Environment

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

AP Photo

  

Over the last several years, Hanford Nuclear Reservation managers have mishandled barrels and boxes of hazardous and radioactive waste in the central part of the southeast Washington site.

The state of Washington last Friday slapped the U.S. Department of Energy with a $15,000 fine.

AP Photo

About 300 workers who were told they'd be laid off can now keep their jobs at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. 

Because Congress approved the 2014 federal budget for 2014 last week, layoffs announced last year can be avoided.

Ed Ronco / KPLU

Sen. Maria Cantwell is sending a letter to the White House, asking the president to stop a mining project in Alaska.

About 1,000 Washington residents hold permits to fish for salmon in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Not far from there, an organization called the Pebble Partnership wants to open a gold and copper mine.

That’s a bad idea, said people gathered outside Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal on Thursday.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Scientists have said it's safe to eat fish caught in the Pacific Ocean in the wake of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, but rumors continue to circulate on the Internet. 

To quell these false claims and put consumers at ease, a Seattle fish company has conducted independent tests to prove Pacific salmon is safe for consumption.

As the biodiesel industry convenes for a national conference in San Diego today, one of the topics of discussions will be the loosening of the renewable fuel standard.

Among the participants will be Seattle-based General Biodiesel, a company that turns used cooking oil into vehicle-grade fuel. The company 's CEO is upset over backpedaling by the federal government on incentives for more use of alternatives.

AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries Service, Candice Emmons

A conservation group is asking federal officials to protect endangered killer whales in the marine waters off the West Coast.

The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to designate critical habitat for orcas along the coast of Washington, Oregon and California.

Matthew Brown / AP Photo

Last year’s fires aboard oil-carrying trains in Quebec and North Dakota have spurred environmentalists into action here in Washington state.

Figuring out how to keep Washington families safe from oil spills is one of two top-line issues backed by more than 20 groups in the Environmental Priorities Coalition this legislative session.

Randy Wilder / Monterey Bay Aquarium

It's not something we often think about, but as we go about daily life, we're constantly shedding little flakes of skin. So are animals and fish. This fact now makes it possible to estimate which species are most plentiful in a lake or bay.

University of Washington professor Ryan Kelly is jazzed.

"This is about the coolest project I have been involved in,” Kelly said.

courtesy PNNL

When you turn on your tap or shower in the morning or run your washing machine at night, you probably aren’t thinking much about how many other people in the area are doing the same thing.

But when it’s cold outside, use of electric heaters for hot water often pushes peak loads to the brink for local utilities.

That’s where so-called smart-grid technology could come in and save the day. The idea, which increases energy efficiency and saves everyone money, is being put to the test on Fox Island, near Tacoma.

David Goldman / AP Photo

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved an unusual way for prospective immigrants to earn a U.S. green card and permanent residency. They can loan money to independent Northwest truckers who want to upgrade to less-polluting rigs.

The idea was the brainchild of Bellingham immigration attorney David Andersson and a cross-border association of state Legislatures and parliaments called the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

A dry start to winter has left the snowpack in Washington far short of normal.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's snow survey office in Mount Vernon says as of Jan. 1, snowpack readings were 45 percent of normal for that time of year.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington state health officials say its own arsenic testing has confirmed that geoducks harvested from a Puget Sound bay are safe to eat and don't pose a health concern.

Officials say they're hoping the test results will help persuade China to lift a ban it imposed last month on the import of clams, oysters, mussels and scallops harvested from Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Northern California.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Researchers want you to grab the camera, head to the beach and capture this weekend's king tide.

The highest tides of the year are taking place, and the state is asking citizens to help document potential impacts of rising sea levels. 

Scientists who have been studying a swarm of small earthquakes that shook Spokane in 2001 say they may have evidence of a new fault in the area. 

On Friday, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey announced an airborne survey of the Spokane area revealed clues that look to be connected to a so-called swarm of small earthquakes that struck in 2001.

The swarm was actually several small quakes, the largest of which registered a 4.0-magnitude quake on Nov. 11 of that year.

Tom Banse

Some causes just seem hopeless some days. Like world peace. Or ending poverty. Or in a different vein, getting rid of non-native plants.

But you've no doubt met people who insist on tackling intractable problems here locally and around the world. One particularly dedicated fellow wages a solo fight each weekday morning against English ivy.

Earl Steele / Flickr

It’s prime time for wild steelhead, but you likely won’t see it on a plate, not even at the Steelhead Diner in Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

“I don’t kill wild steelhead. I don’t eat them and I don’t serve them at my restaurant, and I never have,” said Kevin Davis, the restaurant’s chef who likes the Washington state fish so much that he named his first restaurant after it.

Many share Davis’ passion for the steelhead, which is a type of rainbow trout. Some restaurants and most vendors in Pike Place Market have informally banned selling or serving wild steelhead.

Devan Schwartz

The Northwest wine industry has grown tremendously over the last few decades. That’s had a big economic impact, but that growth has also changed the region’s landscape.

In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, you don’t see a lot of oak trees anymore. Spacious oak savannas have been replaced by farms and vineyards. But one family is holding onto an old oak tradition despite the odds.

Pierce County Television

Devastating floods in the Puyallup River valley near Orting are soon to become a thing of the past.

The city is breaking ground on a new $16 million levy. The project will restore the landscape around the river at the foot of Mount Rainer to something more natural, with room for floodwaters to soak into the landscape.

Allen Pleus / Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife

A cold snap might be an effective tool for fish and wildlife managers trying to stop the spread of a tiny invasive species. Capitol Lake in Olympia is serving as a testing ground for freezing out New Zealand mud snails. 

Tom Banse

Just like consumers who postponed new car buying during the recent recession, so did government agencies put off vehicle replacements. But now procurement officers are getting busy again. In this buying cycle, every Western state is under a directive to buy alternative fuel vehicles and to reduce fossil fuel use.

The legislation or executive order always comes with a caveat: do so, except when it's not economically or logistically possible. A western Washington driver is showing what is possible when you push an electric car to its limit.

courtesy Wild River Press

 

Sean M. Gallagher grew up fishing steelhead. He's one of hundreds of sport fishermen who spend hours on riverbanks, seeking out the sparkling skin of rainbow trout known as steelhead.

Like some salmon, they come back from the ocean in winter to spawn upriver. But while salmon turn red and die when they return to their origins, steelhead live for several years in fresh water and get bigger — as big as 40 pounds while they are traversing regional rivers.

Gallagher, a first time-author, shares “the lures and lore of a Pacific Northwest icon” in his new two-volume book titled “Wild Steelhead.” We asked him for a primer on the fish he loves so much.

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

Some residents in the Olympia area are concerned about dredged materials being disposed of in the Puget Sound. They say the Department of Natural Resources is failing to protect underwater ecology at the same time that state and federal governments are spending millions on cleanup.                

Tim Durkan

The spectacular sunsets we've been enjoying recently have a downside: they’re indicators of increasing air pollution.

Pollution has risen to unhealthy levels around Puget Sound this week. State health officials say pollution often goes up in the winter.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

King County is poised to join the city of Seattle and several other municipalities in passing a resolution banning the burning and the transportation of coal in Washington state. 

King County Council member Larry Philips is leading the charge to bring the county on board with what towns and cities all over the region have already done: saying loud and clear that coal is not the answer to the future of energy. The opponents are calling for a comprehensive environmental review of the effects of a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point near Bellingham. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s been called the most significant environmental story of this century: the removal of hydroelectric dams on the Elwha River, near Port Angeles.

The project is only partly done; Elwha Dam, one of two structures holding back salmon and steelhead runs, has been fully removed, and the other, Glines Canyon Dam, will be out next fall. But the landscape is already changing dramatically.

Associated Press

Managers and scientists are working against the clock to solve a new possible problem at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

How much sludge can be dumped into a double-shelled radioactive waste tank before flammable gas might build up in a big bubble?

At a group of waste tanks called the C-Farm, workers are pumping the radioactive sludge out these old single-shelled tanks into the more stable double-hulled ones This radioactive witch’s brew constantly generates hydrogen and other flammable gases.

Anomieus / Flickr

U.S. Senators from the Northwest say it’s time "to strike a better bargain" with Canada over hydropower generated along the shared Columbia River. That was one upshot of a Thursday Senate hearing to discuss how to renegotiate a nearly 50-year-old cross-border treaty.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Environmentalists are celebrating an apparent victory in Whatcom County where controversy over a proposed coal terminal seems to have tipped the balance of power.

Four candidates backed by the Seattle-based Washington Conservation Voters appear to be winning. They are incumbents Ken Mann and Carl Weimer, and challengers Barry Buchanan and Rud Browne.

What does the amount of fish people eat have to do with whether big employers thrive in Washington state?

Fish consumption is at the heart of the state Department of Ecology's quest for compliance with the federal Clean Water Act, which aims to protect human health. Fish absorb toxins from polluted water. So when people eat it, their health might be at risk. That risk increases with more fish in their diet. 

Right now, the state Department of Ecology officially assumes that people eat only about one meal of fish per month—a standard that’s known to be outdated and insufficient to protect human health.

WSHFC

Avi Jacobson was serving his first tour in Iraq in 2007 when he noticed his own unit's heavy reliance on a single generator. 

Jacobson’s Air Force base ran almost solely on the generator, which was overworked with computers and air conditioners almost daily. When the usage hit the generator’s tipping point, Jacobson said, “everything would die," triggering an eerie silence.

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