Environment

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

Miriam Duerr / Washington Dept. of Ecology

It's 14 years off in the future. But a compromise deal will shut down the Northwest's largest coal-fired power plant near Centralia. Legislation is headed to the governor's desk following a vote Thursday in the Washington senate.

AP photo

Insiders from many of Seattle's most recognizable big businesses are gathering today at the Washington State Convention Center downtown.

Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, REI, and The Mariners have all been invited to give interactive presentations meant to inspire others in the region to follow in their footsteps. The topic? Going Green.

Elaine Thompson / AP

The Washington State Climatologist is out with a report card on how the weather phenomenon La Niña treated the Northwest. If you thought it’s been wetter and colder than usual since November, you’re right. But overall, this La Niña was milder than predicted. KPLU's Tom Banse reports:

Puget Sound Energy / AP

When the wind is blowing and the rivers are running high, there's not enough capacity in power lines to handle all the electricity that's generated.

And that could mean that wind-farms have to shutdown for brief periods when there's too much power.

blog.lib.umn.edu

If you live in Seattle, and you think your water and sewer charges are high, you’re right.

That’s according to a new city-government audit of Seattle Public Utilities. The Seattle Times reports the audit cites an industry analysis that found Seattle paying the highest rates among 50 U.S. cities. 

Soundwatch

Next time you go whale watching on Puget Sound, be sure to take your binoculars. Soon, you’ll have to stay twice as far from the endangered killer whales as before. 

San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

Lawmakers in Olympia are struggling to close a $5 billion budget gap, and, like many state programs, natural resource agencies are on the chopping block. A study by a Tacoma-based non-profit says cutting those services too deeply could cost a lot more money than it saves.

CT

If you ride Community Transit buses, brace yourself for longer waits and fewer trips. For the second year in a row, bus service in Snohomish County is facing a 20 percent cut.

EPA.gov

If you put thousands of cows or chickens or hogs in a confined area, it’s likely to produce a powerful aroma. But can it harm your health?

A coalition of community and environmental groups says "yes." And they're asking for regulations on high-intensity livestock operations they say violate air pollution standards.

Washington milk is safe

Apr 6, 2011
Flickr user purplemattfish/Matthew / flickr.com

Worried about radiation from Japan contaminating milk here at home? The Washington state departments of Agriculture and Health say the latest tests show no sign of any radioactivity in milk sampled in Tacoma and Spokane.

Last week, the EPA announced that trace amounts of radioactive Iodine-131 were detected in a sample from Spokane, but at levels 5,000 times below anything that would be remotely dangerous. Officials say drinking a pint of milk with radiation levels that low would amount to less than half of the exposure you would get in a five hour plane flight.

WSDOT

Today is the deadline for Washington and other states to apply for a share of more than $2 billion in federal high-speed rail money that Florida rejected. State officials hope to use some of that money to tackle landslides that have made rail travel this winter unreliable.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

The small amounts of radioactive Iodine-131 found in milk in Spokane has been causing ripples of concern throughout the Northwest. Officials say the tiny amounts of radiation found in the milk were probably blown over from Japan’s stricken nuclear plants.

Just outside the Tri-Cities, Drex Gauntt’s alfalfa fields roll out like a plush emerald shag carpet. One of the ways that cows can pass Iodine-131 into their milk is by eating grass or hay that’s been contaminated with the radioactive isotope. Gauntt says he’s not too concerned.

The Snoqualmie River is cresting at the falls this morning. These two videos were shot by Carol Wells yesterday on an Android-platform smart phone. 

ChrisDaniels5 / Twitpic

Some major western Washington rivers are expected to flood today, including "major" flooding forecast along the Snohomish and Snoqualmie, according to the National Weather Service.

Heavy rains the past few days, with heavy concentrations in the Cascades and Cascade foothills, and warmer mountain temperatures, have produced rapid runoff.

Flood warnings are issued for these rivers in Snohomish and King counties:

  • Snohomish
  • Skykomish
  • Snoqualmie
  • Tolt
  • Stillaguamish (north and middle forks)
  • Green (middle reach upstream of Auburn)
David Granatstein / Washington State University

As sales of organic foods continue to climb across the country, organic farming in Washington has decreased. That surprised some researchers for a state that's one of the country’s top producers of organic produce.

While people in the agriculture industry expect certain crops to go through challenging cycles now and then, an annual study of the state’s organic farms shows "significant" declines in the past year, according to David Granatstein. He's sustainable agriculture specialist at Washington State University.  Granatstein co-authored a new study that found decreases in the number of organic producers, acreage and farm gate sales. 

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

What with theaters, concerts and clubs, Seattle has a pretty lively night life. But as a group of people gathers after dark at a marina on Elliot Bay, they’re looking for a completely different kind of thrill.

WSDOT

Opponents of the tunnel proposed to replace Seattle’s aging Alaskan Way Viaduct say they’ve gathered more than enough signatures to force a public vote. But a new poll suggests that won’t settle the contentious issue. 

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan are reverberating across the Pacific in a variety of ways. Now, a Vancouver B.C.-area bottled water company finds itself at the center of efforts to cope with the latest turn of events.

Courtesy Othello Sandhill Crane Festival

Thousands of their fans will greet them, but the onlookers will be outnumbered by approximately 25,000 to 35,000 sandhill cranes making a stop in eastern Washington.  The birds stand up to 4 feet tall, and stop in the Othello area every March at the Columbia National Wildlife refuge on their way to summer breeding grounds in Alaska.

For the past 14 years Othello has celebrated the rite of spring and welcomed birdwatchers with the annual Othello Sandhill Crane Festival. The video below is from the festival's web site.

hippyshopper.com

An effort in Olympia to broaden Washington’s renewable energy law is running into opposition.

Green energy groups say the proposed change would weaken the voter-approved Initiative 937.

At events in Olympia and Salem Tuesday, an activist group called on Washington and Oregon's governors to stop spending taxpayer dollars on bottled water.

Organizer Sriram Madhusoodanan, with the group Corporate Accountability International, says those little plastic bottles, sometimes available at public meetings and events, create unnecessary waste and undermine confidence in the quality of public water supplies.

Liam Moriarty / KPLU News

Major league sports teams in the Northwest have been recycling, composting food waste, cutting their power use and more.

Consider the Mariners. From 2006-2009, the team:

  • reduced natural gas use by 60 percent
  • reduced electricity use by 30 percent
  • reduced water use by 15 percent

Now, the Mariners and other teams from Seattle, Portland and Vancouver B.C. are forming a non-profit with the goal of spreading the green gospel to stadiums nationwide.

The nuclear reactor crisis in Japan is prompting more scrutiny of the nuclear power plant near Richland in southeast Washington. Thursday a Seattle-based Hanford watchdog sued Energy Northwest. The group is demanding the power supplier turn over more documents on the possibility of the plant using plutonium for reactor fuel.

AP

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says he thinks the city’s waterfront viaduct poses an earthquake risk and should be taken down next year.

That's a good four years before the viaduct's planned replacement -- a deep-bore tunnel under downtown -- would be ready.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers will open for barge traffic soon. Locks were closed for several months during repairs.

For most drivers in Washington’s most-populated areas, getting your car’s emissions system tested is an every-other-year ritual. Now, state environment officials are proposing to make changes they say will streamline the process without compromising the region’s air quality.

Tidal gauges detected a tsunami wave along the Washington and Oregon coasts Friday morning. But the swell, up to 1.5 feet, went unnoticed by coastal residents who chose not to evacuate.

Mark Malleson / Courtesy of orcanetwork.org

The oldest and perhaps most-recognizable of the local killer whales is missing and researchers fear he may have died over the winter.

The orca known to researchers as J-1 was last seen on November 21st near Victoria, B.C. Also known as “Ruffles,” for the wavy edge to his distinctive six-foot-tall dorsal fin, J-1 was believed to be about 60 years old. He was one of the first individual orcas to be identified by researchers in the early 19-70s.

The owner of the largest coal-fired power plant in the Northwest has agreed to phase out coal-burning by the end of 2025.

Washington’s governor and environmental groups announced an agreement with TransAlta Corporation Saturday. Within hours, the Washington State Senate passed a bill to turn the deal into law.

USFS

One of the rarest mammals in North America is staging a comeback here in the Northwest. Wildlife biologists have tracked wolverines on mountainsides where they haven't been seen in many decades. But several new studies also suggest the recovery could be short lived if mountain snowlines retreat due to global warming.

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