Environment

Energy
2:51 pm
Wed May 23, 2012

Seattle gearing up to oppose coal exports from northwest ports

Seattle appears poised to vote against coal transports through the city.
The Associated Press

For some it’s the next big source of high-wage jobs; for others, an environmental nightmare: At least 9 trains a day could soon rumble through Seattle, carrying coal to export terminals in Washington and Oregon.

Cities from Missoula, Mont., to Edmonds have passed resolutions that call the idea into question. Seattle is now poised to join them with one of its own.

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Environment
10:44 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Blue Ribbon panel warns about dangers of ocean acidification

Declining PH levels in the world's oceans interferes with many species ability to form shells.
Photo courtesy of Washington State Dept. of Ecology

Carbon emissions are threatening Washington’s shellfish industry. That’s the concern of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, which meets today in Seattle.

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Hanford Nuclear Reservation
5:10 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Hearing Focuses On Progress Of Hanford's Safety Culture

Chairman of the DNFSB Peter S. Winokur presides over a hearing on the safety culture at Hanford. Image via DNFSB video

Originally published on Tue May 22, 2012 5:33 pm

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s waste treatment plant is making progress on improving its safety culture. That’s the upshot of a hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C. before a federal nuclear watchdog agency. But not everyone familiar with the nuclear site agreed with that positive assessment.

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Environment
10:51 am
Tue May 22, 2012

Settlement on Seattle sewage overflows heads to council

Combined sewer overflows still threaten some Seattle beaches after heavy rains, closing them to recreation and violating the federal Clean Water Act.
Courtesy Seattle Public Utilities

A more efficient way to fix one of Seattle’s most embarrassing environmental problems – that’s the promise of a proposed agreement on meeting federal standards for clean water.

The problem is untreated sewage that flows into our lakes and other waterways after big storms.

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Geological history
9:22 am
Tue May 22, 2012

Book: Missoula Floods shaped inland Northwest

Bruce Bjornstad, of Richland, near the Potholes Coulee near Quincy, Wash. Photo by Bruce Bjornstad

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 5:11 pm

RICHLAND, Wash. – A new book details how a dramatic series of Ice Age Floods transformed the landscape of the inland Northwest.

The new book called, “On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: The Northern Reaches,” details what happened when floods whooshed into the Northwest and created the channeled scablands.

Bruce Bjornstad spent five years researching and writing his geologic guidebook. One fact in the book: It might have been as many as 1,000 floods that shaped the region, not just two or three big events.

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Environment
10:12 am
Wed May 16, 2012

Proposed dam puts Skykomish on list of ten most-endangered rivers

The proposed site for a new dam on the South Fork of the Skykomish River
Photo courtesy of Jeff Smith Save the Skykomish River

It’s designated as a State Scenic Waterway and recommended for federal protection. Yet the south fork of the Skykomish River has just been named one of the ten most endangered rivers in the country by the national environmental group, American Rivers.

It’s because of a controversial proposal to build a new dam.

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Environment
5:16 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Herbicide use on commercial timber lands questioned

Eron King of Blachly, Oregon says herbicide sprayed on forested ridge tops makes its way down to people and animals below.
Serene Fang Center for Investigative Reporting

Radio Transcript:

GELLERMAN: It's Living on Earth, I'm Bruce Gellerman. Oregon is timber country.
The terrain is steep, dark green, and intensely beautiful. Six million acres of Oregon forest is owned by commercial timber companies. The companies spray the land with herbicide when the trees are young. It’s an efficient way to kill every other plant except for the commercially valuable Douglas fir.

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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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