Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

Earthfix
2:12 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Wyden Confronts Critics Of His Oregon Logging Bill

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asks the strongest critics of his bill if they both "might be a little wrong" at a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

At a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden challenged critics of his Oregon logging bill to admit that they "may be a little bit wrong."

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Earthfix Northwest Environmental News
10:16 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Green Light For Floating Wind Farm Off Southern Oregon Coast

An illustration of floating offshore wind turbines.
Principle Power Inc.

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 9:37 am

A Seattle company that wants to build a floating wind farm off the shore of Southern Oregon got a green light from some high-ranking officials Wednesday.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, ushered in a new phase of development for Principle Power, Inc.

The 30-megawatt project would be sited 18 miles off the shore of Coos Bay in about 1,400 feet of water. One power cable would connect the turbines to shore.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Thu February 6, 2014

EarthFix Conversation: Snowshoeing With Sally Jewell

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in her natural habitat, caught mid-fall into snow-angel making.
Ashley Ahearn

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was in the Northwest this week. Her swing through Washington and Oregon included a visit to Mount Rainier National Park, where Jewell met with scientists from the National Park Service and the US Geological Survey to talk about the impacts of climate change. While she was there she did some snowshoeing and fielded some questions from EarthFix's Ashley Ahearn.

Sally Jewell: Alright Ashley, retire the microphone, it’s time to suit up.

Ashley Ahearn: So how many times have you done this hike, Secretary?

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Earthfix
3:55 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

Live Trapping Often Results In Death For Wild Horses

Three wild horses pace nervously in a passive bait trap in the mountains outside John Day, Oregon. They took the bait, hay on the forest floor, but tripped a wire which closed a gate behind them.
Vince Patton/OPB

In the mountains outside John Day, Ore., a wild horse made a tasty find. Hay was strewn about on the forest floor. As she went to eat, the mare took one step too far, tripping a line that slammed a gate closed behind her. She had trapped herself.

On August 4, 2012, a government contractor backed his rig up to the passive trap, preparing to haul the wild horse to the Bureau of Land Management corral in Burns, Ore..

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NPR Story
8:45 am
Wed February 5, 2014

Energy Storage Battery Heads To The Market

Three wild horses pace nervously in a passive bait trap in the mountains outside John Day, Oregon. They took the bait, hay on the forest floor, but tripped a wire which closed a gate behind them.
Vince Patton/OPB

The push to build supersized batteries capable of storing unused energy for later use on the grid is taking a big step forward:

Private companies are interested in moving the technology out of the laboratory and into commercial production.

Many energy experts say for renewable energy to become better integrated onto the grid, some sort of energy storage system is needed. That’s because renewable energy isn’t always reliable. The sun doesn’t always shine. The wind doesn’t always blow.

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NPR Story
9:01 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Secretary Of The Interior Tours Mount Rainier National Park, Talks Climate Change

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at Mount Rainier National Park.
Ashley Ahearn

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. -- Hot on the heels of President Obama's latest state of the union address, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, came home to Washington to meet with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

But this wasn’t your usual boardroom PowerPoint session.

The group snowshoed out to a snowy overlook to check out the Nisqually Glacier. That’s the source of the Nisqually River, which drains from the slopes of Mount Rainier out into Puget Sound.

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NPR Story
10:44 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Oregon Minnow Is The First Fish Recovered From Endangered Species List

Oregon chub can easily fit into the palm of your hand. The biggest of these fish are no more than three inches long.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Officials say a tiny, unsung fish that lives only in Oregon's Willamette Valley is the first endangered fish in the U.S. to be recovered.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to announce Tuesday its petition to remove Oregon chub from the Endangered Species List and touting the success story of a minnow that's no more than three inches long.

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NPR Story
2:34 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Tesoro Refinery Blast Reflects Industry-Wide Problems

Safer practices and better steel could have prevented a deadly explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash., in 2010, according to a new report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.
Scott Butner via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/90994404@N00/8574143283/

The blast killed seven workers.

The federal investigators also said problems they found with cracked, corroded steel at refineries in Anacortes and elsewhere "strongly suggest an industry-wide problem."

On the first anniversary of the April 2010 blast, the Chemical Safety Board released preliminary findings: Microscopic cracks in the steel of a poorly maintained piece of equipment called a heat exchanger led to the explosion.

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NPR Story
1:48 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Pot vs Fish: Can We Grow Salmon-Friendly Weed?

A national park ranger helps other law enforcement agencies eradicate a marijuana growing operation discovered in the park.
David Snyder for the NPS

As marijuana has become more mainstream, the business of cultivating the plant has boomed. That’s true nowhere more than in coastal northern California. There, the so-called Emerald Triangle of Mendocino, Trinity and Humboldt counties is believed to be the largest cannabis-growing region in the US.

But as the hills have sprouted thousands of new grow operations, haphazard cultivation is threatening the recovery of endangered West Coast salmon and steelhead populations.

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NPR Story
6:00 am
Fri January 31, 2014

How The Farm Bill Funds Environmental Programs, Too

The Farm Bill funds more than just agriculture. The new bill will also affect the Northwest environment policy.
Courtney Flatt

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 5:58 pm

The Farm Bill doesn't just put billions of dollars into agriculture programs. The Agricultural Act of 2014, as the bill is formally called, will also affect conservation of Northwest wildlife and natural resources.

The House has passed a version of the bill, and it's expected to go to the Senate Monday.

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NPR Story
3:03 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

What The Farm Bill Tucked Beneath Northwest Christmas Trees

Congress is on the verge of approving a surcharge on Christmas trees to pay for a national board's promotion of this leading Northwest crop.
Ian Sane/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/31246066@N04/5850816091/in/photolist-9V1XMv

A once-stalled plan to support Christmas tree growers nationwide could be on its way to winning congressional approval as part of the new Farm Bill.

A provision in the bill adds a 15-cent surcharge on the cost of Christmas trees sold by larger farms. The revenue would help market those trees -- a potential boon for growers in Oregon, which leads the country in Christmas tree production.

You’ve likely heard of the dairy industry’s famous "Got Milk?" campaign but you’ve probably never heard an ad that asks, "Got Christmas Trees?"

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Northwest Starfish Experiments Give Scientists Clues To Mysterious Mass Die-offs

A dying Pisaster ochraceus sea star in the waters off West seattle dangles by its tentacles off an underwater piling that would normally be covered with a rainbow of sea stars.
Laura James

MUKILTEO, Wash. -- Near the ferry docks on Puget Sound, a group of scientists and volunteer divers shimmy into suits and double-check their air tanks.

They move with the urgency of a group on a mission. And they are. They’re trying to solve a marine mystery.

“We need to collect sick ones as well as individuals that appear healthy,” Ben Miner tells the divers as they head into the water.

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NPR Story
9:42 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

NW Groups Weigh In On Obama’s Energy, Environment Plans

Energy and the environment both got brief mentions in President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. The president pushed natural gas and solar power as ways to reduce carbon pollution.

Energy and the environment both got brief mentions President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The president spoke for 65 minutes, devoting about five of those minutes to energy and the environment. He pushed natural gas and solar power as ways to reduce carbon pollution as part of his “all of the above” energy strategy.

“Today, America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades,” the president said near the beginning of his speech.

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NPR Story
6:58 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Feds Declare Salmon Fishery Disaster For Washington Tribes

A Native American takes part in a salmon ceremony. On Tuesday, the U.S. commerce secretary declared a fishery disaster for the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery in Washington. That could lead to aid to nine tribes and non-tribal fishers.
Katie Campbell

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce has declared the Fraser River sockeye salmon run a “fishery disaster” for nine tribes and non-tribal fishers in Washington state.

The Fraser River empties out near Vancouver, British Columbia. The sockeye salmon from that river are a key resource for the state and tribal fishing industries in Washington.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Developing A Taste For Geoduck In The Northwest

Michael Gifford, chef at Seattle's How To Cook A Wolf, shows off a geoduck he's preparing.
Ashley Ahearn

The Locavore movement is thriving in the Northwest -- with one big exception. When it comes to Puget Sound geoduck clams, the shellfish industry and local chefs are still trying to create a demand for them at home.

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Senators Respond to Oil Train Safety Concerns
4:32 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Wyden, Merkley Take Railroads To Task Over Oil Train Safety

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley discussed concerns about oil train safety with dozens of public officials and railroad executives Friday.
Tony Schick

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley asked railroad company executives Friday to address mounting concerns about oil train safety in Oregon.

Following several oil train derailments and related emergencies in the past six months, the senators gathered in Portland with public officials officials and rail industry representatives.

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Earthfix
9:32 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Indoor Pot Farms Are Energy Guzzlers, Research Shows

Lights used in indoor pot farms can be as bright as those in operating rooms.
Flickr Photo/Fulvio Minichini

While the legalization of marijuana could be viewed as a liberal cause, the counterculture’s favorite herb isn’t exactly eco-friendly.

“Indoor pot farms are energy guzzlers,” said Seattle news analyst Joni Balter.

Californian scientist Dr. Evan Mills released a study indicating the staggering amount of energy that goes into indoor marijuana production.

“We’re talking about lighting levels that match hospital operating rooms, so that’s 500 times greater than what you and I need for reading,” Balter said.

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Earthfix
1:00 am
Fri January 24, 2014

How The Farm Bill Could Make It Harder To Track Down Pollution

Two provisions in the House version of the latest Farm Bill could limit the amount and type of information federal agencies give out about farms.
Flickr Creative Commons: Scott Butner

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency messed up. And now the mistake has led to a fight between open government advocates and farmers.

The EPA accidentally released the names and addresses of 80,000 farmers to environmental groups. That's a lot of information that's supposed to be redacted.

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NPR Story
11:02 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Methanol Plant Proposal Draws Support, Questions In Clatskanie

One of two methanol plants proposed for the Northwest would be built at Port Westward near Clatskanie.
Sam Beebe Ecotrust/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/sbeebe/2849062734/sizes/l/

President of NW Innovation Works Murray Godley faced a litany of questions Thursday night about his company's plan to build a $1 billion methanol plant on the Columbia River.

Godley presented the plan to the Port of St. Helens Commission at a packed meeting in Clatskanie, Ore., where people wanted to know about what kinds of jobs the plant would create, what byproducts it would release into the environment and how safe the project would be.

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Earthfix
7:26 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

New Legislation Calls For Transparency On Oil Moving Through Washington

With more oil moving through Washington by train and other transportation modes, state lawmakers want oil companies to keep environmental regulators better informed.
Katie Campbell

SEATTLE -- Washington lawmakers took up a proposal Wednesday to require more transparency from companies that transport oil through the state.

The hearing on House Bill 2347 played out before a packed committee room in Olympia. The new bill would require oil companies to file weekly reports with the state Department of Ecology detailing how much oil is being transported, what kind of oil it is, how it’s being moved and what route it’s traveling through the state.

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