EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Later this week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will discuss how the West Coast can push a progressive agenda to curb carbon emissions.

For years, Inslee — who has been called the green governor — has pushed to tax his state’s biggest polluters. But with a Republican-controlled state Senate, the ambitious plan languished.

On Tuesday, Republicans lost their one-vote majority in the Washington state Senate, giving Democrats control of the “great blue wall": full control over the legislatures across the West Coast in Oregon, Washington and California.

This is a guest post by Claire Schoen, a producer, documentary filmmaker, and the creator of  the Stepping Up podcast.

“Laughter is the best medicine.” Like every cliché, this old adage springs from a kernel of truth. And in these distressing political times, a good dose of laughter may be just what the doctor ordered.

Don Orange will be the next Port of Vancouver commissioner. Initial results Tuesday night show Orange won 64.58 percent, beating candidate Kris Greene.

Orange's victory is likely a death knell for a massive oil terminal that's been proposed at the port for years. 

In 2015, University of Washington biologist Elli Theobald and her fellow researchers caught a glimpse of the future.

"The climate conditions in that year happened to mimic what we expect the climate conditions to be in the 2080s under unabated climate change," Theobald says.

Different flower species responded differently to the hot, dry weather. Some flowered a little earlier. Others flowered a lot earlier. Some flowered for a shorter time. And others flowered for a longer time.

UPDATE: Crook County leaders voted unanimously in favor of adopting the Natural Resource Policy Wednesday. 

A plan aimed at giving locals more say in federal lands management is once again before Crook County leaders.

Commissioners held a meeting Monday night in Prineville, Oregon, to gather public input on the proposed plan. They plan to vote on it Wednesday.

Ty Stubblefield self-identifies as a “red blooded conservative,” but he’s also an avid hunter who is frustrated with the Republican party’s efforts to transfer public lands out of federal control. So, he’s fighting back.

John Huffman, a Republican from the Dalles, has received one of the plum political appointments from the federal government.

Huffman left the Oregon House in October after 10 years to become Oregon's director of rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The position has frequently been filled by legislators. Huffman's predecessor, Vicki Walker, is a former Democratic state senator from Eugene who filled the job during the Obama administration.  Former House Speaker Mark Simmons, R-Elgin, was appointed to the job in 2005 during the Bush administration.

Solving The Northwest's Energy Storage Puzzle

Nov 3, 2017

As the Northwest moves toward using more renewable energy like wind and solar, one big issue keeps popping up. What to do when there’s too much power on the grid?

When there's not enough demand to run air-conditioners, heaters, or other appliances, all that clean energy just goes to waste.

But several utilities in Oregon are starting to figure out how to store that extra energy.

Partly in response to a legislative requirement, Portland General Electric Company is proposing to develop several projects.

The beaver may be Oregon's official state animal but that status is not shielding it from being killed by the hundreds by a federal agency. 

The killing could end, though, if two environmental groups prevail with their new lawsuit challenging the practice. They contend that it's harming more than just the state’s marquee mammal.

The Department of the Interior is outlining steps aimed at increasing energy production on federal lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says boosting production of resources like oil and gas creates jobs and enhances the nation’s energy security.

Hillsboro, Oregon – At the SolarWorld Americas plant outside Portland, John Clason loads a stack of solar cells into a machine that builds them into panels.

He used to be a cabinet maker, but he switched industries after the 2008 recession.

"The job I had dried up," he said. "So, I looked around and I thought solar panels would be great – the wave of the future, you know?"

Johanna Varner’s trip to Oregon in October was a shot in the dark. But she hadn’t planned it that way.

In fact, she’d planned her trip months in advance.

Varner was returning to the same sites in the Columbia River Gorge that she's visited every year since 2010. She left temperature sensors there for her research on pikas, a small rabbit-like animal typically found at higher elevations. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to withdraw its application for a water rights transfer with the city of Cascade Locks.

The transfer is a key part of Nestle's plans to build at $50 million water bottling plant in Cascade Locks.

Last year, Hood River County passed a ballot measure banning all commercial water bottling. It was an attempt to block Nestle from moving forward.

Portland Wants Your Rundown RV

Oct 27, 2017

The Portland Bureau of Transportation says 17 people have signed up for the city’s first free RV disposal day.

The city is covering the cost of demolishing the donated vehicles, which can run up $1,500 per vehicle, in an effort to reduce the number of leaking and hazardous RVs that are abandoned or lived in on Portland’s streets.

The city has the capacity and funding to collect up to 28 unwanted RVs. Owners of unwanted RVs have until the end of the day Friday to make an appointment online.

It's not a Dumpster fire, but could be something far more serious: A fire may be smoldering under a landfill-turned-Superfund cleanup site in southeastern Washington.

This fire is the second underground hot spot at the Pasco Sanitary Landfill — a 250-acre federal Superfund site. An earlier fire took nearly two years to extinguish.

Atlantic salmon have been entering Pacific waters for decades. Most of them have died of starvation. 

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of colonizing the Northwest.

Rainier, Olympic Park Visitors May See A Large Hike In Fees

Oct 25, 2017

Next summer fees may increase at the 17 seventeen busiest national parks, including Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier.

The Park Service is asking for public comments on a new proposal that would nearly triple some entrance fees.

Next summer, if you drive into Olympic National Park or Mount Rainier, you may have to pay a new $70 entrance fee. That’s $45 dollars more than the fee now. Riding a motorcycle in may be $30 dollars more. And walking or biking in might be $20 dollars more.

Atlantic salmon have spread far and wide in Pacific Northwest waters since 160,000 of them escaped from a collapsed fish farm near Anacortes in August.

The fishy fugitives have swum 130 miles south past Tacoma, 250 miles northwest past Tofino (most of the way up Vancouver Island) and up a half-dozen rivers around the region, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Backers of a coal export terminal proposed in Southwest Washington are suing state regulators over their denial of a key permit needed to build the project.

Last month, the Washington Department of Ecology denied a water quality permit to the Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export project in Longview, saying the development would have too many environmental, transportation and cultural impacts.

Coming To Washington Ski Slopes: Fake Snow

Oct 24, 2017

This winter, skiers and snowboarders will see something new at Crystal Mountain — a robust $5 million snowmaking system designed to fight warmer winters in the Pacific Northwest.

Crystal’s state-of-the-art program features 36 new snow guns on the lower mountain that have the capacity to create up to 53 football fields covered in snow in a 24-hour period.

Is this the new normal for ski areas in the historically snow-rich Cascades?