Environment

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

Courtesy Tesoro Anacortes / PublicMeeting.info

Petrochemicals used in the production of plastics are causing concern among Northwest environmentalists. First there was the methanol plant proposed for construction in Tacoma’s tide flats. That’s now on hold.

But the comment period for a new proposal in Anacortes just wrapped up over the weekend.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council has adopted limited summer salmon fishing seasons off the Washington and northern Oregon coasts. At a meeting on Thursday in Vancouver, the council avoided a complete closure of the season, a possibility that had been discussed in March.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Salmon returns in the Northwest are on many people’s minds this week as fisheries managers meet in Vancouver. They’re considering what might be the first full closure of ocean salmon fishing in nearly 22 years.

But you might not notice much change in what’s for sale in local markets. Step up to a seafood counter looking for salmon and you’ll likely find a lot to choose from.

Coastal cities across the globe are looking for ways to protect themselves from sea level rise and extreme weather. In the U.S., there is no set funding stream to help — leaving each city to figure out solutions for itself.

New Orleans and Philadelphia are two cities that face very similar challenges of flooding from rising tides. But they've chosen to pay for the solutions in very different ways.

New Orleans: Post-Disaster Payments And Grants Pave Future

Parker Miles Blohm / KPLU

For the first time, a river that connects Seattle and Tacoma has been included on a list of the 10 most endangered waterways in the country.  American Rivers is highlighting the Green-Duwamish watershed this year. The national conservation group says the issue it wants addressed is outdated dams that lack passage for endangered fish.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The next few months will be crucial in determining whether the West Coast serves as a gateway to the Pacific Rim for U.S. exports of fossil fuels. Anti-coal- and oil-train activists say their work, combined with global economic realities, is pointing increasingly toward a future free from energy exports that move through Northwest ports.

Sardines, herring and other small fish species are the foundation of the marine food web — they're essential food for birds, marine mammals and other fish. But globally, demand for these so-called forage species has exploded, with many going to feed the livestock and fish farming industries.

Gary Davis / KPLU

 

Seattle’s Green Lake is known for having water resembling pea soup. But by the end of this week, the color of the lake will we be transformed to a color that’s almost tropical.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Many of the West Coast’s top transportation innovators and policy experts are convening in Tacoma this week for the Green Transportation Summit and Expo. They’re looking at ways to cut back on emissions that harm public health and cause climate change. They're also showing off some of the newest equipment and alternative fuel technologies.

Americans throw away about a third of our available food.

But what some see as trash, others are seeing as a business opportunity. A new facility known as the Heartland Biogas Project is taking wasted food from Colorado's most populous areas and turning it into electricity. Through a technology known as anaerobic digestion, spoiled milk, old pet food and vats of grease combine with helpful bacteria in massive tanks to generate gas.

Harvey Barrison / Flickr via Creative Commons

Washington continues to pave the way for regulation of toxic chemicals with a new state law. It bans five flame retardants used in furniture and children’s products and pushes manufacturers to change their practices.

The Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act knocks out five of the worst flame retardants and sets up a process for the Departments of Health and Ecology to make recommendations on six others. Flame retardants are used in everything from baby bouncers to sofa cushions.

Renewable energy like solar and wind is booming across the country as the costs of production have come down. But the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't blow when we need it to.

This challenge has sparked a technology race to store energy — one that goes beyond your typical battery.

Heat Storage: Molten Salt And A Giant Solar Farm

Batteries are often used to store solar power, but it can be a costly endeavor.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Runners, walkers and revelers will be among the first the cross the new SR-520 Bridge spanning Lake Washington.

The state Department of Transportation is opening the structure to pedestrians for a fun run tomorrow morning, followed by an all-day party for folks on foot.  Cyclists will have their shot at riding across on Sunday morning.

April 1 is, on average, generally considered the date of the peak snowpack in the Northwest. And around now, is when many irrigation districts begin filling their canals to get ready for watering season.

There are grounds for optimism as well as caution.

Nancy Heaslip / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

White-nose syndrome has killed more than 6 million bats in 28 states and five Canadian provinces since it was first documented nearly a decade ago in New York. Now, Washington state has become the most recent addition to that list, after hikers found a bat with the disease on a trail in North Bend, about 30 miles east of Seattle.

The U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center verified the disease in a little brown bat found on March 11.  It died two days later.

Bellamy Pailthorp

What are your plans for getting outdoors this spring? Do they involve a beach?  If so, a growing group of coastal-cleanup volunteers wants your help. The Washington Coastsavers want you to volunteer just a bit during your vacation — or maybe just as part of your weekend.

In fact, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has declared April 23 the “Washington Coast Cleanup Day.”

The emergence of nine cases of a fungal infection known as Valley Fever in southeast Washington over the last five years has state and federal health officials concerned. This week, the state and the CDC are launching a $50,000 study.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s one of the more dramatic-sounding aspects of climate change: as carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases speed up global warming, sea levels are expected to rise too.

Mark Woods Photography

Two eagerly-awaited light rail stations open in Seattle on Saturday: one on Capitol Hill and the other at the University of Washington. This is the biggest game-changer in Seattle transportation for quite some time.

One of the first things you notice about the new stations is the art. At the UW Station, the art is intended to help get you acclimated on your journey underground.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

The non-profit that set up Pronto, as it is called, will be shut down. But the city of Seattle is spending nearly $1.5 million to bail out its troubled bike share system. Seattle’s City Council voted 7-2 to pay off its debt and added in a bit more money to cover transition costs. Its days were numbered until the city stepped in to rescue it.

Rick Bowmer / AP Images

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, was in Seattle this week. She delivered the keynote address at a Climate Leadership Conference Wednesday night.

But beforehand, she also spoke to students and faculty at the University of Washington’s schools of public health and public policy. She talked about her concerns in the wake of the crisis in Flint, Michigan, where lead has been poisoning municipal water supplies.

She said at its heart, more than anything, this crisis is about money.

Matthew Brown / AP Images

Suspended plans for a major coal mine in Montana spell good news for people concerned about coal exports planned to go through ports in the Pacific Northwest. Activists say the proposed terminals left on the books are all nearing what they call "zombie status."

Zombie status, as in: still moving forward, but basically dead.

Carolina Chelele is a contestant on a popular reality TV show. It's not about dating, housewives or survival. It's about ... farming. Specifically, farming by females.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, is in Seattle this week. She’s giving the keynote address at this year's Climate Leadership Conference on Wednesday evening.

Mike Kane / AP Images & Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Snoqualmie Casino is the site this week for a two-day Tribal Green Summit. The conference is highlighting best practices in sustainable design.

The event is designed for tribal officials throughout the Northwest who specialize in resource management and environmental programs, but it’s open to the general public. An overall theme of the meeting is reducing waste at the source.

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.

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