Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

The small, rarely-seen member of the weasel family known as the fisher may be even rarer in the Northwest because of the prevalence of illegal marijuana grow operations here.

Northwest utilities are fighting pressure to end to all use of coal-fired power -- even when it's generated in places like Utah and Montana.

Many people are surprised to find out how much coal-fired power the Northwest still uses, even with all of its hydroelectric dams and wind farms. Oregon still gets about a third of its electricity from coal. In Washington, it's about 15 percent.

While Californians are cutting back on water, and experimenting with long-term solutions to deal with drought, William Shatner said the answer is as simple as starting a Kickstarter page.

The 84-year-old actor said he's looking to crowdsource a $30 billion project to build a pipeline from Seattle, a place where "there's too much water," down Interstate 5 to the drylands of California.

We check in with Earthfix reporter Ashley Ahearn about a few stories she's been following, including:

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Shell Arctic Drilling Rig Expected In Port Angeles

Apr 16, 2015

Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, is expected to arrive Friday in Port Angeles, Washington.

Shell has just received the necessary federal permits to drill for oil in the Arctic and will be staging its fleet in Seattle, despite a lawsuit filed by environmental groups and an investigation launched by the Seattle City Council.

Activists have warned of a flotilla of kayaks that would extend a less-than-warm welcome to Shell when it arrives at the Port of Seattle.

A western gray whale has completed a nearly 14,000-mile journey from Sakhalin Island, Russia, to Baja California, Mexico — the longest mammal migration ever recorded.

In the early 1970s, scientists thought the western gray whale had gone extinct. Now researchers estimate about 150 individual whales remain.

An energy company says it's looking at several locations in Oregon and Washington as potential sites for what could be the West Coast’s first crude oil refinery in more than 25 years.

Riverside Energy Inc. CEO Louis J. Soumas said Wednesday his company has engaged in discussions with a variety of locations in the two states in its pursuit of a place to build such a facility.

Refinery Proposed Last Year For Columbia River, Records Show

Apr 15, 2015

Washington's Port of Longview says it is in talks with an energy company that last year submitted plans for a crude oil refinery on the Columbia River.

Details of the company's planned refinery surfaced Wednesday through public records obtained and released by Columbia Riverkeeper.

Washington Oil Train And Pipeline Safety Bill Advances

Apr 14, 2015

The Washington House gave its approval Tuesday to a bill that would set higher oil train safety standards.

The bill is moving through the state Legislature as more trains are hauling crude oil through Washington from the Bakken region of North Dakota and from Canada's tar sands. The bill imposes a per-barrel tax of 8 cents on oil that arrives in Washington by train or pipeline. The revenue would pay for spill-related emergency response and preparedness.

Picture yourself at a noisy bar. You realize that you have been shouting at your date all night in order to be heard. Well, orcas in Puget Sound are in kind of the same situation.

Marla Holt, a research biologist with NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center, has found that loud boat noise forces endangered orcas to raise the volume of their calls.

But the question, Holt says, is "so what? What are the biological consequences of them doing this?”

The volcanic ridges of the Cascades have long been poked and prodded by people who want to know what kind of geothermal energy they'll find beneath the surface.

But many of the Northwest's hot spots are on public lands. And in some cases, federal land managers have prevented access by companies seeking to convert that magmatic force into clean electricity.

A snowpack that is less than 20 percent of the normal amount has farmers and ranchers in southern Oregon worried, but the region’s rafting guides say in spite of the limited snowfall they expect to have plenty of water to float on this summer.

Pete Wallstrom, a guide and owner of Momentum River Expeditions, says he’s getting lots of calls from clients wondering if they should cancel their trips on Oregon’s iconic Rogue River due to drought.

Mt. Hood Snowpack At Record Low Ahead Of Final Measurement Thursday

Apr 8, 2015

This is the time of year when mountain snowpacks are usually at their deepest. But as of last week, three quarters of Oregon’s long-term snow monitoring sites had the lowest snowpack levels on record. On Mt. Hood, the final snow survey of the season will be conducted Thursday.

Julie Koeberle is a Snow Hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. She sat down with OPB’s Kate Davidson to talk about the year’s snowpack and what lies ahead.

The Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission did not reject a controversial propane export terminal as opponents urged it to do on Tuesday.

Instead, the board voted 6-4 to recommend a zone change and a carbon fee. The recommendation goes to the Portland City Council for final approval.

The Northwest’s most iconic bird could get a conservation boost in the coming years.

On Wednesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing it will review the protection status of the Northern Spotted Owl. The result could be an endangered species listing.

The Swinomish Tribe has filed a lawsuit against BNSF Railway to stop oil trains from traveling through its reservation.

BNSF train tracks cross the top of the Swinomish Reservation in Skagit County. In recent years they’ve been used to move oil from North Dakota to two refineries in Anacortes.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council has yet to make the final call, but initial reports indicate there aren't enough fish to open a sardine fishery on the West Coast this year.

That's bad news for several fishing towns in Oregon and Washington, where the majority of the West Coast sardines were landed in the past several years, and where some processors focus primarily on sardines.

The latest population estimates show sardines have fallen below the 150,000 metric ton cutoff for opening a West Coast fishery.

As Region Gets Drier, States Gear Up For Fire Season

Apr 6, 2015

Wildland firefighters from around the region will gather Tuesday in Vancouver to prepare for the upcoming fire season.

Drought and dry conditions around the Pacific Northwest are raising concerns that this fire season could be brutal.

Washington state has already declared drought in three regions.

The Oregon Drought Council approved three additional counties, and following approval from Gov. Kate Brown, it would expand the number of counties seeking assistance to five.

If you’re at the Seattle Mariners season opener Monday you might run into some folks with clipboards, gathering signatures for a newly-announced initiative for 2016 that would tax carbon emissions.

The circulation of petitions to put Initiative 732 on the 2016 ballot signals a new strategy that may come into play if Gov. Jay Inslee and fellow Democrats in the Legislature are unable to pass their own carbon cap-and-trade proposal.

If you’re at the Seattle Mariners season opener Monday you might run into some folks with clipboards, gathering signatures for a newly-announced initiative for 2016 that would tax carbon emissions.

The circulation of petitions to put Initiative 732 on the 2016 ballot signals a new strategy that may come into play if Gov. Jay Inslee and fellow Democrats in the Legislature are unable to pass their own carbon cap-and-trade proposal.

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