Bellamy Pailthorp

Environment Reporter

Bellamy Pailthorp joined the staff of KPLU as a general assignment reporter in 1999 and covered the business and labor beat for more than a decade. She now covers the environment beat. She was raised in Seattle, but spent 8 years in Berlin, Germany freelancing for NPR and working as a producer for Deutsche Welle TV after receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1989. She holds a Bachelors degree in German language and literature from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT and a Masters in journalism from New York's Columbia University, where she completed the Knight-Bagehot fellowship in business reporting in 2006.

Bellamy's most memorable KPLU radio moment: “Seeing the INS open a shipping container at the Port of Seattle that contained stowaways from China, three of whom died en route of seasickness. Harrowing stuff, with global economics and inequity at its root.”

Ways To Connect

AP Images

If your Memorial Day weekend plans include a hike in the mountains, be prepared for rain. And if you’re hanging around the Northwest Folklife Festival or elsewhere in the lowlands, expect showers, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

He says it’s a continuation of a pattern that started on Thursday and continued into Friday morning.

“We had a lot of low clouds moving in to the west of the Cascade Crest,” Mass said.

“There’s an on-shore pressure gradient and so there’s stratus and strato cumulous (clouds) at lower levels. But at upper levels, we’re getting flow still coming off the mountains,” he said.

AP Images

The Washington Commissioner of Public Lands said warmer than usual weather has not only increased the wildfire risk, it also has increased the likelihood that firefighting resources across the west will be stretched thin come summer.

“We need to be more self sufficient ,” Commissioner Peter Goldmark said.

He said so many communities are struggling with drought that the state can’t count on outside help if wildfires strike.

“In the past, sometimes we’ve been able to rely on contract resources or other states," Goldmark said. "But because of the widespread nature of the drought, and the ensuing fire potential, we can no longer count on other states or adjacent states or other entities coming to help us.”

That’s why he is requesting an additional $4.5 million dollars to pay for emergency staffing and equipment. That’s on top of an unprecedented ask for $20-million for longer-term forest health work, thinning stands and making public forests more resistant to wildfire.

Goldmark says last year’s Carlton Complex Fire was the worst he has ever seen.  The current draught declarations combined with this year’s warmer than normal forecast for the summer is making him nervous.

Goldmark says he won't count on help from anyone this season. Last year, the deadly Carlton Complex required help from 40 states.  

Tim Hamilton / Flickr

If you were out in shorts last weekend, slathering on sunscreen, be prepared for a different kind of weather this Saturday and Sunday.

“There won’t be a lot of sun tomorrow for most of Western Washington. Maybe a few sunbreaks, but not much more than that,” says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. “This is going to be kind of a so-so, middle-of-the-road weekend.”

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

As Royal Dutch Shell’s Polar Pioneer oil rig arrived in Puget Sound, the noise coming from a  Coast Guard helicopter rang out across the water. It was deafening and added to the drama of watching an enormous new oil rig enter Elliott Bay.

Royal Dutch Shell is planning to send the Polar Pioneer along with a fleet of ships to the Arctic to drill this summer, now that President Obama has approved the oil giant's plans.

The bright yellow drilling machine took its place at Terminal 5 in West Seattle Thursday afternoon, accompanied by local tugs.

Bellamy Pailthorp, KPLU

While the Polar Pioneer remains parked in Port Angeles, 

a second oil drilling rig -- the Noble Discoverer -- arrived Everett Tuesday, where it was greeted by activists and onlookers. 

The arrival brings additional attention to the Port of Seattle which is facing continued controversy over its agreement with Royal Dutch Shell to service the oil giant's Arctic  drilling vessels. And despite a port commission request for a delay of any moorage of oil exploration vessels and a city council vote in opposition to the deal, the two rigs are on their way. 

AP Images

After hearing testimony in favor of Arctic oil drilling, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to join Mayor Ed Murray in opposing the Port of Seattle’s lease with Royal Dutch Shell.  

The resolution doesn’t carry the legal authority to block the port's decision to host Royal Dutch Shell's drilling fleet. But it was enough of a statement that several Alaska Native leaders traveled from remote areas in the Arctic to lobby in favor of the lease with the city council. 

The jobs drilling would bring are vital, the Alaska representatives said.

Tim Durkan Photography

Friday is the best day of the weekend to recharge your vitamin D stores by soaking up sun and warmth, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

But the whole weekend looks pretty glorious. He says the small amount of clouds present are limited to places near the water.

“A few fog patches along the coast, those are burning off, so – great day,” he said of Friday’s weather. “Temperatures will get into the lower to mid-seventies, with total sun, no precipitation, so – wonderful.”

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A statewide citizens’ committee on pipeline safety has criticized a federal proposal to take additional control of pipeline safety away from the states and remand it to the federal government. 

The latest annual report from 13-member the Citizens’ Oversight Committee says the federal proposal effectively would take away states’ authority over interstate pipelines. The committee's concern is that inspectors would have to come from too far away, slowing response times and loosening enforcement.

The citizens committee on pipeline safety was created by the legislature fifteen years ago, after a tragic explosion in Bellingham that killed a man and two boys.  According to an investigation by the state that took three years to complete, the line to the oil refinery at Cherry Point had ruptured and the Olympic Pipeline Company was at fault. 

John Grade

A storefront in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood has been the site of an ever-evolving sculpture, of a tree turned on its side. About a year ago, the site became a hub for a new kind of collaboration with one of the city’s most productive public artists.

Sculptor John Grade and his supporters at the Mad Art Gallery invited hundreds of people in, to help assemble Middle Fork. It’s now a 40-foot long model of a Western Hemlock, suspended inside a large gallery space that’s just down the block from a Tesla Motors showroom and across from the Seattle offices of Microsoft.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

 

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said the Port of Seattle can't host Royal Dutch Shell's offshore Arctic oil-drilling fleet unless it gets a new land-use permit.

Shell has been hoping to base its fleet at the port's Terminal 5. Environmentalists have already sued over the plan, saying the port broke state law in February when it signed a two-year lease with Foss Maritime, which is working with Shell.

Tim Durkan

Enjoy the sunny weekend –but keep your rain gear ready – we’re going to have a nice scenario for gardening and other outdoorsy pursuits this weekend.

That’s according to KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, who is also excited about the recent news of El Nino and La Nina. (Click “listen to our podcast and hear his information about all that.)

AP Images

One member of a Seattle-based climbing group's Everest team died Saturday as a result of an avalanche that hit the mountain following the Nepal earthquake. But several other local climbing organizations reported that their teams were safe. 

Among those is Alpine Ascents, the climbing and expedition company that has called Seattle its home for 27 years. The company had six clients and three guides on Mount Everest  at the time of the 7.8 magnitude quake.  

courtesy WSDOT

Interstate 405's notoriously crawling traffic might accelerate if the state's new system of express toll lanes and increased carpool minimums works as expected.

Tim Durkan

Windy weather this weekend will make umbrella use a bit problematic, but you probably will need a parka or other rain gear, at least for the next day or so.

“We have an upper level trough over us and that brings cold air and unstable conditions where we get the cumulous (puffy clouds) and thunderstorms developing,” said Mass.

And so on  Friday, Mass says expect some showers, especially in the mountains and South Sound.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

When Kathy Holzer was a kid living on the outskirts of Chicago, she would climb her parents’ apple trees in their orchard. She was always up in the tree -- with her dog sleeping below.

“And they'd always know where I was because there was the dog so I must be in that tree,” Holzer said. “And I always broke out the dead branches that were in my way, because it always seemed -- intuitively -- that the tree didn’t need them.” 

My poor dad, Holtzer continued,  would see the piles of dead branches underneath the trees and wonder, 'Who's been doing this?'

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s Earth Day. Some volunteers will celebrate by digging in the soil at community gardens.

But one Seattle neighborhood is taking that idea to a whole new level, at the Beacon Food Forest.  

Jackie Cramer, one of the founders, stands at the top of a hillside that was once an all-green manicured lawn, raking up at the end of the day.

Beneath her, raised beds and special compost bins are transforming the landscape. Two acres are on their way to becoming a woodland forest.

Lucas Randall-Owens / KPLU

On the shore of Seaview Park in West Seattle, a group of young activists stands behind a row of bright yellow kayaks.  Most of them are new to boating. An instructor from Alki Kayak Tours gives a safety briefing before they head out for a sunset paddle. 

Tim Durkan Photography

Gardeners can get out the gloves and seed but skiers will have to stow their gear. Clear skies and warm temperatures headed our way will melt the small blanket of new snow from last week, said KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

“On Thursday, we had almost complete sunshine,” Mass said, adding that his team of meteorologists at the University of Washington measures the amount of solar radiation coming in. “And there were virtually no clouds getting in the way of our sensor, so it was total, maximum sunshine.”

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Vendors of Seattle’s homeless newspaper Real Change are now able to sell digital copies and take payments with a new Android smart phone app. 

While the cashless, e-version of the street-corner paper isn't yet available for iPhones or through Windows mobile,  the makers and sellers of Real Change are calling it a big breakthrough.

Lindsey Wasson, Seattle Times / AP Photo (Pool)

The tragic landslide in Oso more than a year ago appears likely to have a silver lining for firefighters and the communities they serve: A legislative measure that would allow small town fire departments to share resources more effectively has unanimously passed out of the state senate and looks poised to become law.

Fire chiefs say they’ve been working for years to get more government help in natural disasters and accidents where nothing’s on fire.

Firefighters are trained to respond to all kinds of emergencies – especially in small towns. People call for everything from cat rescues to devastating accidents. And if there’s a big disaster such as an earthquake or oil spill, says Chief Brad Reading from Snohomish County Fire District 1, the law currently doesn’t cover the cost of outside help, unless something is burning. But it looks like that’s set to change.

Donna Gordon Blankinship / AP Photo

A drill rig that could be used for oil drilling in the Arctic will arrive in Port Angeles on Friday and remain there for about two weeks before it heads to Seattle.

Protesters have said they plan to meet it when it arrives in Seattle in May.

In a statement, the Port of Port Angeles said the 400-foot Polar Pioneer will be off-loaded and then have equipment installed.

The Coast Guard says protesters will have to stay 100 yards away from the rig when it is anchored - and 500 yards away when it is in transit.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

In an effort to raise revenue for public schools and transportation projects, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee  wants to charge polluters for their carbon emissions.

Tim Durkan

Cliff Mass is one of the region’s clearest communicators about the weather. We talked this week about the impacts of climate change in the next century. He has indicated in the past that we are relatively lucky when it comes to climate change.

But there will be changes, in the future.

elvis_payne / flickr

When you turn on the tap and water comes out, there’s a tendency to think it’s free.

But increasingly, there’s a push to recognize water as the precious commodity it is, by putting a higher price on it. 

Water as the oil of the 21st Century was the headline on an event in Seattle put on by the Clean Tech Alliance.     

Bellamy Pailthorp

Highly volatile Bakken  crude oil poses a serious threat to the safety of communities located along rail lines. Just since February, there have been four fiery derailments in the US and Canada.  Now Democrats in the U.S. Senate are pressing for more regulation.

Supporters of a carbon tax are gathering signatures from Washington voters for a possible ballot initiative.

Governor Jay Inslee has a bill on a cap-and-trade system already working its way through the legislature. But climate change activists are also laying the groundwork for the measure, which would add a tax of $25 dollars per ton of carbon dioxide.

Tim Durkan

The thunderstorms that hit our region a couple of days ago are a classic sign of spring in the Northwest. And the temps we’ve been experiencing lately are entirely normal for this time of year, says KPLU weather expert, Cliff Mass. 

So if you’ve been shivering and wishing for the balmy temps that made Monday seem like summer, Mass says you might as well get used to it for a while. We’re in for a cloudy, unsettled weekend, with “plenty of clouds around," according to Mass.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Legislation that would ensure more safety when oil trains roll through communities is still pending before lawmakers in Olympia. That’s nearly a year and a half after the fiery train derailment in Quebec that killed 47 people.

Two proposals that would help protect people from an oil train accident have been moving through the legislature in Olympia.  One is backed by environmentalists, the other more by industry.

Tim Durkan

Another unusually warm weekend is in store, but KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says it’s not one for the history books.

“It’s not going to be as hot as we’ve had,” he said.

That’s in contrast to Thursday, when the mercury hit 71 degrees in Seattle, an all-time record high for that day.

Elaine Thompson / AP

One of the biggest challenges Seattle faces is its transportation systems. The city is launching a series of talks at the library about the future of mobility. The aim is to get the public thinking about urban design as the population grows. 

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