Environment

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

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.

Karelian bear dogs Tuffy, left, and Mishka get ready to run as they're held back by state wildlife biologists Rocky Spencer, right, and Rich Beausoleil during a bear-chasing training session in 2004 at Lake Wenatchee State Park, near Leavenworth, WA.
Elaine Thompson / AP Images

What do drinking water and wildlife have in common? Both benefit from public land set aside by Seattle Public Utilities. You can learn more about all kinds of critters in the Cedar River Watershed by heading to the edge of the protected land in North Bend.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Energy efficiency and water conservation are important factors in keeping rental housing affordable. That’s the idea behind a new program launched in Seattle that’s demonstrating the concept nationwide, with an emphasis on multi-family buildings in high-cost urban areas.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

King County’s environmental lab is retiring an old research vessel and getting a new one. The replacement boat is a $1.9 million-dollar custom-designed aluminum catamaran that will be faster and more efficient than the old vessel, Liberty.

The Liberty will remain in service through this spring from its home on a pier in Seattle's canal. It has been a workplace for environmental scientists since it first purchased 38 years ago.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s a stretch goal, but it’s the right thing to do. That was the sentiment at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as Alaska Airlines and Boeing joined the Port of Seattle in announcing an ambitious plan for the use of aviation biofuels. 

Alaska Air and Boeing have been working with the port on more sustainable jet fuels for years. In 2011 they demonstrated capability to make aviation biofuels from used cooking oil, with enough to power 75 test flights.  

Southern California Gas Co. says it detected a gas leak on Oct. 23 in its Aliso Canyon storage facility. A month and a half later, it still hasn't been able to stop it.

The company said in a statement on its website that they are drilling a relief well to plug the flow of gas — which they expect will take three to four months to complete.

The United Nations climate summit is over, the weary diplomats have gone home, and now the historic deal is being dissected by scientists.

For anyone paying attention, it's no secret there's a lot of weird stuff going on in the oceans right now. We've got a monster El Nino looming in the Pacific. Ocean acidification is prompting hand wringing among oyster lovers. Migrating fish populations have caused tensions between countries over fishing rights.

Christophe Ena / AP

As the U.N.’s climate talks wrap up in Paris, protestors here are preparing for a noisy and likely very wet march through downtown Seattle on Saturday. A coalition of groups is pushing for swifter action to curb carbon pollution.   

“It is a critical moment in our time because this year is the last year we really have to do something meaningful to really change climate chaos," said Zarna Joshi.

Gerrit Vyn Photography

Seattle photographer Gerrit Vyn travels the world to capture images of wildlife – and above all, birds. He says they’re powerful indicators of environmental health. He aims to get people to connect with them as individuals, so that we care and want to preserve their habitat. 

Climate change may be bad for people but it's good for bugs.

Germs of all kinds, as well as mosquitoes and other disease carriers, will live longer in warmer weather because cold kills them. They'll find more areas with the hot, humid conditions they need to thrive. Disease-carrying insects have already begun to move into new territory, climbing higher up the Andes in South America and reaching farther north into Canada and the U.S. to spread what were once considered tropical diseases like West Nile virus.

Providence is considered by many to be the finest restaurant in Los Angeles, a gourmet seafood eatery run by chef Michael Cimarusti. He's won several James Beard awards and two highly coveted Michelin stars. He is also a fisherman who is piloting a program to support local, small-scale fishermen.

The rate of deforestation in Brazil has increased by 16 percent over the past year, the country's Environment Ministry announced.

Brazil has often declared progress in reducing the rate of deforestation in the Amazon, but the government's own figures, released Thursday, show the challenges still facing the country.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Microsoft is helping to preserve forests at the foot of Mount Rainier by investing in the potential of trees and restored forests to soak up carbon pollution. The value of absorbed greenhouse gas emissions will be set through California's cap-and-trade exchange and the income used to grow the asset, through new plantings and road removals.

Waugsberg / Wikimedia Creative Commons

Imagine what your Thanksgiving table would look like without any food that is pollinated by bees.  

It’s a challenge issued by the group Environment Washington, which is highlighting the issue with a campaign called “No Bees, No Food.”

Canvassers for the group say if bees die off, then turkey, rolls and potatoes are all  that would be left on the table. Dairy products would be endangered. And you can forget about vegetables or traditional pies.

Ben Brooks / Flickr

Washington state’s worst-ever wildfire season took center stage once again in Washington, D.C.

Two local fire officials testified before the U.S. Senate’s Energy & Natural Resources Committee Tuesday, appealing to lawmakers for more funding for fire suppression and preparedness.

Gordon Werner via Creative Commons / Flickr

King County has signed into law a climate action plan that many local environmentalists are applauding as one of the boldest in the United States. How communities will meet their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a big question, as representatives get ready for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris next month.

A photographer from Wenatchee, Washington, has made a revealing discovery at the scene of a remote and long-abandoned fire lookout: a pile of very old firewood.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Even if you don’t like getting your feet wet, the recent heavy rains are still something to celebrate.

Over the past two weeks, there has been so much coming down that the water supply is almost back to normal in all three of the Puget Sound’s major cities.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The University of Washington held its first annual symposium on environmental law last week. The idea is to choose a topic and examine how it fits into current and future regulations. This year’s focus—ocean acidification. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Kids packed a courtroom in Seattle on Tuesday to hear oral arguments in a case about their future. Eight young teenagers are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state Department of Ecology. They want to force action on climate change.

“It just feels like there’s not enough people who care about, like, animals and other things that can’t talk for themselves – babies who haven’t been born yet, people from the future, basically,” said 13-year-old Lara Fain.

Oregon Department of Transportation

For many people, solar power is out of reach, because it is too expensive or because they don’t have a good place to put panels.  But there is a new option for residents in Tacoma.

Tacoma Power is launching a community venture for customers who want to invest in solar energy without buying their own equipment.

Ted S. Warren / AP

It has been 25 years since the federal government passed the Pollution Prevention Act. The 1990 law is credited with reducing industrial waste by as much as 60 percent since it was enacted, by getting companies and governments to look upstream at what goes into the manufacturing process and stopping pollution at the source.

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