Ashley Ahearn

Environment Reporter

Ashley Ahearn is the environment reporter at KUOW and part of the award-winning regional multimedia collaborative project EarthFix. Before joining KUOW Ashley was a producer and reporter for Living on Earth, a nationally aired environment program from Public Radio International.

She has a master's degree in science journalism from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and has completed reporting fellowships with Vermont Law School, the Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island and the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources. She also serves on the board of the Society of Environmental Journalists. In her spare time Ashley enjoys riding vintage motorcycles, snowboarding and hiking in the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges of the Northwest.

Ways To Connect

Picture yourself at a noisy bar. You realize that you have been shouting at your date all night in order to be heard. Well, orcas in Puget Sound are in kind of the same situation.

Marla Holt, a research biologist with NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center, has found that loud boat noise forces endangered orcas to raise the volume of their calls.

But the question, Holt says, is "so what? What are the biological consequences of them doing this?”

The volcanic ridges of the Cascades have long been poked and prodded by people who want to know what kind of geothermal energy they'll find beneath the surface.

But many of the Northwest's hot spots are on public lands. And in some cases, federal land managers have prevented access by companies seeking to convert that magmatic force into clean electricity.

If you’re at the Seattle Mariners season opener Monday you might run into some folks with clipboards, gathering signatures for a newly-announced initiative for 2016 that would tax carbon emissions.

The circulation of petitions to put Initiative 732 on the 2016 ballot signals a new strategy that may come into play if Gov. Jay Inslee and fellow Democrats in the Legislature are unable to pass their own carbon cap-and-trade proposal.

In the Northwest, fisheries managers move salmon around dams using trucks and cannons. Why not a tunnel under the city of Seattle?
KUOW Illustration/Kara McDermott, Flickr Photo/Premshee Pillai (CC-BY-NC-SA)

The tunneling machine known as Bertha has been stuck beneath the Seattle waterfront since December  2013, stalling construction and racking up millions in cost overruns. 

One local engineering firm has a fresh idea for the fumbling tunneling project: Instead of moving Subarus through the heart of the city, the tunnel should be used by salmon. 

The tunneling machine known as Bertha has been stuck beneath the Seattle waterfront since December, 2013, stalling construction and racking up millions in cost overruns.

One local engineering firm has a fresh idea for the fumbling tunneling project: Instead of moving Subarus through the heart of the city, the tunnel should be used by salmon.

Washington regulators say the region's biggest oil-train operator should be penalized after failing to comply with reporting requirements following 14 spills of hazardous materials, including crude oil.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission said Thursday an investigation had found that between Nov. 1 of last year and Feb. 24, BNSF Railway committed 700 violations of the state's reporting requirement for railway spills of hazardous materials. Four of those spills involved trains carrying crude oil through Washington state.

Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, stands on the docks as tribal crabbers unload their catch. The tribe has vowed to fight the oil train-to-ship terminals  proposed for Grays Harbor.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

HOQUIAM, Wash. — Grays Harbor, with its deep-water berths and fast access to Pacific Ocean shipping routes, has all the ingredients to be a world-class port.

Shell Oil wants to build more tracks at its refinery in Anacortes, Washington, to receive oil by rail. At a packed hearing in Skagit County on Thursday, more than 100 people turned up to comment on the proposal.

Shell's refinery in Anacortes is the last of Washington's five oil refineries to apply for permits to receive oil by rail from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.

Gov. Jay Inslee has been pushing for a “polluters pay” carbon reduction plan for the majority of his time in office. Tuesday marked the first time that plan went before the state legislature, when the House Environment Committee held a hearing of HB 1314. The bill, which was drafted by the governor’s office, has 37 sponsors, all Democrats.

Sens. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, left, and Kevin Ranker. On Christmas Day, Ashley Ahearn asked them to join her at the Spar Cafe, a bar in Olympia.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Earlier this winter, Ashley Ahearn was growing tired of polarized political debate.

She wondered: Did politicians actually believe what came out of their mouths? So she invited Sens. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, and Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, leaders, to drinks at Spar Cafe in Olympia.  

The Navy conducts training and testing in a stretch of the Pacific roughly the size of Montana.

It wants to continue and expand its activities in these waters off the West Coast from Washington to Northern California. But first, the Navy must renew its permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The plan calls for detonating explosives, moving vessels, and deploying 700 more sonobuoys per year. And that's drawing criticism from environmentalists who say the increased use of sonar poses increased risk for whales and other marine mammals.

The Imperium Renewables biodiesel facility in Grays Harbor, Washington, uses canola and other plant oils grown in Washington and Canada to produce clean diesel.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

HOQUIAM, Washington — Before he launched a biofuel company, John Plaza was a pilot for Northwest Airlines, where his job was balancing the fuel mix on long flights across the Pacific.  

LUMMI RESERVATION, Wash. -- The Lummi Nation issued a letter Monday to the U.S. government seeking to end the project's permitting process for a coal-shipping project encircled by their Puget Sound fishing grounds.

File photo of oil train tankers in a Portland, Ore. railyard.
EarthFix Photo/Tony Schick

SEATTLE — For the past few years, a growing number of trains have been bringing “rolling pipelines” of oil from North Dakota to ports and refineries in the Pacific Northwest.

And in that time, the Washington and Oregon legislatures have failed to come up with the money to pay for the cost of responding to the increasing risk of oil spills in their states. That could change in 2015.

SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. -- The house was going to be modest, 1,300 square feet with a big porch looking out over acres of fields. Next to it would be a garage with a caretaker’s apartment over it.

“I’m kind of an old guy already,” Richard Fox said, standing in the pouring rain on his property and gesturing to the spot where he and his wife’s dream retirement home was to be built. A handful of drenched cows looked on, vaguely curious.

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