Environment

Environment
11:56 am
Wed May 9, 2012

Study: Plastic in Pacific Ocean increased 100-fold in 40 years

An insect known as a "sea skater." Scientists say the abundance of floating plastic has led to an increase of these creatures.
Scripp Institution of Oceanography

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 11:31 am

The amount of plastic debris in the part of the Pacific Ocean known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" has grown 100-fold in the past 40 years.

In a paper published today by the journal Biology Letters, scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography report that most of that plastic has degraded into pieces no bigger than a fingernail. But that wasn't the major finding the scientists are reporting.

The scientists have found that all those pieces of plastic have provided ample opportunity for insects called "sea skaters" to breed.

The AP reports:

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Environment
4:56 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Personal care products, pharmaceutical toxics found in Columbia River

The Dalles Dam on the Columbia River near the west end of the Columbia River Gorge. Photo courtesy of USGS

Originally published on Tue May 8, 2012 6:21 pm

RICHLAND, Wash. – Giant smoke stacks and industrial dump sites are no longer the only water quality problem on the Columbia River. A recent study has found that our day-to-day life has a major impact as well.

U.S. Geological Survey researchers looked at nine cities along the river, from Wenatchee to Longview, Wash. They detected hundreds of contaminants flowing from wastewater treatment plants and stormwater runoff.

Hydrologist Jennifer Morace says the toxic contaminants included things like shampoo and pharmaceuticals.

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Power prices
5:33 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

McGinn defends City Light plan to raise utility's rates

Power lines on Seattle's Beacon Hill still carry some of the cheapest electricity in the country, but rate hikes are likely over the next 6 years, as proposed in a new strategic plan.
Photo by Andrew Imanaka flickr

The tendency for politicians to put off rate increases has meant decades of instability for customers of Seattle City Light. That’s according to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who has unveiled a new strategic plan, which would raise electricity rates a total of 28 percent over the next six years.

Businesses want stability

Though raising rates is unpopular, McGinn says the plan will create more predictability for customers – something that’s especially important for businesses.

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Mountain passes
9:09 am
Sun May 6, 2012

State struggles to open some mountain passes due to snow

A spring snowstorm on Cayuse Pass (SR 123) dumped more than a half-foot of snow on the highway. Crews hoped to open the pass on Friday (May 4), but with snow predicted through the weekend, they've had to push it back.
Tom Banse Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Fresh snow in the mountains has slightly delayed the reopening of one high mountain pass in the Washington Cascades. Highway crews are on track to reopen two other scenic cross state routes before Memorial Day.

What's slowing them down? The snowpack is deeper than average for this time of year in Washington, north Idaho and the northern Oregon Cascades.

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Environment
8:41 am
Sun May 6, 2012

Valuable trees attacked in Seattle arboretum

Authorities say vandals have destroyed eight recently planted trees in Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum.

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Hanford Nuclear Reservation
8:34 am
Sun May 6, 2012

Hanford whistleblower may not get jury trial

Walt Tamosaitis and his wife outside the federal courthouse in Yakima, Wash. Thursday. By Anna King.

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 10:00 pm

YAKIMA, Wash. – A Hanford whistleblower lawsuit is underway in federal court in Yakima. A former high-level manager on a nuclear treatment project is asking for a jury trial, but the judge hearing the case said Thursday that’s unlikely.

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NPR Science
4:43 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Greenland's Ice Melting More Slowly Than Expected

Researchers studying Greenland's ice say it is melting more slowly than previously thought. Here, ice travels down a relatively small outlet glacier into the sea.
Ian Joughin UW, Sarah Das/WHOI and Richard Harris/NPR

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 7:50 am

A new study has some reassuring news about how fast Greenland's glaciers are melting away.

Greenland's glaciers hold enough water to raise sea level by 20 feet, and they are melting as the planet warms, so there's a lot at stake.

A few years ago, the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland really caught people's attention. In short order, this slow-moving stream of ice suddenly doubled its speed. It started dumping a whole lot more ice into the Atlantic. Other glaciers also sped up.

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Energy
5:51 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Energy developers eye new grid-stabilizing hydro projects

Artist's rendition of upper and lower reservoir of Swan Lake Pumped Storage Project northeast of Klamath Falls, Ore. Image courtesy of Riverbank Power

Originally published on Tue May 1, 2012 2:45 pm

PORTLAND - If you thought the great dam building era of the Northwest was long over, you might be mistaken. But we're not talking about damming rivers here. This is about building long earthen dams to make new off-stream hydropower reservoirs. They're being designed to act as giant batteries and shock absorbers for the electric grid.

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Hanford Nuclear Reservation
3:01 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Report: Hanford vessels fail to meet requirements

YAKIMA, Wash. — A federal audit has concluded that the Energy Department and a contractor building a nuclear plant at the Hanford reservation installed tanks that did not always meet requirements of a quality assurance program or the contract.

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Environment
10:41 am
Thu April 26, 2012

Mutant two-headed trout spur scrutiny of mine pollution

A study commissioned by the J.R. Simplot Company on selenium contamination in creeks in southeast Idaho includes photos of deformed Yellowstone cutthroat trout (top) and brown trout (bottom).
J.R. Simplot Idaho DEQ

SODA SPRINGS, Idaho - Here’s an image you usually don’t see without the help of Photoshop: two-headed fish. Pictures of deformed baby trout with two heads show up in a study of creeks in a remote part of southeast Idaho.

The study examined the effects of a contaminant called selenium. It comes from a nearby mine owned by the agribusiness giant, J.R. Simplot. Critics say the two-headed trout have implications beyond a couple of Idaho creeks.

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Phone Books
4:30 am
Tue April 24, 2012

Choosing to opt-out, fewer residents getting phone book

More than 20 percent of households and businesses in Seattle are opting out of phone books.

One year ago, the city implemented an opt-out program that includes fines for publishers that fail to honor opt-out requests.

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Killer Whales
5:09 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Possible albino killer whale spotted off Russian coast

The all-white killer whale is shown in this screen grab from a ITN video.

An all-white orca has been spotted by scientists during a research cruise off the eastern coast of Russia, near the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Commander Islands in the North Pacific, reports ABC news. The scientists have named the orca Iceberg.

“It is a breathtakingly beautiful animal,” Eric Hoyt, one of the scientists, told the AFP. “If we can get a full close-up of the eyes and they are pink, it would confirm Iceberg is an albino, but we don’t know much about albinism in orcas.”

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Environment
9:06 am
Thu April 19, 2012

Greenpeace protests cloud servers at Amazon in Seattle

Greenpeace hung this sign on Amazon's new Seattle building this morning.
Chris Eaton Greenpeace via Twitter

Calling attention to its recent study showing server farms, the basis for cloud computing, consume as much electricity as small cities, Greenpeace this morning put up a sign on Amazon's new building in Seattle:

"How green is your cloud?"

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Japanese Tsunami
1:16 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

Tsunami debris hits NW coast; poster tells how to deal with it

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's model for where the Japanese tsunami debris is located.

Debris from last year’s Japanese tsunami has in fact hit Northwest beaches, according to new modeling by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Washington state is putting up posters to help you decide what to do if you spot any.

The new model by NOAA shows where the debris is, not when the bulk of it will hit the shores. But, as has been reported, some debris has crossed the ocean. Last week, the Coast Guard sank a derelict Japanese fishing vessel off the coast of Southeast Alaska. Also, glass and plastic floats have turned up.

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Wolf reintroduction
10:15 am
Wed April 18, 2012

Washington couple pleads guilty in wolf poaching scheme

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 6:50 am

A couple from Twisp, Wash., has accepted a plea deal in a wolf poaching case. Under the agreement with federal prosecutors, Tom White and his wife will not face jail time.

White, his father, and his wife Erin were indicted last year in a conspiracy to kill some of the handful of grey wolves that live in eastern Washington. Police discovered the poaching scheme in late 2008 when the family tried to send a wolf pelt to a tanner in Canada. A business owner in Omak, Wash., reported the FedEx package was bleeding.

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