EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

The Federal Railroad Administration is requiring Union Pacific railroad to increase its inspections and the quality of its track maintenance.

The agreement announced Friday comes in response to a fiery oil train derailment in June in the Columbia River Gorge.

Under the agreement, Union Pacific will need to increase track inspections to twice per week.

Oregon Smokejumper Dies In Alabama

Dec 21, 2016

An Oregon firefighter died Monday from injuries he sustained while working in Alabama.

Redmond Smokejumper Ray Rubio, 52, sustained serious injuries from a fall in November.

The Army veteran had been in Alabama to assist with the outbreak of multiple large fires.

A judge has cleared the way for eight Seattle-area youths to move ahead with an expanded lawsuit that contends Washington has failed to take action on climate change.

The Washington suit is one of several brought against states by children who say they're not doing enough to protect them from climate change. A U.S. District Court judge in Eugene, Oregon, ruled last month that a group of Oregon youths can move ahead with a similar case against the federal government.

Climbers and hikers in the Pacific Northwest have seen first-hand how our glaciers have been shrinking in recent decades. But, until now, scientists couldn’t prove those changes were due to climate change.

Scientists have long known that, globally, glaciers are shrinking because of climate change. But looking at individual glaciers is a different matter, says Gerard Roe, a professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington.

A lot has to happen behind the scenes to get great radio interviews and stories to your ears. The producers of OPB's daily news talk show, "Think Out Loud," have a unique view of the conversations that end up on the air.

OPB looks back at the stories that defined 2016 in Oregon, Southwest Washington and the United States.

When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in mid-February this year, Republicans in Washington, D.C., promptly announced they would not vote on any candidate to fill the vacancy until after the election. Meanwhile, Democrats urged those across the aisle to meet with Merrick Garland, outgoing President Barack Obama’s nominee for the bench.

Winter Storms Give Oregon Snowpack An Early Boost

Dec 20, 2016

Across Oregon and much of Washington, the snowpack is above normal.

Julie Koeberle, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the string of winter storms across the Northwest in recent weeks is benefiting the region’s snowpack.

“Year’s past, we’ve had a little bit of a slow start to the snow season. And so, this year we’ve had an early start and it’s benefited the ski areas," Koeberle said. "It’s been great for recreation."

Judge Halts Logging On State Forest In Oregon

Dec 20, 2016

A federal judge in Eugene has ordered a pair of Oregon timber companies not to log on a former section of state forest near the south coast.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken told Scott Timber Company and Roseburg Forest Products to halt further work on a parcel called Benson Ridge in the Elliott State Forest.

At Lyle Falls, Washington’s Klickitat River rushes through steep canyon walls toward the Columbia River Gorge.

It’s one of a few places where members of the Yakama Nation still fish from scaffolds using dip nets. Fishermen say it’s the only place that comes close to what used to exist at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River.

For thousands of years, generations of tribal fishermen have learned to fish on platforms above the falls. That tradition continues in fishermen like James Kiona Jr., who grew up watching his elders fish here.

The agency in charge of managing Oregon's water resources is being stretched to the limit.

That's one of the findings in a new audit from the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

The Oregon Water Resources Department oversees the state's water rights and works to ensure the state has an adequate supply of water for the future.

The new audit says the agency has been focusing too much time on managing existing water rights instead of working to sustain Oregon's water resources for the long run.

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a sound coming from one of the deepest spots in the ocean. They believe it’s the song of a Minke whale, but it’s not like any they’ve identified before.

The so-called “Western Pacific Biotwang” is more horror movie than Nashville ballad. A low moan at the beginning is typical of baleen whales, but it was the end that caught the ear of OSU researcher Sharon Nieukirk.

“What makes this call special is the second part, and the way it sweeps way up and it sort of has that metallic twang sound to it,” she said.

Backers of a liquefied natural gas project in southwest Oregon say they will try again to get federal approval now that the fossil fuel-friendly Trump administration is about to take power.

Last week, regulators effectively denied the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and pipeline application. But the incomingadministration has supporters hoping for a different outcome this time around.

The Canadian-owned Jordan Cove LNG project would transport natural gas to Coos Bay from sources in the Mountain West. It would then liquefy the gas and load it on ships bound for Asia.

With scientists scrambling to copy federal climate data onto private servers before President-elect Donald Trump becomes President Trump, outgoing U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell of Seattle told a conference full of scientists Wednesday they should speak out if their bosses interfere with their work.

An underwater volcano, some 300 miles off the Oregon Coast, is providing clues about how to better understand — and predict — eruptions.

The seamount erupted in 1998, 2011 and 2015.

Researchers from Oregon State University, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, and the University of North Carolina found that after each eruption, the seafloor dropped by about eight feet and then gradually rose back up again over several years.

The Portland City Council adopted a package of bills Wednesday aimed at reducing the city’s reliance on fossil fuels and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Notably, the council voted unanimously to ban new bulk fossil fuel storage facilities in the city.

"I am very proud of this day" said Mayor Charlie Hales, casting his vote.

According to zoning code changes adopted by the City Council, existing fossil fuel tank farms, translating facilities and terminals could only expand their existing storage tanks by 10 percent.

Federal fisheries managers finalized a 10-year plan Wednesday to bring Oregon’s coastal coho back from threat of extinction. It lays out voluntary steps federal, state and private landowners should take to ensure recovery of the species.

California Gov. Jerry Brown wants President Barack Obama to permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling in his state. Brown says in a letter sent Tuesday to the president that allowing new drilling would be inconsistent with goals of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and combating climate change.

At an even launching the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, a new organization to protect oceans, Brown said he plans to ask Oregon and Washington to help him convince the current Administration to act.

Columbia River Cleanup Bill Passes Congress

Dec 13, 2016

Cleaning up and monitoring toxics in the Columbia River Basin could now be a little easier. Congress recently passed a bill that would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to start a voluntary grant program for environmental cleanup in the Columbia River system.

The Columbia River Basin, which was named as a “large aquatic ecosystem” in 2006, was the only system of that sort that didn’t receive dedicated funding to reduce toxins. Others included Puget Sound, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.

Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday sought an new alternative to selling a state forest in southwest Oregon to the only bidder to offer the full asking price.

At a meeting of the Oregon State Land Board, Brown called for setting aside $100 million in state bonding authority to allow for a new proposal on how the state should manage the Elliott State Forest going forward.

The car winds its way along a narrow gravel road of the Elliott State Forest. Allison Tarbox has a CB in hand, tuned to the local channel.

“Nine-and-a-half up the 2000,” she monotones into the ether as the vehicle passes a small numbered sign tacked to a tree.

The car’s at mile 9.5 heading “up” State Forest Road 2000. Tarbox, who’s with the Coos Watershed Association, calls out our position to give logging crews in the area a heads-up.

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