EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

SEATTLE -- Ninety percent of the geoduck harvested in Washington are sold to China and Hong Kong. It's an indicator of how much the Northwest shellfish industry relies on exports to China.

The crushing economic impacts of China's move are hitting locals in Puget Sound hard for the holidays.

Tree Sitters Don’t Buy Logging Designed To Mimic Nature

Dec 23, 2013

MYRTLE CREEK, Ore. -- Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management sold the rights to log a small grove of Douglas firs to a private company called Roseburg Forest Products.

Roseburg bid more than $1 million for the trees, and planned to start logging this fall.

Then the tree sitters showed up.

Wind Tax Credit Set To Expire, Again

Dec 20, 2013

A tax credit that wind energy advocates say is important to sustaining the industry is set to expire Dec. 31. Wind developers say the tax credit is critical to the growing industry. Without it, wind turbine manufacturing can grind to a halt, as it did after the credit expired in 2012.

Penalties Of $2,800 Issued For Wilsonville Bee Deaths

Dec 20, 2013

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has fined pesticide company Collier Arbor Care and four of its employees for the deaths of thousands of bumblebees. The department issued civil penalties and notices of violations to the company for four separate incidents this year.

Federal environmental agencies announced Thursday they may reject Oregon’s approach to keeping coastal waterways clean.

It’s the first time the feds have threatened to disapprove a state’s coastal strategy and withhold federal funds.

John King is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s coastal services center. He says states have to meet 56 different water quality measures.

“Oregon has met most of those. Areas where they still have issues, are related to forest practices, septic systems, and new development,” King says.

SEATTLE – A federal board has ruled that the coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin have to take certain measures to reduce the amount of dust that is escaping from coal train cars.

Map: New Wildfire Data Goes Interactive

Dec 20, 2013

In the decade leading up to 2011, twice as many acres burned in the U.S. compared to the decade before it. The average fire size rose and so did the time to control it.

And the sheer number of large fires -- in this case, fires larger than 1,000 acres -- rose steadily from 257 in 1992 to 857 in 2011.

That’s what you'll see in this interactive map from EarthFix. It's based on new data from the Forest Service that offers one of the most complete looks yet at wildfires in the U.S.

Darigold, EPA Reach Settlement In Chlorine Gas Leak

Dec 18, 2013

One of the Northwest’s biggest dairy producers has agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s after the milk co-op failed to report a chlorine gas release that required medical treatment for a dozen people.

Chlorine gas is highly toxic. It can make your eyes, nose and mouth burn. If you breathe the gas, it can cause respiratory problems or death.

SEATTLE -- New details have been released about geoduck shipments that Chinese officials say contained high levels of inorganic arsenic and the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP.

In response to their testing, the Chinese government instituted Dec. 3 a ban all U.S. harvested geoduck clams and other bivalve shellfish from Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

Officials In U.S. Stumped By China's Claim Of Tainted Northwest Shellfish

Dec 13, 2013

Environment and health officials in the U.S. say they are puzzled by China’s decision to ban shellfish harvested from Northern California to Alaska. State officials say their records don’t show the same unsafe toxin levels that were detected by a lab in China.

China says it found toxins in two shipments of geoducks. These giant clams harvested in Puget Sound and Alaska can go for $150 a pound. Washington’s shellfish industry overall is worth $270 million, and China is the top export market.

China has suspended imports of shellfish from the west coast of the United States -- an unprecedented move that cuts off a $270 million Northwest industry from its biggest export market.

China said it decided to impose the ban after recent shipments of geoduck clams from Northwest waters were found by its own government inspectors to have high levels of arsenic and a toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A proposal to ship North Dakota crude oil by train to Vancouver mostly drew opponents to a public hearing Wednesday night in Spokane.

Most of the 75 people at the state hearing cited risks of train derailments, spills or fires as well as global climate change from using oil.

The Spokesman-Review reports the proposed terminal at the Port of Vancouver could result in up to four oil trains a day passing through Spokane.

Vancouver Asks For Thorough Oil Study

Dec 11, 2013

By Aaron Corvin

Vancouver neighborhoods cut off from fire and police protection by increased train traffic. A highly volatile commodity traveling near homes. An industrial area prone to liquefying in an earthquake.

Those are among more than 100 areas of concern the city of Vancouver wants state regulators to include in their examination of the environmental impacts of a proposed oil-by-rail operation at the Port of Vancouver.

Oregon's top elected officials got behind a controversial plan Tuesday to sell off pieces of the south coast's Elliott State Forest to private interests.

Gov. John Kitzhaber described the move as testing the water for a future deal to move the rest of the Elliott into private ownership, potentially in the hands of a conservation group.

Cold Snap Brings Unhealthy Air To Klamath Falls

Dec 9, 2013

Twenty below zero. That was the record breaking low in Klamath Falls, Ore. this weekend. Temperatures are higher this week, but have remained below freezing.

Wood smoke is one of the leading causes of fine particulate pollution, and in Klamath Falls, a blanket of cold stagnant air has trapped that pollution close to the ground, triggering an air quality health alert.

Dozens of headlines this week have claimed that a humble mold is threatening to ruin Christmas. CBS News and the Associated Press reported that phytophthora root disease is killing Christmas trees across the country.

Environmental regulators have approved an air pollution permit for a proposed biomass power plant in the southern Oregon town of Lakeview - despite skepticism in this remote community where wood stove smoke is already making it hard to meet clean air standards.

According to a revised permit issued last week, the biomass cogeneration plant that energy company Iberdrola wants to build will be allowed to emit up to 32 tons of fine particulate pollution a year.

The Cost Of Energy Efficient Windows

Dec 4, 2013

RICHLAND, Wash. -- If you’re looking to keep out the winter cold, triple-paned windows will do the trick. But Northwest researchers have found have found it can take decades before savings from these highly insulated windows pay you back.

Researchers are using two identical homes to test some of the latest advances in energy efficient appliances, heating and cooling systems, and most recently, windows.

If urbanites’ behavior is any indication, American workers are driving less and biking more. A new transportation study of the biggest U.S. urban areas shows a decline in driving and an increase in biking to work.

Timber industry and environmental groups will make a stab at collaboration to boost both logging and habitat restoration in the Olympic National Forest.

Olympic National Forest was ground zero for some of the hottest conflicts of the timber wars of the 1990's. Periodically, local environmental groups still file lawsuits and current timber harvest rates are a fraction of historic levels.

Now, the office of Congressman Derek Kilmer has convinced sometimes antagonistic groups to focus on areas where they can agree.