Environment

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

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.

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. 

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.

A federal court will hear oral arguments Monday in Seattle, in a case that pits the United States against the State of Washington. It has to do with who gets to take how much fish.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez has set aside 3 weeks in his calendar to hear issues involved.

Three tribes are mentioned in the current litigation: the Makah, the Quileute and the Quinault Indian Nations. They’re fighting with each other.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

When you start talking with David Kirtley, don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel like you’re in a comic strip.  

Kirtley is the CEO of Redmond-based Helion Energy, and his business plan sounds like fantasy. He says the potential for solving all of our energy problems is contained in what looks like just a drop of water.

Michael Kauffmann

Thousands of people are expected to start long-distance treks on the Pacific Crest Trail this year.

That's inspired in part by the successful movie adaptation of Portland writer Cheryl Strayed's hiking memoir, "Wild." Hollywood’s next hiking movie, “A Walk in the Woods," could spur even more backpacking interest when it's released later this year.

That has Western outdoors enthusiasts backing the build-out of additional long-distance trails, which could offer greater solitude.

Hannah Letinich / Forterra

 

More than 150 acres along the Puyallup River will be preserved forever as farmland and wildlife habitat. It's the biggest agriculture conservation deal in the history of Pierce County.

 

The farmland has been in the Matlock family since the mid-1940s. During the height of operation they grew more than one million pounds of berries a year and hired thousands of school children to help bring in the harvest and learn what a day’s work on a farm felt like.

 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The CEO of the Port of Seattle has signed a lease agreement that will allow the Shell Oil Company to base part of its Arctic drilling fleet in West Seattle despite the threat of a lawsuit from a coalition of environmental groups.

Titleist46 / Flickr

 

Eleven packs of wolves have recolonized northeastern Washington. Now besieged politicians from that area are seriously proposing to relocate some of those protected wolves to western and southwestern Washington where there are none.

Michael Boer / Flickr

Growing numbers of hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Mexico-to-Canada route made increasingly popular by the movie "Wild," have led officials to take steps to alleviate traffic.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association announced on Wednesday a new permitting system that will limit to 50 the number of long-distance hikers heading north each day from San Diego County.

Wallie Funk / AP Photo

A well-known former resident of the Pacific Northwest will be getting special designation from the federal government. Lolita, a killer whale captured from Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, is now a member of an endangered species along with her wild cousins.

Lolita is the last known survivor of the many orcas captured from the Salish Sea in 1970. She has lived since then at the Miami Seaquarium. When Puget Sound orcas were later designated an endangered species, captive whales were excluded.

Wikimedia Commons

 

Thirty-one wolves were killed in the first six months of Idaho’s new Wolf Depredation Control Board.

Board members Tuesday asked the legislature for another influx of money to go after problem packs in Idaho.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Environmentalists turned out in full force Wednesday to voice their opposition to a Port of Seattle agreement allowing Shell Oil to base its 26-ship Arctic drilling fleet in West Seattle.

A coalition of state and national groups is threatening to sue the Port over its agreement to lease the currently-vacant Terminal 5 to the oil company for up to four years.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Governor Jay Inslee’s plan to put a cap on carbon emissions and make big polluters pay got its first hearing in Olympia today. The bill would charge the state’s top emitters for each ton released, starting in July 2016. 

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