EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Washington adopted new federal rules Wednesday that establish protections for farmworkers working with and around pesticides.

They bringing state regulations in line with new federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

The state has been trying to navigate ambiguity around the status of the EPA rules. Hector Castro of the Washington Department of Agriculture says they acted after learning the federal regulations would take effect next month.

Oregon Field Guide Favorite Places 2017

Dec 13, 2017

“Hey, what’s your favorite place in Oregon?” That’s probably the most frequently asked question we hear on our travels while working for "Oregon Field Guide." And while we are known to keep our secrets when secrets are in order, the truth is, many of Oregon’s great places lie in plain sight and we’re happy to remind you that these gems are out there and are worth exploring.

Here are a few stories that bring back fond memories from the great "Oregon Field Guide" road trip circa 2017:

Trek The Spectacular Wallowa Mountains With A Legendary Mule Packer

OPB's 2017 Photos Of The Year

Dec 13, 2017

A counter-protester named Anthony holds his hands in the air after being hit with pepper spray balls by Portland police during protests downtown Sunday, June 4, 2017. 

Coya Crispin stands outside her St. Johns neighborhood apartment with her daughter, Saraia, and her son, Titan, February 2017.

5 Most Important Environmental Issues Of 2017

Dec 13, 2017

From Paris to the White House to the wildlands of the Pacific Northwest, the environment was big news in 2017. 

It was a year when a new president set the United States on a drastically different path. That's certainly true when it comes to the role of science and government policy in curbing greenhouse gasses and protecting wild places and imperiled species.

The Oregon Health Authority is pushing back release of a public health assessment on airborne hazards in the vicinity of the southeast Portland production headquarters of Bullseye Glass.

The assessment, scheduled for release this month, was delayed as the company’s attorneys prepared to file a $30 million lawsuit against Oregon.

A Dec. 8 letter from the Oregon Health Authority to community partners notified them that the key health report, promised for early- to mid-December, would be pushed back for a “significant extension” until sometime in 2018.

One of Idaho's struggling salmon species could eventually become self-sustaining in the wild under the federal government's new recovery strategies.

UPDATE (2:59 p.m. PST) – Portland-based art glass maker Bullseye Glass has filed a federal lawsuit against Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and several state and local agencies claiming discrimination against the company’s civil rights. The federal civil suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oregon, names leaders at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Health Authority and the Multnomah County Health Department as defendants.

Dagoberto Morales’ car winds along the rural backroads of the Rogue Valley. Winter is coming and the pear orchards stand stark and skeletal. Morales used to work these orchards and lived in the housing right next to them.

“We used to play futbol in here,” Morales said, pointing to an open area near a group of houses. 

The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s targeting a former creosote plant in the Seattle suburb of Renton for “immediate attention.”

The Quendall Terminals, on the southern shore of Lake Washington, joins Oregon’s Portland Harbor on the EPA's list of 21 Superfund sites across the country for expedited cleanup and redevelopment.

Ocean Trash: What You Need To Know

Dec 11, 2017

The story of a piece of litter doesn’t end at your curbside. Every year, millions of tons of trash find their way down storm drains and rivers to the ocean. Ocean currents take over from there, carrying man-made stuff thousands of miles away to far-flung corners of the planet—even to places otherwise thought to be untouched by people. And that makes marine debris difficult to clean up.

Here’s what you need to know about the trash that’s piling up on Pacific Northwest beaches and around the world’s oceans:

The Environmental Protection Agency says its targeting the Portland Harbor Superfund Site in the Willamette River for immediate attention.

California billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer is hoping Oregon will be the next state to fight the Trump administration’s policies on climate change.

Oregon Democrats are working on legislation for the upcoming February session that would cap greenhouse gas emissions. Steyer, who was active in California’s push to pass cap-and-trade legislation, is lending his financial support to the state’s progressive endeavor.  

'OPB Politics Now': Oregon National Monument Faces An Uncertain Future

Dec 8, 2017

President Trump ordered the shrinking of two national monuments in Utah this week. Attention immediately shifted to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says should also be smaller. We talk through the politics of these moves and get into Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's actions on the thorny issues of the state budget and PERS. Short answer: task forces!

Geoff Norcross talks with EarthFix reporter Jes Burns along with OPB political reporters Jeff Mapes and Lauren Dake.

Federal agencies are a step closer to deciding how best to manage the Columbia River system and protect endangered fish. They outlined goals for a range of plans at a public meeting Thursday.

A series of public meetings this past year gave the agencies plenty to think about. They received more than 400,000 comments about how to protect endangered salmon and steelhead and, at the same time, maintain navigation channels for river traffic, control floods, and meet hydropower demands.

The Trump administration is rolling back a requirement for trains carrying highly explosive liquids — like the oil trains that run through the Columbia River Gorge en route to Northwest refineries.

The 2015 rule was supposed to make these hazardous trains more safe, following a number of derailments. But that was under President Obama, Now, President Trump's Department of Transportation says railroads with trains carrying highly flammable liquids will not have to update their braking systems.

A band of raccoons scamper over a downed tree. A coyote sneaks a drink from a mossy pool. The black and white photos that flash across Professor Mark Jordan’s computer screen look like they could have been shot out on the Olympic Peninsula or maybe at a remote spot in the Cascades — until a curious house cat sneaks out of the underbrush.

Oregon Sending Help To Battle Growing Southern California Fires

Dec 6, 2017

Teams from Multnomah County all the way down to Jackson and Josephine counties are en route to Southern California where a series of fast-moving fires continue to rip through the Los Angeles area. 

The Oregon State Fire Marshal sent 10 strike teams consisting of 50 engines and about 100 personnel overnight Tuesday, making Oregon the first state to send resources to the Golden State for this event.

NASA, Scientists Want Help Measuring The Snow

Dec 5, 2017

Cities, farmers, and conservationists all need to know how much water is in each winter’s snowpack.

But there aren’t many weather stations that measure the snowpack, and “they tend to be at lower elevations,” says David Hill, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Oregon State University.

That’s why a team of Northwest scientists and NASA are looking for help. They’re asking snowshoers, snowmobilers, and skiers in Washington and Oregon to measure snow depth in the backcountry.

 

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is calling for one of the Northwest’s national monuments to be reduced in size.

 Zinke released a months-old report Tuesday making recommendations to President Trump on the fate of national monuments that previous presidents had established or expanded. Among the recommendations: that the president roll back at least part of the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National monument.

Updated (Wed., Dec. 6, 7:45 A.M.): In lieu of the nation's withdrawal from an international agreement on climate change, 50 municipal leaders from around the country, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, signed a charter Tuesday committing their cities to emissions reductions. 

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