EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Wolf advocates are watching to see if Gov. Kate Brown will sign legislation they say slams the door on legal challenges to Oregon’s lifting of endangered-species protections for the gray wolf. Brown said on Thursday that her office will review the legislation before making a decision.

On a bipartisan vote of 17-11 Wednesday, the state senate ratified a decision state wildlife regulators made last November to remove the gray wolf from the Oregon Endangered Species List.

Seven plaintiffs have filed a class action lawsuit against Bullseye Glass, a Southeast Portland manufacturer accused of emitting unhealthy levels of toxic heavy metals into that air.

Environmental testing by the U.S. Forest Service recently revealed the issue. Researchers found that moss throughout Portland pointed to “hot spots” with concentrations of toxic heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, nickel and lead.

3rd Portland Company In Toxic Metal Pollution Spotlight

Mar 2, 2016

A third Portland company faces scrutiny for toxic metal pollution.

At a meeting of the Milwaukie City Council Tuesday, state environmental regulators said they will delay issuing a new air quality permit for Precision Castparts due to concerns over metal emissions.

Precision Castparts makes airplane components. One of its large factories sits on the boundary between Southeast Portland and Milwaukie.

That's also where scientists found high concentrations of nickel in moss they were studying.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said Tuesday that she is not aware of any coordination between her office and the White House about a conservation proposal for the Owyhee.

Last year, Portland-based Keen Footwear launched a campaign to convince President Obama to designate 2.5 million acres in southeast Oregon as an Owyhee Canyonlands national monument.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Director Dick Pedersen is stepping down effective mid-March, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday.

Pedersen's resignation follows weeks of public outcry and criticism of DEQ over the discovery of unhealthy levels of cadmium and arsenic in the air in Southeast Portland.

DEQ Deputy Director Joni Hammond will replace Pedersen as interim director until a permanent successor can be named.

Families near two Portland glass manufacturers say they need more help from state regulators.

Last month, warnings were issued about elevated levels of airborne arsenic and cadmium near the Bullseye and Uroborus glass companies.

Environmental regulators have said a novel U.S. Forest Service study of heavy metals trapped in moss tipped them off to problems with toxic emissions at Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland.

But they’ve received a string of complaints dating back decades about the artistic glass manufacturer, according to documents released under Oregon’s open records law.

When Tacoma residents sized up a proposal to build a methanol plant and shipping facility, they saw it mostly as a source of toxic air pollution with a mighty thirst for water and a voracious appetite for electricity.

So the Chinese-backed company behind the project said it wanted to pause the environmental review.

The stretch of public land where Angie Ketscher grazes her cattle is so expansive she’s never seen the whole of it.

Neither has its owner, the Bureau of Land Management.

Ketscher’s ranch is one of four that turn their cattle out to feed on this nearly 300,000 acre parcel of the sagebrush sea.

Standing on a ridge above her ranch, Ketscher pointed across a narrow, treeless valley. Her permit begins on the other side and runs to three separate mountains in the far distance. By horseback, it would take three days to cover that distance.

The Global Reach Of Bullseye Glass

Feb 26, 2016

Glass artists are coming to terms with a world that has a bit less color in it.

Over the past few weeks you've heard us report on the emissions tests that revealed unhealthy levels of heavy metals near the Bullseye and Uroboros glass plants in Portland. Both companies suspended production of some colors. It's making ripples in the supply available to artists far beyond Oregon.

A New York law firm that works with environmental activist Erin Brockovich said it wants to investigate the emissions from Portland art glass factories

The firm is Weitz & Luxemberg, and it's the latest to offer free consultations to Portland residents.

The firm worked on a number of high profile class action cases, including the settlement against BP for the 2010 gulf oil spill.

Attorney Robin Greenwald said a range of legal issues might be raised by the glass factory emissions, include negligence, nuisance and trespass.

Washington state regulators are setting aside the rules they’ve been working on to limit the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted into the air.

The Department of Ecology was instructed by Gov. Jay Inslee to draw up the rules. Originally they targeted about 40 companies including oil refineries, utilities, pulp and paper mills, and steel and concrete manufacturers.

Ecology held meetings with representatives of some of those companies before Friday’s announcement that it was suspending its rule-making process.

Since the discovery of heavy metals pollution coming from an artistic glass manufacturer in Portland, Washington regulators have taken a close look at a similar facility near Seattle. So far, they say, they’re not worried – in part because air monitors nearby aren't detecting elevated metals in the area.

Spectrum Glass in Woodinville, Washington, uses metals to make the same kind of colored glass products as Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland. But unlike Bullseye it hasn't been using arsenic and it has pollution controls on many of its furnaces.

When the steamship Belvedere left San Francisco in the spring of 1897, its crew members couldn’t have known what a treacherous voyage awaited them.

Their life-and-death experiences would all be captured in the ship’s log, which started out with this unassuming entry:

“Steamer Belvedere departed San Francisco March 9, 1897. At 3 PM took anchor, steamed to sea with a crew of 44 men, all told, bound to the Arctic Ocean.”

OR DEQ Seeks $1.5 Million To Test, Regulate Air Pollution

Feb 23, 2016

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Director Dick Pedersen told state lawmakers Tuesday his agency needs $1.5 million for air pollution work in light of the recent discovery of airborne heavy metals in Portland.

Recent air testing found unhealthy levels of cadmium and arsenic in the air in Southeast Portland. Regulators have linked the heavy metals to a facility that uses metals to make colored glass but the detections have raised a lot of questions about why regulators didn't know until now how much cadmium and arsenic Bullseye Glass was emitting.

Port of Longview Rejects Plan For Refinery, Propane Terminal

Feb 23, 2016

Port of Longview commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday morning to end talks with an energy company that wants to build the first oil refinery on the West Coast in more than 25 years.

Since officials announced the discovery of unhealthy levels of arsenic and cadmium in the air in Southeast Portland earlier this month, they've released a lot of new information about airborne heavy metals and the associated public health risks.

Here's what you should know at this point:

The discovery came from testing tree moss.

Three members of Oregon's congressional delegation are asking federal agencies to help state and local officials identify health risks of airborne heavy metals in Portland.

The fallout from the discovery of unhealthy heavy metals in Portland's air continues.

The Oregon Health Authority has recommended people in Southeast Portland not eat vegetables from backyard gardens, some residents are getting their hair and urine tested, and two glass factories have stopped using cadmium and arsenic to color their glass.

And now, in what is one of the stranger consequences of the health scare, a Japanese artist has agreed to forgo the ritual burning of his artwork, which has been on display at Reed College, not far from Bullseye Glass.

Pages