Environment

NW Forest Plan
2:43 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Critical habitat for spotted owl still vulnerable, groups say

A northern spotted owl in Packwood, WA on July 9, 2010.
Big Dipper 2 Flickr

Dozens of prominent environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth are asking President Obama for help protecting old-growth forests in the northwest.

Steve Holmer, with the American Bird Conservancy, says a new rule designating critical habitat for the northern spotted owl has loopholes.

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Recycling
11:28 am
Thu July 5, 2012

Ready for a statewide ban on plastic bags?

The plastics industry says bag bans discourage plastic recycling, because once a store stops providing the lightweight bags, industry no longer provides the bins.
The Associated Press

If you’ve shopped in Seattle lately, you’re probably aware of the ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags that started July 1. Now, you have to bring your own re-usable tote, or pay five cents for a paper bag.

It’s the second law of its kind to take effect in Washington. And with five more recently approved in cities from Issaquah to Port Townsend, momentum is growing for a possible statewide ban.

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Coal Exports
5:03 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Coal Spill Raises Questions About Boosting Exports

A train accident in Eastern Washington has raised questions about proposed increased train shipments of coal through the nearby Columbia River Gorge. Photo by Courtney Flatt/ EarthFix

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 6:53 am

RICHLAND, Wash. - This week crews are cleaning up about 30 train cars full of coal that overturned near Mesa , in Eastern Washington. The accident has raised questions about proposed increased train shipments of coal through the nearby Columbia River Gorge.

Huge machinery had to be trucked in from the Tri-Cities to clean up the black dusty mess in the rural burg east of Yakima. Car loads of coal overturned and damaged the tracks there.

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wildfires
2:08 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Guns blamed for starting wildfires in parched West

Fires like the Waldo Canyon wildfire, photographed on Tuesday, are being started by guns, say fire officials.
The Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. — In the tinder-dry West, campfires, fireworks and even lit cigarettes are banned across public lands. Another fire-starting culprit, however, remains free of most restrictions: guns.

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Environment
10:52 am
Mon July 2, 2012

First forest health hazard warning expected for Washington

Bug-infested forests are a growing concern in Washington state. Photo credit: Washington DNR

Originally published on Mon July 2, 2012 6:36 am

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s Lands Commissioner is expected to declare the state’s first ever forest health hazard warning Monday. The formal declaration comes amid growing concern about the potential for a catastrophic fire -– not unlike what we’ve seen in recent days in Colorado.

If you look at a map of dead and dying trees across Washington, the hot spots spread from the spine of the Cascade Mountains into northeastern Washington. Today, it’s estimated nearly 3 million acres of Washington forest are in poor health -– mostly riddled by tree-killing insects.

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Old drilling
10:36 am
Sun July 1, 2012

Ahead of Alaska drilling, Shell practices cleaning up

Trainees with Royal Dutch Shell learn to deploy oil spill booms in the waters near the port of Valdez in Alaska. The company is training about 200 spill responders.
Richard Harris NPR

Originally published on Mon July 2, 2012 10:02 am

Royal Dutch Shell could drill several exploratory oil wells into the waters off the north shore of Alaska this summer. The potential prize is huge, but so is the risk, should there be an oil spill in this pristine and remote region. And that risk is on everyone's mind since the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago.

Shell is now training hundreds of workers to confront oil in icy waters. But for now, the training is taking place in the calm, ice-free waters far to the south, near the port of Valdez.

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Environment
2:53 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Tentative OK for prospecting near Mount St. Helens

VANCOUVER, Wash. — The Bureau of Land Management says a Canadian company could prospect for copper, gold and silver near Mount St. Helens with no significant impact on the environment.

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520 Bridge Replacement
2:48 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Tolls deterring fewer than expected on SR-520 Bridge

It's moving faster, but there's still lots of weekday traffic on the toll bridge across Lake Washington.
WSDOT photo Flickr

Tolling rates are going up on the 520 bridge this Sunday, in the first of four annual rate hikes. The 2.5%  increase will add about an extra dime to peak fees. It comes 6 months after tolling began on the bridge between Seattle and the east side.

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Environment
9:28 am
Wed June 27, 2012

Arctic drill ships leave Seattle for Alaska

The Kulluk (above) and Noble Discoverer and support ships are headed first to Dutch Harbor.
The Associated Press

Two vessels fitted with drilling rigs left Seattle Wednesday for Alaska.

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Global Warming
9:50 am
Mon June 25, 2012

Study: Rising seas will hit Calif. hardest, but Washington still sees damage

As sea levels rise, waves will crash with greater intensity along the coast.
Photo by andreyphoto.com Flickr

Rising sea levels in the Puget Sound region may prove costly to taxpayers. A city like Olympia could have to re-build its sewer system. Other cities may find waterfront roads washed out.

The culprit is global warming. Warmer water expands, bringing sea levels higher. And glacial ice that is above water now is expected to chunk off and fall into oceans, causing additional sea level rise.

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Environment
4:33 pm
Thu June 21, 2012

Water quality improving for Puget Sound shellfish

Recreational shellfish hunters are finding more areas open in Puget Sound.
zenobia_joy Photo Flickr

Good news for those who love local oysters and clams: the state Department of Health says there’s been a steady improvement in water quality for nearly a decade, leading to fewer closures of shellfish beds in Puget Sound.

The key measure is of fecal coliform bacteria, which lives in human and animal waste. Runoff from farms and leaky sewage systems carries the bacteria and contaminates shellfish beds. People who eat the polluted shellfish can get sick.

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Environment
12:11 pm
Tue June 19, 2012

Seattle ban on plastic shopping bags kicks in soon

Sure they're useful, but you'll have to live without them in Seattle starting July 1.
Kris Flickr

They may be sorely missed by many dog owners in Seattle, who use them for cleaning up after fido. But they pollute our waterways, get stuck in the gears at recycling plants, harm marine wildlife and never break down completely. 

We're talking about thin plastic shopping bags, which are becoming a thing of the past at cash registers in Seattle, effective July first.

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coal exports
9:38 am
Tue June 19, 2012

Spokane joins Seattle in questioning coal trains

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane City Council has unanimously approved a resolution requesting further study of the effects of coal trains moving through the city.

In May, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the development of coal-export terminals in Washington state over concerns about increased train traffic and potential harm to health and the environment.

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Environment
10:50 am
Fri June 15, 2012

Puget Sound Energy target of 'Beyond Coal' campaign

Eastern Montana's Colstrip Power Project is the single largest power-generating facility PSE owns. Coal comprises about 35% of PSE's energy portfolio.

The Pacific Northwest has made headlines for its efforts to become the first coal-free region in the United States. Washington’s last coal-fired power plant, in Centralia, is scheduled to be shut down by 2025.

Yet one of the region’s largest utilities still derives more than a third of its power from coal.

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Puget Sound Environment
2:55 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Algae bloom on Puget Sound 'more intense' this year

This is probably the more intense Noctiluca bloom we’ve seen in central Puget Sound, according to the Department of Ecology.
Department of Ecology

If you’ve taken a ferry across Puget Sound recently, you may have wondered if someone dumped out cans of tomato soup in the water. Some have worried there's been an oil spill.

Large levels of algae called Noctiluca are visible in Puget Sound and people sailing on the water are noticing. The Washington State Department of Ecology says they are getting more worried calls this year.

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