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

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Seattle residents and businesses have hit an all-time high for recycling rates. And from the front yard of a model recycling family in Seattle, Mayor Mike McGinn gave the city a pat on the back:

“53 percent – an all-time high– 53 percent of the waste produced in the city of Seattle is taken out of the waste-stream and recycled,” McGinn said.

Photo courtesy Washington State Dept of Health

If you see an unusually low-flying helicopter cruising above Seattle or Bellevue, don't worry. It’s just a project of the State Department of Health to measure naturally occurring radiation in King and Pierce Counties.

Brianna / Flickr

The weather for the 4th of July this year is looking pretty good, with scattered clouds in the forecast and highs in the low seventies.  

That’s actually pretty typical, says Carl Carniglia with the national weather service in Seattle.  He looked back at local statistics from the late 1800s to the present and found the historical data contradicts the cliché of rainy weather for Independence day.

Piero Sierra / Flickr

Here comes that day that cats and dogs really hate, but most American humans love!

Yes, it’s time for burning, smoking and exploding devices used for celebrating the Fourth of July. It is also time for the many reminders and warnings about what fireworks you can use, how dangerous they are and where you can or can’t use them (should you really feel like you have to).

Associated Press

A new plan released yesterday for saving the northern spotted owl is taking aim – maybe literally – at a rival bird.

Federal agency leaders said Thursday the spotted owl is losing out to a bigger, more aggressive invader from the eastern United States, the barred owl.

However, one biologist whose research led to the listing of the spotted owl believes shooting and other measures to control the barred owl are too little too late.  Because, he lamented, the spotted owl's population has shrunk over the last 15 years in spite of conservation efforts. (Interactive map inside)

Photo by Jim Thrailkill / USFWS

It’s an icon of the northwest.

With its muted brown feathers and dark eyes, the northern spotted owl doesn’t look all that impressive. But scientists say its survival indicates the health of the entire forest ecosystem. That’s why conservationists want the government to protect more of the old-growth habitat spotted owls prefer.

But a recovery plan for the owl due for release this morning is ruffing feathers.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

Last week, Boeing opened a new plant in South Carolina, where it's putting the second assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner.

That’s led to a fight between the aerospace giant and the National Labor Relations Board. The nation’s top enforcer of labor laws filed a complaint against Boeing in April. Proceedings in the case begin Tuesday in Seattle. 

The NLRB alleges Boeing built the second assembly line for the Dreamliner in South Carolina as retaliation for past strikes by the Machinists union in Washington state.  And that, it says, is against the law.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

They’re known as ghost nets – old tangles of synthetic lines snagged on underwater rocks or reefs and left behind by fishermen as long as seventy years ago.   

A coalition out of Mount Vernon has removed thousands of them over the past decade.  There’s still work to be done, but they’re running out of funding. 

Since 2002, The Northwest Straights Initiative has removed nearly four thousand derelict fishing nets from shallow waters of Puget Sound. 

“Because they just don’t degrade. They can get torn apart by wave action, but they won’t degrade," says Northwest Straits Initiative Director, Ginny Broadhurst.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

(Updated at 11:49 a.m. with new photos)

This morning I’ll be up early, heading to Sandy Point Marina, near Bellingham, for a short field trip with the non-profit Northwest Straits.  They’re a non-partisan group that’s been removing derelict fishing gear from the waters of the region for the past decade. 

Associated Press

The Machinists Union says it's surprised and disappointed to hear of plans by Congress to hold a hearing next week over the federal labor lawsuit against Boeing. 

The National Labor Relations Board has filed suit against the aerospace giant claiming the company moved manufacturing facilities to South Carolina to avoid unionized workers.  A hearing on that issue starts Tuesday morning in Seattle.  Now the NLRB's attorney is being summoned to a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government later in the week.

Cheuk-man Kong / Flikr has been thriving, despite the economic downturn. Shares in the company are now worth more than five times a much as they were five years ago, thanks in part to innovations such as its electronic book reader, the Kindle, or its move into data storage of all kinds of things "in the cloud."

But it's just these futuristic lines of business that have some shareholders worried. 

One of the world's best-known thinkers about global climate change is Australian writer Tim Flannery. He's not only a best-selling author, he's also his country's first Chief Commissioner for Climate Change.

His latest book, Here on Earth: a Natural History of the Planet, paints a hopeful picture of the future of human life on earth. He recently gave a talk in Seattle, where he said his message of optimism seemed to have trouble getting through to his audience.

KPLU's Bellamy Pailthorp caught up with him for an interview.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

The forecast is for sunny skies this weekend and some of the warmest temps we've seen all year. 

But when it rains a lot – as it has been lately – the runoff from city streets and houses pours toxins straight into Puget Sound. 

How homeowners can address that kind of water pollution is the subject of a series of neighborhood tours put on throughout the region this summer.  The first one is this weekend in Seattle.


Investors in Bellevue-based gather Thursday for their annual shareholder meeting. It's likely the last time they'll meet there. 

The online-retailer is being acquired by its biggest brick and mortar competitor: Illinois-based Walgreens. 

Courtesy of Quiring Monuments

The process of burying the dead hasn't changed much over the centuries, but now their gravestones can provide a digital link to their life stories.

A Seattle-based company is creating burial markers that include a scannable, stamp-like image called a "quick read" — or QR code.

Photo by Atomic Taco / Flickr

Shiny burgundy buses equipped with automated pay stations, three doors each, low-riding chassis and accelerated time tables started serving south King County last fall. They're called RapidRide and they're funded by the Transit Now ballot measure that voters approved in 2006. 

A second route is slated to start serving Bellevue and Redmond in October. The King County Council votes on exactly where they'll go on Tuesday afternoon

Courtesy of Chinese Expulsion Remembrance Project

Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike has issued a formal apology to the Chinese community for the expulsion of their people,125 years ago.

Pike says the apology is meant to make it clear: authorities now see the racist actions by regional governments and their supporters more than a century ago were wrong.

In 1885 and 1886, thousands of Chinese immigrants were driven out of Puget Sound towns during an economic downturn. Civic leaders and town newspapers argued the new residents were taking jobs away from white people.

The apology and related events this week in Bellingham are part of a year-long Chinese Expulsion Remembrance Project. Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Mount Vernon are also taking part. The project also has a Facebook page.

Photo by MïK / Flickr

Grays Harbor Paper has shut down its mill in Hoquiam, putting a dour end to what had been a success story for 18 years. 

240 workers are losing their jobs. Many were shocked by the announcement, according to King-5 news.

“I thought this place was going to be in for the long haul,” said Tony Harris, who had worked for Grays Harbor Paper for two years.

Washington State University photo

A new industry is emerging in the Pacific Northwest – for development, production and distribution of aviation biofuels.

A consortium called Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest has just spent ten months producing an exhaustive study.  They've identified the four-state region of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana as a serious contender in the race to produce environmentally friendly jet fuels.

Unless a lawsuit derails the process, a new 520 bridge will soon be built across Lake Washington. 

A company in Aberdeen is already constructing the huge pontoons that will keep the new, 6-lane structure afloat.

And the state is widening the highway on the east side of the lake. 

But exactly what the project will look like on the Seattle side is still being worked out.

Seattle's Board of Park Commissioners will get a briefing on impacts to the Washington Park Arboretum tomorrow night (Thursday).

Seattle voters will have a chance to chime in again on the planned deep-bore tunnel that's supposed to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. 

That's the word from Judge Laura Middaugh who this afternoon sided with the supporters of a referendum, saying  her goal is to make sure that the voices of the people are heard when a policy decision is made.  She said she had not been able to find any precedents in case law to support her stance.

Image by James Corner Field Operations, courtesy of the City of Seattle, 2011

Hundreds of people packed into a waterfront auditorium last night (Thurs.) in Seattle. They came to see concepts of what the city might look like, once the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down.

CBP Photography / Flickr

The famous "battle in Seattle" more than a decade ago put the letters "W-T-O" into the collective consciousness. Now most people have at least a vague idea about the role the World Trade Organization plays in regulating international commerce. 

But what about the letters W-C-O?

Florangela Davila / KPLU

It's another banner year for Seattle-area high school jazz bands. 

Ensembles from Roosevelt and Mountlake Terrace High Schools are once again at Lincoln center in New York, NY - competing in what many critics regard as the nation's top bout for young jazz artists, the Essentially Ellington competition.

The Seattle Times is covering the event and has this note in today's print copy of the  paper:

"On Friday, the competition runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with Roosevelt appearing last. There are two segments on Saturday, 7 to 8:30 a.m., with Mountlake Terrace playing last, and 10 a.m. to noon. The three top bands will be announced on the live stream at 1 p. m. (All times PST.)"

Photo by Annie Laurie Malarkey / Courtesy of the Technology Alliance

There are 25 assistant advisors in the White House who report directly to President Obama.  One of them is the President's Chief Technology Officer. Anish Chopra has been in Seattle this week, meeting with all kinds of players - in everything from energy and education to global health. 

Image courtesy of

Microsoft's biggest acquisition ever might have people in the region worrying about layoffs. Often when companies merge, redundant workers get pink slips.

But it sounds like employees of the Redmond tech giant don't have much cause for concern with Microsoft's $8.5-billion purchase of Skype.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp

Update: On Monday, May 9, the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners approved a 20% permanent service reduction scheduled to start June 12. But the board rejected the proposed plan for the final 15% reduction scheduled for October, and instead directed staff to develop a modified plan that focuses on maximizing ridership.

The next time you're stuck in traffic, frustrated by the length of your commute time, take a moment to consider how long your trip would be if you couldn't drive to your workplace, your doctors office, or your church. 

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

A gigantic bridge-shaped piñata spewed more than four hundred pounds of candy last night in south Seattle. It was part of the Cinco de Mayo celebration going on in the city's South Park neighborhood. 

Earlier in the day, officials broke ground on a new $130-million-dollar bridge that's going to re-connect that community to major highways.

Ben Margot / AP

"Initial Public Offering," or I-P-O, is a buzz term that was talked about a lot in the boom years of the late 1990s – especially in Seattle, where lots of high-tech startup companies were thriving at that time.  They've been pretty scarce lately.  But they may be coming back.

AP photo

Insiders from many of Seattle's most recognizable big businesses are gathering today at the Washington State Convention Center downtown.

Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, REI, and The Mariners have all been invited to give interactive presentations meant to inspire others in the region to follow in their footsteps. The topic? Going Green.