire smoke plumes than predicted from earlier estimates.

In two weeks, thousands of peace-loving, free-spirited campers will descend on Oregon for the 2017 Rainbow Gathering in the Malheur National Forest.

The annual summer event attracts hippie types and wanderers from across the nation.

Rainbow members announced Thursday on social media that the July 1–7 gathering will be in a large field at Flagtail Creek, about 20 miles northwest of the tiny town of Seneca, Oregon, off Highway 395.

Seabirds Disappear In The Midst Of Plans To Shoot Them

Jun 15, 2017

For the second year in a row, thousands of cormorants have vacated their nesting grounds at the mouth of the Columbia River, derailing a plan to shoot and kill the seabirds to protect fish.

East Sand Island is usually packed with around 15,000 nesting cormorants this time of year; but right now there are none – just a handful of abandoned nests and broken eggs.

It’s rush hour in Wallingford, and commuters are stepping off a bus, closing up their laptops and heading into the evening sun. It’s not public transit. It’s a Microsoft Connector bus.

The buses eliminate nearly 12 million miles of driving a year, saving stress and exhaust. The fleet of white and green buses is one of Microsoft’s more visible efforts to lower its impact on the global climate.

This is the latest episode of terrestrial, KUOW’s new podcast exploring the choices we make in a world we have changed. Subscribe to the show. And join our Facebook group.

It’s a radical idea — that protest as we know it is broken. And a lot of people disagreed with Micah White when he first started talking about it, but he believes it’s time for activists to try something else.

The Columbia River Gorge Commission hears an appeal Tuesday from Union Pacific Railroad on a proposed track expansion near Mosier, Oregon.

The proposed five-mile stretch would pass through the site of last year’s oil train derailment that spilled 40,000 gallons of crude oil and contaminated the town’s groundwater.

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