Environment

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

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.

Province of British Columbia / Flickr

The federal government has moved a step closer to designating the northern spotted owl an endangered species. The owl has been listed as threatened for a quarter-century, but its numbers continue to decline. The California-based Environmental Protection Information Center, or EPIC, petitioned to have the owl reclassified, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week that its initial review justifies considering that request. It will publish official notice Friday.

A change in the owl’s status might not have a huge effect on regulations, which were overhauled as part of the Northwest Forest Plan during the 1990s. But EPIC legal coordinator Tom Wheeler said the change would strengthen the regulators’ hands.

Across the Northwest, farmers are already making tough calls because of this year’s drought. The dismal snowpack is to blame.

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.

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.

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. 

Debra Scollard

It was an emotional day in Oso, exactly one year after the mudslide on Highway 530 near the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.

Families and first responders came together to commemorate their loss and celebrate their community. 

Bagpipes sounded out as pipe and drum corps from Snohomish and King counties led the way for first responders and elected officials.

All were paying tribute to the 43 people who died in the Oso mudslide. Those honoring them gathered in the middle of the highway, which was closed for three hours to commemorate the loss and recovery.

Bellamy Pailthorp

A year ago Sunday, 43 people died in the devastating Oso mudslide. Thousands of volunteers turned up to help. And, even if they hadn't lost someone themselves, coping this past year has been tough.

LISTEN: Two volunteers describe their experience:


The daffodils and tulips are up and so are hungry black bears. Our unseasonably mild winter is bringing black bears out of hibernation earlier than usual.

Kai-Huei Yau

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is one of the most contaminated sites on earth. And Susan Leckband is using her natural curiosity to help clean it up.

  As a girl Leckband just had to call the Frito-Lay company. Their number was clear, right on the back of the crinkly package. And she was curious.

Leckband’s mother and father were not amused.

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