Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

10:33 am
Wed December 31, 2014

New Calf For Puget Sound's Endangered Orcas Arrives Just In Time For New Year's

New calf J50 spotted with its mom, J16, on December 30th near Pender Island, B.C.
Center for Whale Research

SEATTLE-- Orca experts with the Center for Whale Research spotted a very young calf cruising along in its mama's slip stream near Pender Island in British Columbia on Tuesday.

Ken Balcomb, the head of the Center for Whale Research, believes the calf was no more than a day or two old when he spotted it, and he couldn't say what sex it is. The baby pictures, however, are priceless. Check out a full slide show at the Center for Whale Research.

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6:46 pm
Tue December 30, 2014

Oil Train Safety And Taxes On Lawmakers' Agenda For 2015

File photo of oil train tankers in a Portland railyard.
Tony Schick/OPB

SEATTLE -- For the past few years, a growing number of trains have been bringing "rolling pipelines" of oil from North Dakota to ports and refineries in the Pacific Northwest.

And in that time, the Washington and Oregon legislatures have failed to come up with the money to pay for the cost of responding to the increasing risk of oil spills in their states. That could change in 2015.

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2:30 pm
Tue December 30, 2014

Another Threat To Spotted Owls: Fire

Logging and barred owls are major threats to the Northwest’s spotted owl. But there’s another threat that’s increasing every year for the endangered bird: fire.
Flickr Creative Commons: FireHawk Hulin

Northern spotted owls living in central Oregon are scrappier than their westside counterparts. They have to search harder for food, and habitat isn’t as plum as the lush forests on the other side of the Cascade Mountains.

Laurie Turner, a forest wildlife biologist for the Deschutes National Forest, said in this sort of fringe habitat, spotted owls need more space, especially breeding pairs.

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NPR Story
12:58 pm
Tue December 30, 2014

25 Years After Exxon Valdez, U.S. Mandates Double-Hulled Oil Tankers

A docked oil tanker. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 gave ship owners 25 years to phase out their single-hull tankers. That deadline arrives on Jan. 1, 2015.

Oil tankers bring about 15 million gallons of oil every day into Washington state. Starting Jan. 1, those ships are required to have double hulls.

The oil-spill prevention measure has been in the works for decades, ever since Capt. Joseph Hazelwood ran the Exxon Valdez onto Alaska's Bligh Reef in 1989. Eleven million gallons of oil spilled into Prince William Sound, killing thousands of seabirds and sea otters, devastating the region's fisheries and unleashing action in Washington, D.C.

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NPR Story
3:53 pm
Mon December 29, 2014

Feds Consider Endangered Species Listing For Monarch Butterfly

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether the iconic monarch butterfly should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The monarch butterfly is in line for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday it is launching a year-long status review of the monarch population in response to a request from conservation groups.

The iconic butterflies face threats from pesticide use and habitat loss – particularly from the loss of milkweed plants, which are the sole food source for monarch caterpillars.

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1:00 am
Mon December 29, 2014

Oregon Expands Its Electronics Recycling Program

On Jan. 1, Oregon's electronic waste recycling program will start accepting keyboards, mice and printers.
Mosman Council/ Flickr

Oregon is expanding its electronic waste recycling program. Starting Jan 1, Oregon e-waste collection facilities will start accepting printers, computer keyboards and mice for recycling.

For the past six years, the Oregon E-Cycles program has collected computers, monitors and televisions for recycling at 270 drop-off sites across the state.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Conservation Group Collects Christmas Trees For Salmon Habitat

Members of the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited toss used Christmas trees into a side channel of the Necanicum River on the Oregon Coast.
Michael Ellis

Most Christmas trees get kicked to the curb and ground up into mulch after the holidays. But a Portland-area conservation group is trying to change that.

The Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited has found used Christmas trees make great salmon habitat when placed in coastal waterways.

Next month, they're launching the third year of a program they call Christmas for Coho. They'll collect used Christmas trees on three Saturdays in January and place them in the Necanicum River, coastal stream in northwest Oregon.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Oregon Cougar Hunting Limits Expand As The Big Cats Move Into Populated Areas

ODFW has expanded the statewide cougar hunting quota by nearly 25% for 2015.
Craig Hyatt

Oregon hunters will be able to bag more cougars next year, following wildlife officials' increase in the number that can be killed statewide.

By the 1960s, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the cougar population in the state had fallen to about 200 animals. The reason, said spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy, was bounty hunting: killing animals for financial reward.

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NPR Story
4:41 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

Future Of Oregon LNG Terminal Could Hinge on 1957 Easement

Liquefied natural gas in transport. A legal battle over property rights between the Oregon LNG project and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could decide the future of proposed LNG exports in Warrenton, Oregon.
Ken Hodge/Flickr

The company behind a project to export liquefied natural gas from the northwest corner of Oregon has run into a new challenge: The federal government might have permanent rights to use the site of its proposed shipping terminal.

The Oregon LNG project proposes a terminal on the Skipanon Peninsula in Warrenton, on the mouth of the Columbia River, that would receive North American natural gas via pipeline and ship it overseas.

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1:00 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Oregon Turns To Redemption Centers To Boost Return Of Empty Bottles And Cans

A row of sparkling clean reverse vending machines greet customers at the grand opening of the Medford BottleDrop center.
Jes Burns/EarthFix

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 4:07 pm

Major changes are underway, with more on the horizon for Oregon’s pioneering bottle deposit system.

Those changes -- the biggest since the Bottle Bill's adoption a generation ago -- have been slowly playing out as grocery stores close their return stations in favor of centralized off-site redemption centers.

And the state will soon determine if the deposit paid for each bottle and can of soda, water or beer will remain at a nickel or double to a dime.

Those changes are all about increasing the rate of empties -- and deposits -- that get returned.

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NPR Story
5:41 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Portland Regional Government Approves Climate Strategy

Portland's regional government approved a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent over 20 years.
Robert Ashworth/Flickr

Portland's regional government approved a climate strategy Thursday that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the metro area by 29 percent over 20 years.

The strategy was required by a state law passed in 2009.

It includes options for encouraging public transit, biking and walking. It outlines street and highway improvements to move traffic more efficiently. And it calls for cleaner fuels and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

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4:19 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Stiff Tariffs Imposed To Help U.S. Solar Panel Makers Compete

File photo of solar panels. The U.S. Commerce Department is imposing steep tariffs on imported panels from China and Taiwan after ruling they were unfairly undercutting prices for U.S. competitors.
Flickr/Shelby Farms

The Obama administration delivered a trade war victory Tuesday to an Oregon solar manufacturer and others in the U.S. sector.

The Commerce Department sided with SolarWorld by upholding tariffs on solar panels imported from China and Taiwan.

The Commerce Department ruled that competitors from those two countries have been using illegal foreign government subsidies and dumping solar panels in the US market at below-cost prices.

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NPR Story
4:08 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Yakima Valley Dairies Pledge To Reduce Nitrate Pollution

A dairy in the Yakima Valley. After a more than a year of testing, dairies in Washington’s Lower Yakima Valley are trying to reduce pollution from manure.
Courtney Flatt

After a more than a year of testing, dairies in Washington’s Lower Yakima Valley are trying to reduce water pollution from manure. A report from the Environmental Protection Agency had found the dairies were likely sources of nitrate pollution to nearby residential wells.

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NPR Story
2:14 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Inslee: 'Our Worst Polluters Will Step Up And Pay'

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled a new transportation plan at a Eastside Transit Project site atop SR520 on Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014
Ruby de Luna / KUOW

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been traveling around the state to unveil portions of his budget proposal. Tuesday morning he stopped in Medina, where workers are completing the Eastside Transit Project atop the 520 floating bridge, to announce his transportation plan.

On the governor’s wish list are safety projects like fixing bridges deemed structurally deficient and projects that will relieve congestion, like the choke point on Interstate 5 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

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NPR Story
5:20 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Washington Court Rules Against Landowners In Skagit Water Rights Case

Richard Fox on his Skagit County property. On Tuesday a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Fox and his wife, Marnie, challenging a rule that prevents them from drilling a well. The rule is meant to provide water for spawning salmon during dry months.
Ashley Ahearn / KUOW

EVERETT, Wash. -- A judge ruled against a couple Tuesday after they sued for the right to drill a well and build a new home on their property in Skagit County.

The case marks the latest battle in the ongoing fight over water rights in Washington's Skagit River valley.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel dismissed the case brought by property owners Richard and Marnie Fox. He told the couple that they can't build a home on their property because they don't have legal access to water.

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NPR Story
1:43 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Oso Report Assigns No Blame, Calls For Better Public Safety

A condemned house on the edge of the Ledgewood Beach landslide on Whidbey Island in Washington's Puget Sound.
John Ryan / KUOW

A new report from the SR 530 Landslide Commission makes 17 recommendations for improving public safety in a state that is dotted with landslide-prone slopes. Recommendations range from mapping Washington state's most dangerous ground in detail to improving emergency response.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Court Case Is The Latest Battle In Water Wars Of The Skagit River

Richard Fox and his wife, Marnie, want to build a house and garage on their property near the Skagit River. The state says they can't have access to the water necessary to approve their building permit.
Ashley Ahearn

SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. -- The house was going to be modest, 1,300 square feet with a big porch looking out over acres of fields. Next to it would be a garage with a caretaker’s apartment over it.

“I’m kind of an old guy already,” Richard Fox said, standing in the pouring rain on his property and gesturing to the spot where he and his wife’s dream retirement home was to be built. A handful of drenched cows looked on, vaguely curious.

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NPR Story
4:38 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Endangered Species Decision For Sage Grouse Delayed By Congressional Maneuvering

A rider in a spending bill making its way through Congress would delay a decision about whether to place the greater sage grouse on the Endangered Species list.
Vince Patton, Oregon Field Guide

Originally published on Sat December 13, 2014 8:32 pm

Editor's Note: This story was updated Saturday, Dec. 13.

One small point in a spending bill approved by Congress Saturday could be a big deal for sage grouse.

A spending bill rider would delay a decision about whether to extend endangered species protection to the greater sage grouse. A decision about whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act is currently scheduled for September, 2015.

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NPR Story
7:23 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Hearing On LNG Project In Southern Oregon Draws A Crowd

Opponents of the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal in Coos Bay rallied outside a public meeting in Medford Thursday.
Jes Burns/OPB

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 8:51 am

MEDFORD, Ore. - People stood six deep in the back of a Medford high school meeting room Thursday night for a hearing on a liquefied natural gas export terminal proposed for the Oregon Coast. It was the fourth in a series of community meetings held across Southern Oregon.

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NPR Story
6:11 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Yakama Nation Sues Army Corps Over Columbia River Cleanup

For decades the Army Corps of Engineers used Bradford Island near the Bonneville Dam as a dumping ground. Toxic chemicals leaked into the Columbia River. The island is also a historic fishing site for the Yakama Nation.
Flickr Creative Commons: A. F. Litt

For decades the Army Corps of Engineers used an island near the Bonneville Dam as a dumping ground. Toxic chemicals leaked into the Columbia River. The island is also a historic fishing site for the Yakama Nation.

The tribe is now suing the Corps to recover costs from helping clean up the contamination.

In 2003, the Corps removed electrical equipment and contaminated sediment found at the bottom of the river. In 2007, it dredged the area to remove more contaminated soil.

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