EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

This is the first installment of a two-part series.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Three summers ago the company that wants to build the largest coal export terminal in North America failed to obtain the environmental permits it needed before bulldozing more than four miles of roads and clearing more than nine acres of land, including some wetlands.

Putting A Price On Wind Power's Eagle Kills

Nov 22, 2013

One of the country's biggest energy corporations has agreed to shell out $1 million in a settlement over the 14 golden eagles killed by its Wyoming wind turbines.

Duke Energy struck the agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday. The announcement came after the energy giant was hit with misdemeanor charges under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Artists Tell Stories Of Dead Bees

Nov 22, 2013

A headline at green blog Inhabitat mentioning ‘thousands of dead bees’ and ‘dizzying mandalas’ drew me in. The image that greeted me when I clicked through did not disappoint.

In an email, Canadian artist Sarah Hatton shared her inspiration for the series of works:

Turning Deep-Fried Thanksgiving Turkey Grease Into Biofuel

Nov 22, 2013

I've never had deep-fried turkey, but I've heard it's delicious. It also requires several gallons of cooking oil. And when the cooking is through, it leaves behind a vat of used oil.

To biofuel companies, that's feedstock.

At least one biofuel maker would be happy to take those Thanksgiving leftovers.

Vancouver Barge Company Signs On To Coal Project

Nov 22, 2013

While Ambre Energy awaits state and federal permits to build a controversial coal export terminal at the Port of Morrow, the company signed a letter of intent with Tidewater Barge Lines for transportation service along the Columbia River.

Tidewater, based in Vancouver, Wash., will operate tugboats and barges needed to move the coal 218 miles down river — if the project receives permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Oregon Department of State Lands and Department of Environmental Quality.

The majority of the plastic pollution in the ocean, by volume, comes in the form of tiny confetti-sized particles, which, as anyone who's ever kept a pet fish can attest, resemble fish food.

And fish are fooled as well.

More than 40 species of fish, globally, are known to consume plastic.

Hungry For Climate Change Action

Nov 20, 2013

SEATTLE -- Michael Foster hasn’t eaten in nine days.

He’s not on a diet, or a cleanse. The the middle-aged father of two decided spontaneously last Monday to voluntarily fast to draw attention to climate change talks happening on the other side of the world.

I spoke with Foster at lunchtime on Day 8. He was “huuuuuuuungry,” he said.

Amelia Templeton, EarthFix

Ports along the Oregon and Washington coast are looking to reopen log yards that shut down years ago, and provide the raw material to feed China’s construction boom. But some residents in Newport Oregon say a proposal to export logs there isn’t good for the community, and will hurt Northwest mills. From EarthFix, Amelia Templeton has this report.

A Clark County environmental group has filed a lawsuit against a Yacolt mining operation, claiming years of pollution and violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

In a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Friends of the East Fork Lewis River claims that the Yacolt Mountain Quarry and its owners have discharged dirt, silt and other pollutants into tributaries of the East Fork. The suit names quarry operator J.L. Storedahl & Sons, Inc., company leaders and landowner Brent Rotschy as defendants.

First 'Megaload' Moves On Oregon Roads Sunday

Nov 20, 2013

State transportation officials say Omega Morgan’s first oversized load to move through Eastern Oregon will hit the road in Umatilla the night of Sunday, Nov. 24.

Erik Zander, the Hillsboro-based company’s project manager, said at a meeting Monday night in John Day the date is not firm, as he doesn’t yet have the permit.

However, if the move does start Sunday, it could take about six nights to travel through the state under perfect conditions – or longer, with delays possible for weather and the holiday break, he said.

Tesla Fire Investigation Launched

Nov 19, 2013

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is taking a proactive approach addressing concerns about safety for his company's luxury electric vehicle, the Model S, after three recent car fires. On his company’s blog, Musk writes,

“While we believe the evidence is clear that there is no safer car on the road than the Model S, we are taking three specific actions ... "

Northwest emergency responders are meeting in Portland Tuesday to discuss the increased potential for oil spills in the region.

Several oil-by-rail projects have been proposed in Washington state. The largest of those would be built at the Port of Vancouver if it is approved.

Recovering 'The Lost Fish'

Nov 18, 2013

Pacific lamprey are the oldest known fish in the Columbia River System. Fossils indicate they were here 450 million years ago.

Comments On Longview Coal Export Project Reach 163,000

Nov 18, 2013

More than 163,000 public comments have flooded the environmental review of the Millennium coal export terminal proposed for Longview, Wash.

That's the number of letters, emails, and statements read aloud at public meetings as of Friday. It exceeds the 125,000 comments agencies received on the environmental review of the Gateway Pacific coal export project in Bellingham, Wash., earlier this year.

More than 9,000 delegates from almost 200 countries are gathered in the Warsaw, Poland for U.N. meetings aimed at forging a new treaty to fight climate change, which would go into effect in 2020. But over this past weekend negotiations around international carbon markets to cut greenhouse gas emissions broke down as developing nations demanded that rich nations step up efforts to cut their emissions - rich nations like the United States.

Mmm … lunchtime. These Beanfields Nacho Bean and Rice Chips sure are tasty. They also happen to be made by a company that hasn't fueled opposition to labeling genetically modified foods – according to the Buycott app I tried out today.

Resolving Oregon's Truffle Kerfuffle

Nov 14, 2013

Oregon’s Board of Forestry moved forward Thursday to regulate truffle hunting on state and private lands.

That means truffles will became Oregon’s first regulated forest product in nearly twenty years.

Truffles aren’t mushrooms, though they are fungi. Mushrooms grow above-ground, truffles underground.

This small distinction kept truffle hunting from being regulated on state and private forestlands the way mushrooms are.

A state regulatory board is withdrawing its approval of permits for two crude oil shipping terminals in Grays Harbor, Wash., saying backers have faied to address public safety and environmental issues.

The Quinault Indian Nation and several conservation groups successfully argued that permits issued for two terminals in Grays Harbor, Washington should be reversed.

"Those permits should have never been issued in the first place," said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinalt Nation.

A Turbine That Toppled In A Windstorm

Nov 14, 2013

The weekend before last I was out running errands around the Tri-Cities, and it was impossible to ignore the wind. Trees swayed side-to-side in a strange yoga-like dance. Shopping carts raced across parking lots. Dust clouded the air like an early morning fog.

About 40 miles away, a wind turbine bent in half.

Across the Northwest, thousands of people are crowding into meeting rooms to submit their comments on coal export and oil-by-rail projects.

Many of them wear T-shirts in protest or in support; they wait hours for a chance to speak for two or three minutes. The crowd isn't allowed to clap or cheer so they silently wave their hands or put their thumbs up if they agree with the people speaking.

Officials listen as people sound off one by one. What happens after that?