EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

The Yakama Nation’s steelhead reconditioning program is like a retreat spa for fish. And it's changing the circle of life for the species.

When a Columbia River steelhead completes its epic journey from ocean to spawning grounds, it is usually too exhausted to make it back down the river again. Often, the fish just dies.

SEATTLE -- More than 500 people packed into a waterfront convention center on a foggy Wednesday night to tell Governor Inslee and other lawmakers what they think the state needs to do to reduce green house gas emissions.

Ideas ranged from improving public transportation to instituting policies and incentives fostering clean technology companies and alternative energy sources.

There were two big through lines in the 93 testimonies that were given during the three-hour hearing.

Putting a price on carbon

Even if you haven’t been exposed to DDT in your lifetime, researchers say it could still have an effect on you – and your weight.

Washington State University researchers have been studying how DDT affects rats. They found that three generations after rats were exposed to the insecticide, more than 50 percent of the females and more than 60 percent were considered obese.

The U.S. Department of Energy faces a $115,000 fine for the way a contractor handled asbestos at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington.

The alleged violations happened during building demolitions in 2009 and 2010 when federal stimulus money sped-up deconstruction projects.

VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Even with two recent oil-transport accidents to point to, opponents of a controversial oil terminal weren't able to persuade port commissioners Tuesday to reverse their July approval of a lease for the project to move ahead on the Columbia River.

Investment advisors from across the country met on Friday in Seattle in hopes of cutting fossil fuels from the stock portfolios they manage.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn organized the forum on divesting from coal, oil and gas companies. McGinn wants to the city employees’ pension fund to divest because of fossil fuels’ impact on the global climate.

“Isn’t it fiscally irresponsible as well as morally irresponsible to invest in companies whose very business model depends upon destroying the climate we depend upon?” McGinn said.

The Melting Of Greenland

Oct 22, 2013

Rising tides signal an inarguable remaking of our physical world that is already underway and gaining momentum.

The US is especially vulnerable. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has listed the 20 most threatened coastal cities in the world, which include Miami, New York, New Orleans.

One particularly influential contributor to sea level rise is the ice melt in Greenland.

Just two percent of Greenland is bare land, the rest is covered in ice — two miles thick in some places.

The Port Commission of Vancouver is holding a public meeting on Tuesday to reopen discussion on a controversial oil by rail terminal.

Environmental groups sued the Vancouver Port Commission earlier this summer, alleging the Port violated rules that required public meetings about the project.

GMO Labeling Initiative Raises Environmental Concerns

Oct 18, 2013

If you’ve turned on your TV in Washington over the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard countless commercials for Initiative 522.

The ballot measure proposes to label genetically modified foods sold in the state. But behind all the campaign rhetoric, some scientists have raised environmental questions about genetically modified crops.

And those researchers have reached differing conclusions about the crops’ effect on the environment.

Protecting Life On Ocean's Floor

Oct 17, 2013

Miles off the Oregon Coast, sponges and corals believed to be hundreds of years old line the ocean floor.

In August, Portlander Ben Enticknap led a weeklong expedition to capture images of such underappreciated sea life, to make a case for protecting it from bottomfish trawlers whose gear scrapes the ocean floor.

Using high-definition video from a remote-controlled submersible vehicle, the Oceana advocacy group captured footage where cameras had never been.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.”

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.

Shutdown Halts Logging On Northwest's National Forests

Oct 14, 2013

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.

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.

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.