Environment

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

Debra Prinzing

Like many other holidays, Mother’s Day has become quite commercialized. Along with a Hallmark card often comes a perfect-looking bouquet of flowers that have traveled thousands of miles to get to your front door.

But for those who long for flowers with a local tie and fewer pesticides, there are other options.

woodleywonderworks / Flickr

A much-loved open house at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver did not take place over the weekend. The center is run by the U.S. Geological Survey, which had to cancel the program due to the federal budget sequestration.

leff / Flickr

Having your groceries delivered might seem like a self-indulgent luxury.

But researchers at the University of Washington have found that, most of the time, you can feel good about doing something for the environment when you order your groceries online and have them delivered instead of making a trip to the store.

“We like to call it 'the bus for groceries,'” said Anne Goodchild, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW.

City of Tacoma

Tacoma is on the brink of more than doubling the length of its Sound Transit Link Light Rail line.

Under a plan just recommended by the Tacoma City Council, the current starter line between the Tacoma Dome and the city's downtown would extend north into the Hilltop neighborhood. 

DarthNick photo / Flickr

New buildings packed with dorm-like rooms for rent have been popping up in Seattle’s densest neighborhoods.

A grey area in the law is allowing these so-called “micro-housing” projects to go up without neighborhood comment. A brown-bag discussion on the issue of takes place at City Hall today.

Wonderlane photo / Flickr

The city of Seattle and King County will spend $1.46 billion on upgrades to public sewer systems aimed at reducing the amount of polluted water entering the Puget Sound and other waterways, according to a federal settlement filed under the Clean Water Act. 

Under the agreement, the city and county will also pay $750,000 in fines for dumping raw sewage into the Sound and several lakes. 

zenobia_joy photo / Flickr

With its eelgrass beds and rocky beaches, Puget Sound’s shoreline is frequented by hundreds of species of fish and other creatures. State and federal agencies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on its restoration.

But Amy Carey, Executive Director of a new group called Sound Action, says the marine ecosystems that support sensitive species are still declining.

EJP Photo / Flickr via Compfight

In the city of Anacortes, plans are underway to build what might become the biggest beverage bottling plant in the country.

Some residents are worried the scale of the operation will ruin their quality of life and put undue strain on the area’s water supply. Skagit County is considering a zoning change tonight to make room for the plant - and activists are planning to turn out against it.

KPLU

With spring comes spring cleaning. And Seattle is no exception. The city is asking residents to tidy up their neighborhoods - helping out with everything from picking up litter to painting over graffiti. Another thing the city could use help with is stenciling storm drains as a way to protect Puget Sound.

King County Metro

Facing a $75 million shortfall, Metro Transit says it will have to slash its bus service by 17 percent next fall unless the Legislature intervenes.

The cuts would mean the elimination of 65 bus lines; another 86 would have to run on reduced schedules.

Courtesy Think Outside the Bottle

The disposable plastic water bottle is known for clogging landfills and choking marine life. As a result, 14 national parks no longer sell bottled water. And it looks like Mount Rainier National Park might be next.

Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition

A new report shows residents of Seattle’s Duwamish River valley are exposed to more pollution, have greater vulnerability to pollution-caused illnesses and live shorter lives than residents in other areas of Seattle and King County.

The debate over proposed coal export terminals in the Northwest is heating up again after the governors of Washington and Oregon sent a letter to the White house on the issue.

A bill put forward by Gov. Jay Inslee directing the state to figure out how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has passed both houses of the Legislature.

The passage is a big step forward for the environmental lobby and the governor, who has championed clean energy. But there is still a lot of pushback in Olympia.

If you see a big bridge or stadium suddenly go dark tonight, don't be alarmed.

Seattle and Tacoma are joining thousands of cities around the world and turning out the lights for Earth Hour, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Landmark buildings will go dark for the hour, and residents are encouraged to take part by turning out all non-essential lights to support the ongoing fight against climate change.

King County has reached a preliminary agreement to permanently protect a big chunk of forestland in the Cascade foothills.

The stretch of White River Forest spans 42,962 acres — about the size of Bainbridge Island and “the largest swath of unprotected forestland remaining in King County,” according to King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Bellamy Pailthorp Photo / KPLU News

Driving an all-electric vehicle just got a bit more mainstream.

The AAA Auto Club of Washington has launched a new emergency roadside service for electric cars. It now has a truck with a generator on board that can rescue drivers in the greater Seattle area if they’ve run out of charge.

Washington’s state park system boasts everything from coastal campgrounds to wooded hiking trails and historical buildings. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the choices, you might find help in the palm of your hand.

Just in time for Washington State Parks' centennial, the state has unveiled a new smartphone app that serves as an on-the-go interactive guide.

Big mistakes made on the design and construction of pontoons for the new 520 floating bridge could lead to tougher reporting requirements for the Washington state Department of Transportation.

Lawmakers want more transparency and accountability when it comes to costly mistakes. Repairs to cracks in the new 520 pontoons, for example, are expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.

Rick Bowmer / Associated Press

It happens every spring. Hungry sea lions follow endangered salmon runs up the Columbia River and feast on them at the bottom of the Bonneville Dam. If they’re caught, they can be killed by state workers.

campaign to stop the killing is becoming an annual tradition as well.

Courtesy Snohomish County PUD

Big dams that block rivers and salmon runs are out of vogue. But new legislation could clear the way for more small ones.

The removal of Washington’s Elwha dam — the largest dam removal in U.S. history — marked the end of an era in which big dams were embraced.

Bellamy Pailthorp Photo / KPLU News

Seattle’s Duwamish River was once a meandering estuary in the heart of the city. A century ago, it was transformed into an industrial waterway and used as a dumping ground for decades.

Now it’s a Superfund site – and the Environmental Protection Agency has released a plan to clean it up.

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan served as a wake up call for coastal residents and visitors on our shores. But two years later, it is hard to measure how much that disaster has changed tsunami readiness on the Pacific Northwest coast.

Althea Rizzo is the geologic hazards program coordinator for Oregon Emergency Management. She says she's certain tsunami awareness has increased.

Northwest native Sally Jewell faced nearly three hours of questions at a hearing in Washington DC on her nomination to become the next US Secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, she said she’d take a balanced approach to protecting ecosystems while expanding energy production on public lands.

As CEO of REI, Jewell has strong credentials as an environmentalist. Some say – too strong.

RICHLAND, Wash. – It may take two to four years to even begin clearing radioactive waste from leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. That’s according to Washington Governor Jay Inslee. He toured the southeast Washington nuclear site Wednesday.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

When you look around the streets of Seattle, you can expect to see less concrete and more greenery being put in over the next 12 years.

The City is planning to dramatically increase its use of green infrastructure to treat stormwater runoff.

Stormwater runoff is acknowledged as the single largest source of pollution in Puget Sound.

Washington Governor pushes for carbon emission study

Mar 5, 2013

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wants an independent work group to figure out how the state can meet lower greenhouse gas emission standards set in 2008.

The Democratic governor testified Tuesday before a House committee in Olympia. He said the state of Washington has not yet developed specific plans for its citizens to reduce their carbon footprint.

“We have given them a goal. We have given them a promise. We have not given them the tools to do the job.”

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Environmental regulators are assuring lawmakers in Olympia that leaking radioactive material from tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has not yet reached ground water. The comments came at a hearing Thursday in the Washington Senate.

Hanford managers have said six single-shelled tanks are leaking nuclear waste.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington Governor Jay Inslee Wednesday expressed his continuing apprehension over the tank leaks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. He says as the Department of Energy and its contractors are evaluating more than 100 tanks with a new set of criteria, “I have real concerns about the remaining single shell tanks as well.”

Separately, Hanford managers said Wednesday they’ve successfully cleaned up a major part of contaminated land just north of Richland called the 300 Area.

Bellamy Pailthorp photo / KPLU News

Big mistakes were made by the State Department of Transportation in its construction of the pontoons that will hold up the new 520 bridge across Lake Washington.

The agency says it is making repairs and design modifications to ensure the bridge will last the full 75 year lifespan promised.

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