EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Members of Oregon’s congressional delegation introduced a bipartisan bill Friday to help towns and cities prepare for serious railroad incidents.

The Community Protection and Preparedness Act would create a trust fund to help communities prepare for incidents involving flammable liquids like crude oil and ethanol.

Last summer, a Union Pacific train derailed and spilled thousands of gallons of crude in the small Columbia River Gorge town of Mosier, Oregon.

A project that would export 44 million tons of coal a year from Longview, Washington, would raise the cancer risk for people living near rail lines, create traffic jams with its mile-long coal trains and increase global greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million tons.

The Millennium coal export project would be among the largest coal terminals in North America, and it would inevitably impact the environment and the surrounding community in Southwest Washington, according to a new report from state and county regulators.

Environmentalists concerned that lobbying and polite marches have failed to weaken America’s reliance on fossil fuels have started turning to more confrontational approaches.

Climate activists with the group 350 Seattle say 2,000 people from the Seattle area have signed a “pledge of resistance” to participate in civil disobedience on behalf of the global climate.

While civil disobedience is nothing new, even for climate activists, 350 Seattle organizers said interest in it has ballooned since the election of President Donald Trump.

Kill A Juniper Tree, Save A Sage Grouse

Apr 27, 2017

There’s good news for the West's imperiled greater sage grouse. New research suggests the bird has a better chance of survival when juniper trees are removed from its habitat.

The chicken-sized sage grouse's decline has happened over the same stretch of time that's seen western juniper and pinyon pine trees spread out across the bird's sagebrush ecosystem. Reasons for the trees' expansion include fire suppression, overgrazing and changing climate conditions.

As the stands grow more dense, they outcompete sagebrush. They also serve as perches for birds of prey.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced climate legislation Thursday to completely phase-out fossil fuels.

Called the "100 by 50 Act," it aims to run 100 percent of the country on clean and renewable energy by 2050.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., supported the launch. “Mr. President your job is to listen to the scientific community which is virtually unanimous in telling us that we’ve got to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” he said.

Paul Savino’s first patient of the day collapsed under the weight of an overgrown child. He's seen these symptoms before.

“What we have here are a couple of dowel joints that have popped and one that has snapped,” he said. “But the patient will survive, I dare say.”

A piece of sandpaper, some wood glue and 20 minutes later, the toddler-sized wooden chair was back on its feet.

Environmental groups gathered Wednesday outside the Portland General Electric headquarters in Portland to protest the utility’s effort to permit two new natural gas plants to replace its coal-fired power plant, which is scheduled to shut down in 2020.

The protesters carried signs that read: “We want #cleanenergy not #frackedgas,” and they danced to their own rendition of the song “YMCA” that asked: “Why, PGE? The wind can do it, so why, PGE?” The protest coincided with a PGE shareholders meeting at the utility's headquarters in downtown Portland.

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The salmon cannon made a big splash a few years ago on local news stations and even had a cameo on HBO’s "Last Week Tonight" with John Oliver. Soon, it could propel fish into its biggest project yet.

Even with all the hubbub around its name, the salmon cannon isn’t so much an explosion as a flexible plastic tube that sucks fish up and over obstructions — like dams.

Initial numbers show that bottle and can returns are up statewide after the deposit increased from a nickel to a dime on April 1.

Full statewide numbers aren’t in yet, but the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative is tracking how many bottles are returned to its Bottle Drop Centers.

Scientists, students, and families carried signs and chanted “Earth Day is every day.” Some, like Barbara Martin, even dressed for the occasion.

“I’ve got on my lab coat with my stethoscope and my sign says ‘Got Polio? Me neither. Thanks, science,’” said Martin, who was also sporting a green knit hat with an ohm symbol in the middle, the electrical sign for resistance.

Gray wolves are once again the center of attention for Oregon wildlife officials.

The state is considering revisions to the state’s Wolf Management Plan, which directs how the state’s gray wolf population is protected. The plan also addresses how conflicts with humans, livestock and deer and elk population goals should be handled.

“We’re looking at plan, how we implemented it, what works and what doesn’t - and what we could do better,” Wolf Program Coordinator Russ Morgan said Friday at an Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Klamath Falls.

Nature Time Improves Your Well-Being, Says OSU Study

Apr 21, 2017

Researchers at Oregon State University have found that people who spend time in nature feel greater life satisfaction.

That's certainly true for Gig Harbor, Washington, resident Bill Coughlin, who recently spent the day hiking with his kids at Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne, Oregon.

"It recharges me more than anything," Coughlin said, gazing up at the giant red rock face. "There’s nothing like getting back into nature. It’s just so peaceful, too. It’s needed. In our busy lives, it’s just so important."

The state of Oregon has announced a new round of taxpayer-funded grants to help schools and other public buildings better withstand a major earthquake.

The grant program is funded by state bonds. It was created just over a decade ago when lawmakers became convinced of the need to protect critical infrastructure as well as to protect lives of vulnerable people in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.

One of President Trump’s top economic advisors says the administration plans to approve a permit for the controversial Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas project in Coos Bay.

In an interview at a policy summit Thursday, White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said building terminals that would ship LNG to Japan and Germany would offer a big boost the U.S. economy.

Looming Budget Cuts Put Scientists In Limbo

Apr 21, 2017

Eric Dexter pulls a giant windsock out a plastic tub and drops it into the Columbia River.

“So now we’re going catch the zooplankton samples, which is what I'm most interested in,” he said.

He’s looking for invasive species – but not the kind you usually hear about. Invasive plankton are practically invisible. They come in the ballast water of cargo ships, often from Asia. To even find these microscopic organisms, you need a plankton fishing net.

Washington’s Department of Ecology wants more information before deciding whether to approve a shoreline permit for a controversial methanol refinery in Kalama.

In its application, NW Innovation Works establishes a self-imposed limit of 976,131 metric tons greenhouse gas emissions annually. But in the letter to the county, the Department of Ecology says its calculations found an additional 232,136 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be emitted per year.

Oregon is proposing to relax protections for bald eagles on private land. A series of public hearings on the rule change began Wednesday.

Recovery of the bald eagle is considered to be an endangered-species success story. The eagle was taken off the federal list of endangered species in 2007. Oregon delisted it in 2012.

Helping juvenile salmon migrate out to sea has long been difficult and controversial. Barging is a common way to get the fish around dams.

The salmon are hauled around eight dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Idaho Conservation groups say this practice harms fish — and needs to stop now.

Seven groups sent a letter to NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, asking the agencies to this spring stop sending salmon along their migration route in barges.

Northwest communities are getting their drinking water from aging infrastructure that is costly to maintain and prone to breaking down.

That’s the conclusion of a new report issued by the Olympia-based Center for Sustainable Infrastructure, which is affiliated with The Evergreen State College.

The center's director, Rhys Roth, said those water systems were state-of-the-art when they were built a century ago.

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