Environment

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

Oregon's biggest power companies will have 14 years to wean themselves from coal, under a new bill approved by lawmakers Wednesday. The measure has the support of Gov. Kate Brown — and the state's two largest electric companies.

Several environmental groups have backed the bill, which calls for requiring large utilities to ensure that at least 50 percent of their power comes from renewable sources by 2040.

Ted S. Warren / AP Images


For decades massive, open-pit coal mines have been feeding the country's appetite for energy. Once coal companies are done with the land, they're supposed to restore it. But as America's coal industry declines, it may not have the funding to keep its cleanup promises.

Courtesy Eastside Rail Now

Rush-hour congestion in the corridor east of Lake Washington, along Interstate 405, is an everyday hassle for many commuters. Authorities with King County Natural Resources and Parks say they’re working on alternatives. Among them is a major rails-to-trails project that would connect communities from Renton to Redmond.

At the heart of the Eastside rail corridor is Bellevue’s iconic Wilberton Trestle. That’s where officials are releasing a draft plan for development options. 

Every winter, a small fleet of commercial fishing boats sets gillnets in the San Francisco Bay. Their target: Pacific herring, which enter the estuary in huge numbers to spawn and are easily caught by the millions. The fishermen fill their holds with herring just yards from the waterfront of downtown San Francisco, where many restaurants serve fresh, locally caught seafood.

Death Valley, Calif., one of the hottest places in the world, is in bloom with more than 20 species of colorful desert wildflowers.

A new study suggests that sea levels are rising at an unprecedented rate and that the problem will continue well into this century.

"Sea level rise in the 20th century was truly extraordinary by historical standards," says Bob Kopp, an associate professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Rutgers University, and who is lead author on the study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

U.S. health regulators acknowledged they miscalculated the amount of formaldehyde emitted from some of Lumber Liquidators' laminated floor products. Shares of the company fell sharply Monday on the news.

The Centers for Disease Control And Prevention says the risk of cancer is three times higher than it previously estimated, and it strongly urged Lumber Liquidators customers to take steps to reduce exposure to the substance. The company no longer sells the Chinese-made, laminate products.

When people talk about Florida's Everglades, they often use superlatives: It's the largest protected wilderness east of the Mississippi River, and it's the biggest subtropical wetland in North America.

But it is also the site of a joint federal-state plan that is the largest ecosystem restoration effort ever attempted — one that is beginning to pay off after decades of work.

A leaking natural gas storage well on the outskirts of Los Angeles has been permanently sealed and shut down, after spewing methane into the atmosphere for months, California officials say.

Elaine Thompson / AP

 

A massive die-off of sea stars a few years ago was caused by a virus. But a study published this week shows that higher water temperatures also played a big role.

As we reported yesterday, the leaking gas well near a Los Angeles neighborhood has been temporarily plugged, ending four months of uncontrolled amounts of methane being released into the atmosphere.

Portlanders Demand Action On Heavy Metal Air Pollution

Feb 10, 2016

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.

Pages