Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
1:00 am
Thu October 17, 2013

The County Council Election That Could Mean Big Things For Coal Exports

Isabel VanDerslice volunteers for Washington Conservation Voters going door to door in Bellingham to talk to people about the importance of the Whatcom County Council election in the future of the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Whatcom County could one day be the home of the largest coal export facility on the west coast –- which would transfer up to 54 million tons of coal from trains onto ships bound for Asia.

The Whatcom County Council could cast the deciding votes in the permitting of the dock for the Gateway Pacific Terminal. That’s landed this election in the spotlight and it's drawing a lot of outside money.

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NPR Story
2:16 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

Final Public Meeting For Longview Coal Project In Tacoma

Site of the proposed Millenium Bulk Terminal at Longview, Wash. The final meeting in Tacoma will give public a chance to weigh in on the scope of environmental review.

The final public hearing for a coal terminal proposed for Longview, Washington will be held in Tacoma on Thursday.

The Millennium Bulk Terminal could be built near Longview with a handling capacity of up to 44 million tons of coal per year. It's one of two large coal terminals under consideration in Washington. One other coal export proposal is being considered in Oregon.

The coal would arrive by train from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana and be loaded onto ships bound for Asia.

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1:31 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

Junction City Plant Turns Commercial Food Waste To Power

Oregon’s first utility-scale facility to turn commercial food waste to electricity is up and running in Junction City.

The JC Biomethane plant captures methane from decomposing food waste and turns the gas into electricity. Its 1.5 megawatt capacity is enough to power half the homes in Junction City.

Matt Krumenauer with the Department of Energy says it’s the first project of its kind in Oregon and breaks ground nationally.

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NPR Story
2:51 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

How Hotshot Oregon Businesses Are Responding To Climate Change

Ann Radil of Nike, left, led a panel discussion with, left to right, John Harland of Intel Corporation, Michael Armstrong of the City of Portland, Justin Zeulner of the Portland Trail Blazers and Demi Espinoza of the Coalition of Communities of Color.

Leaders from Nike, Intel and the Portland Trail Blazers discussed the how they're responding to climate change at the GoGreen Conference in Portland Tuesday.

They talked about how economics and competition can spur action within the business community and how businesses can prioritize actions that will have the biggest impact.

Ann Radil, a climate scientist and director of Nike's Sustainable Product Team, led the panel discussion titled "Actions Speak Louder: Getting Serious About Climate Change."

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NPR Story
4:39 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Inslee Wants To Explore State-Only 'Cap and Trade' Scheme

Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee delivering his plan for combatting climate change to the Climate Legislative and Executive Work Group on Oct. 14, 2013.

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday laid out his wish list for how he'd like Washington state to combat global warming pollution.

It includes eliminating any electricity generated by coal and putting a statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Legislative Republicans immediately raised concerns.

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NPR Story
3:01 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Mass Starfish Die-Off May Be Headed For Washington

Disembodied arms of a diseased sea star near Popham Island, 12 miles northwest of Vancouver, B.C.

Scientists in two nations are on the lookout for an underwater epidemic that is killing starfish.

In September, divers in Vancouver Harbour and Howe Sound near Vancouver, British Columbia, noticed the pizza-sized starfish known as sunflower stars wasting away and dying in large numbers.

“The sick ones tend to just fall apart in front of your eyes,” Vancouver Aquarium biologist Jeff Marliave said. “An arm will actually break off and crawl away. They turn into goo.”

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1:34 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Seattle Company Partners With UW To Build One-Of-A-Kind Submarine

Rendering of manned deep sea sub in development in Seattle.

A commercial submarine operator is teaming up with the University of Washington to build a new, manned deep sea sub. The five passenger mini-sub could be available for charter by oil companies or researchers beginning in 2016.

Seattle-based OceanGate Inc. currently operates two small submarines for hire. It sees a market for deeper diving manned submersibles. To that end, the small company has partnered with the University of Washington and Boeing to design a stubby, bullet shaped mini-sub with a 180 degree viewing dome in its nose.

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NPR Story
6:31 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Shutdown Halts Logging On Northwest's National Forests

Timber companies say even if a deal is reached soon at the nation's capitol, the effects from the logging hiatus could be felt all the way into next spring.

Loggers are packing up and leaving timber sales uncut across the Northwest. It's another effect of the partial government shutdown. Timber companies say even if a deal is reached soon at the nation's capitol, the effects from the logging hiatus could be felt all the way into next spring.

Timber companies received letters from the Forest Service telling them to cease operations. That's because the employees who oversee and inspect timber sales were furloughed.

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NPR Story
12:29 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Enviros and Fish Groups File Lawsuit To Raise Fish Consumption Standards

Chris Wilkeson (L) of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, and James Rasmussen with Duwamish River Clean up Coalition, touring the Duwamish River in 2012. Wilke's group is among those suing Washington over pollution standards and fish consumption safety.

Environmental and commercial fishing groups filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday calling on Washington state to update the fish consumption rate.

The groups say the state has failed to acknowledge how much fish people eat - and that standard will affect how clean state waters need to be - so they're suing the Environmental Protection Agency to step in.

Washington has been thinking about raising its fish consumption rate for several years now.

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NPR Story
7:44 am
Fri October 11, 2013

Eco-Saboteur Changes Plea To Guilty For Role In Firebombing Spree

Booking photo of Rebecca Rubin. Eco-sabateur Rubin pled guilty to conspiracy and multiple counts of arson.

An eco-saboteur charged in a fire-bombing spree that spanned the American West changed her plea in federal court on Thursday. Rebecca Rubin pled guilty to conspiracy and multiple counts of arson.

Rubin is now 40 years old. When she was in her twenties, she joined a cell of radical environmentalists loosely affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front.

Federal investigators blame the shadowy cell for around 20 arsons spanning five Western states. The attacks happened between 1996 and 2001.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Fri October 11, 2013

How Politicians In Washington, D.C. Are Breaking Hikers' Hearts In Washington State

Marijke Weaver hikes past Crater Lake National Park. National parks are now closed because of the government shutdown, forcing thru-hikers to find an alternate route.

Closures on the Pacific Crest Trail aren’t all that uncommon. Parts of the 2,650-mile trail are often closed because of wildfires.

But, now, as the long-distance hiking season comes to an end, the government shutdown has closed all seven national parks and three national monuments along the trail.

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NPR Story
6:00 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Oregon Counties Plan For The Health Impacts Of Climate Change

A hot street scene in Portland last summer. Multnomah County just put out its plan for adapting to some of the ways a warming climate will affect human health.

Oregon's largest county today released its plan for responding to the health impacts of climate change, joining five others in the state that have looked at what global warming trends mean for people in the Northwest.

With climate models predicting hotter summers and wetter winters across the Northwest, health officials are bracing for more heat-related illnesses, mosquito-borne diseases, and asthma attacks from poor air quality and longer allergy seasons.

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NPR Story
7:38 am
Tue October 8, 2013

Shutdown Delays Work Of Klamath Basin Task Force

The Klamath Basin task force is tasked with finding long-term solutions to the region's water management issues. Federal agencies have a large presence in the group, which is now delayed due to the government shutdown.

A sustained federal government shutdown continues to affect the region, and the Klamath Basin task force is the latest victim.

The final task force session, scheduled for Thursday in Klamath Falls, has been postponed due to the government shutdown.

“Unfortunately, we need certain federal participants in order to be able to complete work on this effort,” wrote Richard Whitman, the governor’s natural resources advisor.

Whitman has overseen the task force’s meetings, which began on July 11.

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10:55 am
Mon October 7, 2013

Octopuses' Gardens: WA Designates 7 No-Hunt Spots

Divers preparing to go beneath the surface of Puget Sound at Seattle's Alki Beach. It's one of seven places where Washington state has banned octopus hunting.

When a 19-year-old man lured a giant Pacific octopus from its lair off Alki Beach in West Seattle last year – legally, it turned out – a small group of activists were aghast that the charismatic cephalopod wasn’t protected.

They lobbied the state for more protections for the octopus, and triumphed when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted rules to prohibit recreational octopus harvesting at seven popular dive spots in the Puget Sound region. The law went into effect on Sunday.

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1:00 am
Mon October 7, 2013

A Land Deal To Conserve Central Wash. Water And Wildlife

The North Fork of the Teanaway River is where the 50,000 acre land acquisition starts. The Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources will manage the land together.

If you look up the North Fork of Central Washington’s Teanaway River, you can see snowcapped Mount Stuart in the distance.

This area outside Cle Elum is a popular destination for hikers and fishers, and it’s home to wildlife including a wolf pack, spotted owls, and moose.

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NPR Story
3:07 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Activists Regroup After Ore. Lawmakers' Trump Local Push To Restrict GM Crops

Organic wheat growing in a Southern Oregon field. Organic growers in that part of the state who wanted local ordinances to restrict genetically modified agriculture were dealt a setback this week by the Oregon Legislature.

Until this week, activists in some Oregon counties were pushing to ban genetically modified crops, sometimes referred to as GMOs. Now they are now looking at a statewide initiative.

Oregon lawmakers on Wednesday put the brakes on anti-GMO initiatives in four counties when they passed Senate Bill 863 this week. The bill prohibits local ordinances banning genetically modified crops.

Supporters of the bill say it ensures that farmers across the state can operate under one set of state regulations rather than patchwork of local rules.

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1:58 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Washington Supreme Court Rules For Tribe In Skagit Case

The Swinomish Tribe is located at the mouth of the Skagit River, the only river in the lower 48 home to all six species of Pacific salmon.

A Western Washington tribe today won a legal victory that will ensure more water stays in the Skagit River to help salmon and steelhead.

The Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Ecology overstepped its authority in allocating water from the Skagit River for new development.

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NPR Story
1:50 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

THIN ICE: Exploring Mount Hood's Glacier Caves

The Swinomish Tribe is located at the mouth of the Skagit River, the only river in the lower 48 home to all six species of Pacific salmon.

He’s wearing a white helmet with his name and “Cave Rescue” printed on it. Cartaya is worried because the sun is starting to rise and hit the ice.

His climbing partner Brent McGregor follows at a more reasonable pace. The bearded 60-year-old takes in the morning and smiles.

“One of the best sounds in alpine mountaineering is the sound of crampons and ice axes on good firm snow,” he says.

Check out OPB's full digital version of THIN ICE: opb.org/glaciercaves

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10:04 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Glacier Caving Caution

When Brent McGregor and Eddy Cartaya explore the Sandy Glacier they follow safety protocols, including signing into cave register and staying in radio communication with local search and rescue teams.

Glacier cave exploration requires preparation for serious hazards:

The caves are located off-trail in steep areas that are difficult for search and rescue teams to access.

Blocks of ice that weigh more than a ton can fall from the ceiling, particularly near cave entrances.

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2:12 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Environmental Groups Sue To Overturn Vancouver Oil Terminal Lease

An aerial view of the Port of Vancouver in Washington.

Three environmental groups are suing the Port of Vancouver to overturn the approval of a lease for the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal.

Columbia Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center say the Port of Vancouver Commission held an illegal executive session before approving the lease in July. They're asking the court to rescind the lease.

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