Bellamy Pailthorp

Environment Reporter

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat from the Seattle offices of KPLU Public Radio News, where she has worked since 1999. She holds a Masters in journalism from New York's Columbia University, where she completed the Knight-Bagehot fellowship in business reporting in 2006 mid-career during her stint on KPLU’s Business and Labor Beat from 2000-2012.

From 1989-98 she lived in Berlin, Germany freelancing for NPR and working as a bi-lingual producer for Deutsche Welle TV after receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1989 for a project on theater studies and communist history. She holds a Bachelors’ degree in German language and literature from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. (Yes, she is fluent in German.)

She strives to tell memorable stories about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Character-driven narratives of exploration and innovation excite her. 

Outside work, she practices and instructs yoga, walks half marathons with friends, backpacks with her husband and extended family, reads and watches fiction with nieces, enjoys tasting new foods and admiring all kinds of animals -- especially her two house cats, who often remind her she should spend more time sitting on the couch with them.

Ways to Connect

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

A five-month-long quest to swim the entire length of Seattle’s Green-Duwamish River has come to a successful end. Mark Powell, Washington Environmental Council’s Puget Sound Program Director, says it gave him new perspective on the river that runs through the industrial heart of the city. 

Elaine Thompson / AP

The Port of Seattle has won a dispute with the City of Seattle over the legality of its lease with Royal Dutch Shell.

After testimony in August about the definition of cargo, Seattle’s Hearing Examiner reversed the city’s determination and now says Shell can legally use Terminal 5 as a home port for its Arctic drilling fleet.

The ruling says servicing Shell’s vessels is a permissible use for a cargo terminal.  

Tim Durkan Photography

Fall has officially arrived and we can feel it. Temperatures have dropped. But KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says Friday’s rain will quickly move east, making way for sunny skies this weekend.

“Precipitation will lighten up certainly by the early afternoon here on the western side,” Mass said. “So, not a warm day, but at least it will be dry the second half,” he said, predicting temperatures only reaching the lower to mid-60s. “So definitely below normal and cooler than what we’ve had before.”

An Improving Trend This Weekend

Washington State Department of Ecology

Don’t let the cooler temperatures and rain we’ve seen recently fool you. State officials say Washington’s historic drought is not over -- and it’s very likely to continue into next year.

Maia Bellon, Director of the State Department of Ecology, told reporters on a conference call that we’re not out of the woods yet. Western Washington remains in a severe drought and the east side in extreme drought, with reservoirs all over the state greatly depleted.


When Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in the Seattle area tomorrow, one of his first stops will be a forum focusing specifically on clean technology and economic development.  Five U.S. governors are also expected to attend, along with six Chinese governors and other officials. 

On the agenda will be the question of what can be done with emerging clean energy technologies to add not just to commerce but also to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause air pollution and contribute to climate change.

Tim Durkan Photography

“No one’s going to mistake this weekend for July,” quipped KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass. He says Saturday will be the best day of a mostly cloudy weekend that will become increasingly wet.

Friday, Mass says there will be some showers floating around, mostly offshore, and clouds elsewhere. “For most people, it’ll be relatively dry – much drier than yesterday,” He said. “So, you know, an okay day.” Temperatures will get into the upper 60s.

Get Your Outdoor Fun In On Saturday

Don Ryan / AP

The devastating wildfires in eastern Washington and California this year are pointing to the need for new policies. More focus on managing fire and less on suppression is what is needed, according to a panel of scientists, including one from the University of Washington.

Tim Durkan Photography

You may have heard that predicting the weather in the Pacific Northwest is especially difficult. 

KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass says that may have been the case in past decades. But the truth now is, it’s not.

"In fact, that’s one of the great fantasies of the weather world: that somehow it’s really hard to predict here, the skill is much less than other places, because of the big Pacific," Mass said. "That’s, in fact, not true."

An Ocean's Influence

Tim Durkan Photography

If your plans for the long Labor Day weekend include outdoor activities, be ready for a chance of rain on Sunday. Other than that, it will be mostly sunny and warm, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

“There will be a lot of sun. But one day will be cloudy and maybe a little bit of rain and that’s Sunday,” Mass said.  

Keep That Raingear Handy Friday

Friday morning’s residual clouds were burning off by afternoon, leaving the lowlands basking in plenty of sun. Mass warned of fewer sun breaks in the mountains.  

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

If you ever thought that Washington’s often cloudy skies stand in the way of solar power here, think again, says Jeremy Smithson.

The CEO of Puget Sound Solar stood in his warehouse on Rainier Ave. South, surrounded by stacks of solar panels.

“And these are not just inventory – these are all sold projects,” he said, gesturing toward the stacks.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is making good on its promise to put forward a clean water rule for Washington, in case the state doesn’t come up with its own plan in time.

At issue is how much fish the government says is safe to eat, if it’s caught in polluted water. 

Creative Commons

Rent prices in Seattle are increasingly out of reach for many people.

As Seattle grows, the city council and the mayor want to require funding for affordable housing units with all new developments.

AP Images

Joking that he was "out of practice" in forecasting rain for the Pacific Northwest, KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass said he'd do his best in predicting substantial amounts rain and wind for the weekend.

AP Images

New tools and new strategies are needed to fight and prevent wildfires nationwide. That was the sentiment at a field hearing held in Seattle by the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The hearing  was convened by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell of Washington, a Democrat, and John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican. They are collecting testimony for the Wildland Fire Management Act of 2015.

AP Images

This summer’s extreme drought is becoming increasingly deadly for fish in the northwest.

The state department of Fish and Wildlife had already lost about one and a half million juvenile fish in overheated rivers and streams in Washington at the end of July, due to this summer’s historically warm temperatures and low water levels.

AP Images

Generally cooler temperatures this weekend should help firefighters gain headway in massive, stubborn wildfire in Eastern Washington, said KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

"Right now we have a little bit of a cool-down going on" Mass said. "We'll see a step-down into the mid 70s (Friday) some low clouds and most of those will burn off during the day."

The weekend will see a slight uptick in temperatures with temperatures in the lower 80s. Next will a major cool-down will begin. "Cooler than normal for much of the week and even a chance of some rain later in the week -- especially on Thursday and Friday," he said.

Mass said that slight, two-day rise in temperatures won't do firefighters any good but come next week, they should catch a break. "If they can get to Monday," he said, "we'll see cooler temperatures and more humidity over the fire area." 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Mount Rainier is famous as the most glaciated peak in  the contiguous United States. But the massive flows of ice and snow that cover the mountain are retreating rapidly, likely more rapidly than ever in the record warmth of this summer.

Participants in the 2015 "Climate Boot Camp" put on by the Northwest Climate Science Center gathered this week in Mount Rainier National Park to learn more about the dynamics behind this phenomenon. 

AP Images

A towering fish trap standing on end . Hundreds of pristine white ceramic shapes eating their way into the bark of a fallen tree. Or an estuary sculpted out of shipping containers. These are just a few examples of the dozens of art installations that have recently popped up alongside Seattle’s only river.

The exhibition is called Duwamish Revealed. It’s meant to remind viewers that the waterway running through the city’s industrial core is more than a toxic Superfund site. 

The efforts to expand perspectives on the Duwamish include works by 40 artists from around the world.

You can experience the work of a local sound engineer by venturing out onto a pier at West Seattle’s Jack Block Park. You might not see anything unusual right away, but you could find yourself startled by the sound of art emerging from the water beneath you.

Robb Kunz co-created an 8-channel installation that surrounds the pier with sound together with composer Joshua Kohl of the Degenerate Art Ensemble. The piece is called “Under Pier Pressure.”

Kunz says he wanted to contribute to the show because he's enamored with the strange confluence of the industrial and natural that he finds on the Duwamish. His composition aims to match the physical surroundings.

“So, found sounds, concrete sound of nature and industry,” he said.

You can push a button to activate the sounds, but Kunz says he likes it best when people happen upon them mid-stream.

Stephanie Sinclair

Friday’s rainy start was the first part of “a theater piece in two acts,” said KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass. “The first act happened this morning.”

The showers that doused the northwest overnight will return in the afternoon, Mass says, accompanied by “all kinds of thunderstorms and heavier rain. ”  

He predicts those will start revving up sometime between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. “And I would expect rain around dinnertime into the early evening.”

Bellamy Pailthorp, KPLU

What’s the legal definition of a “cargo terminal” in Seattle? That’s the question before the city’s Hearing Examiner this week.

The answer will determine whether Royal Dutch Shell can bring vessels from its Arctic drilling fleet back to Seattle without breaking the law -- and whether the Port of Seattle can receive $13 million for the use of the facility.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Energy efficiency is not just a money saver. The freed up capital also drives economic growth and productivity. That’s the message in a new study released in Seattle Tuesday by the non-profit Northwest Energy Efficiency Council. 

The study was commissioned to show the benefits of conserving. It concluded that recent energy efficiency investments by utilities and consumers pumped an extra $216 million dollars a year into Washington state’s economy. That’s money that is spent on productivity instead of wasted.

About two dozen gun retailers are located in Seattle. Opponents of the proposed tax on sales of firearms and ammunition say it would cause buyers and ultimately shops to go outside the city.
Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Seattle’s City Council will take aim at gun violence Monday with a vote on a pair of gun safety measures. One would tax sales of firearms and ammunition. The other would require owners to report lost or stolen guns.

City Council President Tim Burgess proposed the measures. The former Seattle police detective says firearms put an undue burden on communities.

“Gun violence begets gun violence,” Burgess said, “which is a huge problem in our city and frankly in our entire state. And we’re trying to take common sense, reasonable steps to address that.”   

He argues getting sellers to chip in to break the cycle of violence is one such step.

The revenue from the tax would be dedicated to prevention programs and research, such as was carried out in 2013 by doctors at Seattle’s Harborview Medical center, where last year alone, the city says the cost for treating victims of shootings totaled $17 million.

AP Images

If sunshine is something you crave on weekends, best to get out and enjoy it on Friday if you can.

The forecast gets cloudy on Saturday, with showers increasingly likely on Sunday.  In fact, KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass is blogging this week about how this August is off to a much cooler and wetter start than is typical.

AP Images

Environmental groups are calling the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan the strongest action the U.S. has ever taken to fight climate change.

Yet in Washington State, a plan to cap-and-trade carbon emissions failed to get through the legislature – despite a Governor who won an election on the promise of a clean-energy economy.

Gov. Jay Inslee blames the legislature for the lack of a clear climate policy in the state. He acknowledges his political reputation is riding on it. But, he says, lawmakers are not cooperating with him.  

“They’ve produced zero when it comes to any meaningful carbon reduction plan," Inslee said Monday. "So now it’s time for the Executive branch to act because it is our responsibility.”

That’s why Inslee last week directed the state department of Ecology to forge ahead with the cap portion of his cap-and-trade plan.

Creative Commons

The Puget Sound is going to continue its California weather imitation for another weekend in what already is a record-breaking summer, said KPLU's weather expert Cliff Mass.

"This is going to be the warmest summer in the memory of virtually everybody," Mass said. "You have to go back to the 1930s to get temperatures that are even similar to this."

Need proof? The region on Thursday beat the all-time record for 90-degree days in a summer with 10 days. The old record was nine.

Bellamy Pailthorp

A who’s who of scientists from about a dozen local agencies gathered on Thursday to share what they’re learning about the warm patch of water off the west coast that’s been keeping temperatures higher than normal.

Standing near the Viking statue at Seattle’s Shilshole Bay, State Climatologist Nick Bond said he could go on and on about all the local temperature records being broken lately. But what’s concerning many scientists now, he said, is how warm the water is becoming. And some of those concerns focus specifically on "the blob."

AP Images

Humans should be part of any consideration of how well Puget Sound’s ecological recovery is going. How we’re thriving and benefiting are critical parts of the equation, according to new research conducted for the state agency in charge of the cleanup.

The agency, called Puget Sound Partnership, is adding indicators of human well-being and quality of life to the “vital signs” it tracks. They’ll be included on the colorful pinwheel “dashboard” that anyone can see online.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Upgrades to old infrastructure are often needed to help reduce the risk of flooding. That can lead to inconvenient road closures.

But the payoff is not just for humans. Replacing old culverts and pavement can also help endangered fish.

Backhoes and bulldozers will be working alongside SR 522 at Lake Forest Park Towne Center for the next couple of months. The city is re-plumbing the culverts beneath this roadside mall. The main motivation for the work, at least initially, was major flooding.

AP Images

A year ago Friday, an oil train from North Dakota derailed under Seattle’s busy Magnolia Bridge during the height of the morning commute.

No one was hurt and nothing burned in that accident but the scare has prompted changes to the emergency response to a similar accident should one occur. The reason? As many as two thousand black oil tanker cars now roll through Seattle each week, carrying crude from North Dakota’s Bakken region.

AP Images

Statistically speaking, it generally is the driest time of year in western Washington. Because of this, late July into early August is the most popular time for outdoor weddings and family reunions in the region.

But showers are in the forecast this weekend. If you were thinking of getting outdoors, you’ll have to travel east over the mountain passes, advises KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass. He says there’s a band of precipitation approaching from the west that will definitely dampen the region, pretty much anywhere west of the Cascades.