Environment

Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.

Portlanders Demand Action On Heavy Metal Air Pollution

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Hundreds of people crowded into Cleveland High School Tuesday night with questions, concerns and demands for officials addressing Portland's air pollution.

The fastest land mammal in North America is again running free in north central Washington after a long absence. In late January, the Colville Tribes relocated 52 pronghorn antelope onto their reservation as part of a reintroduction effort.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

There are some people who see a problem and find a solution. That’s true of one student at Seattle Pacific University who transformed her feelings about what she was observing into action. Now, her school is all set to become the first private college in Washington state to feed the homeless by recovering leftover meals, rather than letting them go to the compost bin.

21-year-old Maya Swinehart says sometimes seeing people without shelter causes her to do things many other people don’t.

A landmark deal 10 years in the making will protect 9.1 millions acres of Canadian rain forest on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia.

The protected area in the Great Bear Rainforest is about half the size of Ireland.

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?'

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

There are legitimate questions about proposed multi-billion dollar methanol plants at the ports of Tacoma and Kalama, according to Gov. Jay Inslee. He said the plants offer benefits but their water usage and possible pollution need to be carefully considered. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Monsanto was the sole producer of PCBs in the United States from 1935 to 1979.  That’s according to a lawsuit filed against the company.

The City of Seattle has joined forces with five other cities in the suit, all of which are aiming to hold the Monsanto Company responsible for costs required of them under environmental laws on the state and federal levels.  The concern is PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls in sediments and drainage infrastructure. 

When Southern California Gas Company finally manages to seal a natural gas storage well that's been leaking for months, the company will have to shut the well down permanently, California regulators say.

And in the meantime, the company will have to minimize air pollution from the ongoing leak and fund an independent study on potential health impacts on the surrounding community.

(Tessica Truang is on the right. Kathleen Yang is on the left.)
Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Opposition to the proposed expansion of a pipeline in Canada took center stage Friday in British Columbia.

Canada’s National Energy Board heard testimony from several parties, including a Seattle lawyer representing four Washington state tribes. None of the parties scheduled to go before the board on Friday morning were in favor of the project.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / AP

Conservationists are urging the federal government to extend federal protections to the American sage grouse, a bird that’s at the center of a conflict between conservationists and mining interests.

That conflict is focused on land conservation, including lots of territory in eastern Washington and Idaho.

The charismatic bird can be compared to the spotted owl for the Pacific Northwest, according to many bird lovers and groups that protect them – among those the American Bird Conservancy.

About a dozen demonstrators blocked the tracks at a Burlington Northern Santa Fe yard to protest oil trains.
Elaine Thompson / AP Images

Five activists who joined forces in an attempt to stop oil and coal  trains from traveling through the Northwest have been convicted of criminal trespassing. That’s after a jury in Lynnwood handed down its verdict on Friday.

The so-called “Delta 5” lost their key argument, about whether it was necessary to chain themselves to the train tracks along with a huge tripod and banner, designed to stop the trains.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

As lawmakers reconvene in Olympia, legislative proposals to limit carbon pollution are piling up. All are ideas that address how to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Some involve a cap-and-trade system, similar to what California and some New England states have done.

Others are straight taxes, following British Columbia’s example.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

How to limit the carbon pollution that causes climate change and global warming is a key issue as lawmakers get going in Olympia this week. Dozens of legislative proposals have been submitted on the topic, some with multiple versions that use very minor changes in wording in attempts to see which proposals would have the best chances of passing.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

What is worse: blocking train traffic and the cost it causes to the public good?  Or the effects of climate change, globally and locally?

Those are two issues at the heart of a jury trial taking place in Lynnwood this week – in what is being called a historic case about climate justice.

A group of activists who  have branded themselves “The Delta 5” are in court this week, trying to explain their actions. 

AP Photo / Elaine Thompson

 

Oyster farmers in Willapa Bay are asking the Washington State Department of Ecology for permission, again, to use a neurotoxic chemical to get rid of native shrimp. Large numbers of the burrowing shrimp are turning the tide flats into quicksand, making the land unusable for growing oysters.

 

The state agency that manages hunting and fishing in Oregon is lacking a long-term strategy according to an audit by the Oregon Secretary of State's office released Thursday.

West Indian manatees and some colonies of green sea turtles have been in danger of extinction for decades.

But scientists have some good news about the much-loved sea creatures, which both have their largest U.S. populations in Florida.

WSDOT / FLICKR

Environmental groups say there’s really just one priority as lawmakers head back to the to the legislature in Olympia next week: no rollbacks. 

Every legislative session, the broad spectrum of green-minded groups in the state gets together to discuss their main issues and work toward achieving them.

Clifford Traisman is a lobbyist with Washington Conservation Voters and a spokesman for the Environmental Council that sets the priorities. For the early session this year, he says it’s pretty simple. They just don’t want things they’ve accomplished to be undone.

Karelian bear dogs Tuffy, left, and Mishka get ready to run as they're held back by state wildlife biologists Rocky Spencer, right, and Rich Beausoleil during a bear-chasing training session in 2004 at Lake Wenatchee State Park, near Leavenworth, WA.
Elaine Thompson / AP Images

What do drinking water and wildlife have in common? Both benefit from public land set aside by Seattle Public Utilities. You can learn more about all kinds of critters in the Cedar River Watershed by heading to the edge of the protected land in North Bend.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Energy efficiency and water conservation are important factors in keeping rental housing affordable. That’s the idea behind a new program launched in Seattle that’s demonstrating the concept nationwide, with an emphasis on multi-family buildings in high-cost urban areas.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

King County’s environmental lab is retiring an old research vessel and getting a new one. The replacement boat is a $1.9 million-dollar custom-designed aluminum catamaran that will be faster and more efficient than the old vessel, Liberty.

The Liberty will remain in service through this spring from its home on a pier in Seattle's canal. It has been a workplace for environmental scientists since it first purchased 38 years ago.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s a stretch goal, but it’s the right thing to do. That was the sentiment at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as Alaska Airlines and Boeing joined the Port of Seattle in announcing an ambitious plan for the use of aviation biofuels. 

Alaska Air and Boeing have been working with the port on more sustainable jet fuels for years. In 2011 they demonstrated capability to make aviation biofuels from used cooking oil, with enough to power 75 test flights.  

Southern California Gas Co. says it detected a gas leak on Oct. 23 in its Aliso Canyon storage facility. A month and a half later, it still hasn't been able to stop it.

The company said in a statement on its website that they are drilling a relief well to plug the flow of gas — which they expect will take three to four months to complete.

The United Nations climate summit is over, the weary diplomats have gone home, and now the historic deal is being dissected by scientists.

For anyone paying attention, it's no secret there's a lot of weird stuff going on in the oceans right now. We've got a monster El Nino looming in the Pacific. Ocean acidification is prompting hand wringing among oyster lovers. Migrating fish populations have caused tensions between countries over fishing rights.

Christophe Ena / AP

As the U.N.’s climate talks wrap up in Paris, protestors here are preparing for a noisy and likely very wet march through downtown Seattle on Saturday. A coalition of groups is pushing for swifter action to curb carbon pollution.   

“It is a critical moment in our time because this year is the last year we really have to do something meaningful to really change climate chaos," said Zarna Joshi.

Gerrit Vyn Photography

Seattle photographer Gerrit Vyn travels the world to capture images of wildlife – and above all, birds. He says they’re powerful indicators of environmental health. He aims to get people to connect with them as individuals, so that we care and want to preserve their habitat. 

Climate change may be bad for people but it's good for bugs.

Germs of all kinds, as well as mosquitoes and other disease carriers, will live longer in warmer weather because cold kills them. They'll find more areas with the hot, humid conditions they need to thrive. Disease-carrying insects have already begun to move into new territory, climbing higher up the Andes in South America and reaching farther north into Canada and the U.S. to spread what were once considered tropical diseases like West Nile virus.

Providence is considered by many to be the finest restaurant in Los Angeles, a gourmet seafood eatery run by chef Michael Cimarusti. He's won several James Beard awards and two highly coveted Michelin stars. He is also a fisherman who is piloting a program to support local, small-scale fishermen.

The rate of deforestation in Brazil has increased by 16 percent over the past year, the country's Environment Ministry announced.

Brazil has often declared progress in reducing the rate of deforestation in the Amazon, but the government's own figures, released Thursday, show the challenges still facing the country.

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