Ashley Ahearn | KUOW News and Information

Ashley Ahearn

Environment Reporter

Year started with KUOW: 2011

Ashley Ahearn is KUOW’s award-winning environment reporter and the host of a new  national podcast on the environment, terrestrial. Each episode explores the choices we make in a world we have changed. 

Ashley has been covering the environment for NPR and member stations for more than a decade and you've probably heard her stories on Morning Edition, Marketplace, All Things Considered, The World and other national shows, as well as right here on KUOW in Seattle. 

She has a masters in science journalism from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California. In her spare time she rides motorcycles and snowboards and hikes in the Olympic and Cascade mountains with her husband and her ridiculously spoiled labradoodle. 

Ways to Connect

Courtesy of State of Alaska/Dan Lawn

Twenty five years ago today the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, Calif., ran aground in Prince William Sound.

Eleven million gallons of oil spilled out, polluting 1,300 miles of Alaska’s coastline.

Google Earth

Satellite images show the area on the Stillaguamish River near Oso, Washington, experienced a landslide in 2006. According to the Sliding Thought Blog, the "Hazel Landslide" that year was caused by groundwater and erosion by the north fork of the river.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/David Patte

The Washington Board of Natural Resources voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the sale of 200 acres of the Olympic Peninsula. The money from the timber sale will go to the University of Washington.

The land is home to a rare seabird whose numbers have plummeted to the point that it’s listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

The Navy is pursuing permits to continue conducting sonar and explosives exercises in a large area of the Pacific Ocean — and that’s putting marine mammal advocates on high alert.

Flickr Photo/EcologyWA

Officials are responding to an oil spill in Washington’s Puget Sound. The spill occurred at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and has spread 10 miles north to Hood Canal.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

You might call Barry Berejikian a steelhead stalker.

The government scientist’s pursuit of these anadromous trout has brought him to the deck of the Chasina, a research vessel that’s motoring through choppy gray waters of southern Puget Sound near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Hot on the heels of President Obama’s latest State of the Union address, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell came home to Washington to meet with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

But this wasn’t your usual boardroom PowerPoint session.

A file photo of a member of Puget Sound's Swinomish tribe participating in a ceremonial salmon blessing. Northwest tribes hold vigils along the Columbia River to pray for the return of salmon.
KUOW Photo/Katie Campbell

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce has declared the Fraser River sockeye salmon run a “fishery disaster” for nine tribes and non-tribal fishers in Washington state.

Flickr Photo/Kitaro & Kawauso

Environmental groups are turning to the courts to block the placement of hatchery-reared fish in rivers where wild fish are struggling for survival.

NASA/NOAA

Westerly winds can carry air pollution from China across the Pacific Ocean in just a few days.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers in the United Kingdom, China and the U.S.

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Following the 2011 tsunami in Japan, a nuclear reactor released hundreds of millions of gallons of radioactive water into the ocean. That sparked fear that contaminated water would reach the West Coast, but three years later, scientists say that radiation in our waters isn’t necessarily linked to the nuclear reactor. 

Transportation Safety Board of Canada

The oil-by-rail boom is underway, and with that, several high-profile, fiery derailments.  

But state officials don't have the information they need to prepare for an oil train mishap because railroad and oil companies are not required to disclose much on shipments or response strategies.

geoduck
Flickr Photo/USDAgov

Washington state officials said Tuesday they found lower contamination levels when they tested geoduck clams than those alleged by China when it said geoduck imported from Puget Sound had high levels of arsenic.

Flickr Photo/Roy Luck

An alert, issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday said that the crude oil coming out of the Bakken formation of North Dakota poses a “significant risk” because it is more flammable than traditional heavy crude.

China has closed its doors to all shellfish imports from an area that stretches from northern California to Alaska. The state of Washington says it's losing as much as $600,000 a week.

Among the shellfish not being harvested is the geoduck, a long-necked clam that can fetch up to $150 per pound in China. It's a major export for the Pacific Northwest.

Flickr Photo/Aaron Hockley

A federal board has ruled that the coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin have to take certain measures to reduce the amount of dust that is escaping from coal train cars.

China Imposes First-Ever West Coast Shellfish Ban

Dec 13, 2013

China has suspended imports of shellfish from the west coast of the United States -- an unprecedented move that cuts off a $270 million Northwest industry from its biggest export market.

China said it decided to impose the ban after recent shipments of geoduck clams from Northwest waters were found by its own government inspectors to have high levels of arsenic and a toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Fish and wildlife departments in Oregon, Washington and Idaho release millions of hatchery-raised salmon and steelhead into the rivers of the Northwest every year.

But a growing body of research suggests that hatchery fish are semi-domesticated and weaker than wild fish. Hatchery fish have also been shown to interbreed with the wild fish and compete for food.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Dozens of crab pot buoys dot the waters around Lummi tribal member Jay Julius’ fishing boat as he points the bow towards Cherry Point – a spit of land that juts into northern Puget Sound near Bellingham, Wash.

EarthFix/KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Three summers ago, the company that hopes to build the largest coal terminal in North America failed to obtain the permits it needed before bulldozing more than four miles of roads and clearing more than nine acres. 

Chris Jordan, a Seattle filmmaker, spent years documenting the effects of plastic pollution on albatrosses in the South Pacific. He was initially devastated by what he encountered but managed to work through his grief by facing it.
Courtesy of Chris Jordan

The majority of the plastic pollution in the ocean, by volume, comes in the form of tiny confetti-sized particles, which, as anyone who's ever kept a pet fish can attest, resemble fish food.

And fish are fooled as well.

EarthFix Photo/Katie Campbell

New research results suggest coal trains are contributing to the Northwest’s air pollution.

That’s according to the preliminary results of a University of Washington atmospheric and environmental scientist’s crowdfunded study.

An orca pod travels past the Seattle skyline. A new study shows that pods are most likely led by older females.
Courtesy of NOAA/Candice Emmons

Citing worsening marine water quality and the declining orca population, Chinook salmon and herring, the state agency Puget Sound Partnership referred to the Puget Sound as a patient in “critical condition.”

“Puget Sound remains in crisis,” says a report released last week by the agency. “It is increasingly likely that we will not reach our legislatively established targets by 2020.”

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

UPDATE: 10/29/2013, 12 p.m. PT: 

The leaders of three West Coast states – including Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee – and the premier of British Columbia agreed on Monday in San Francisco to adopt and maintain low carbon fuel standards. Under the plan, Washington and Oregon commit to mirroring California and British Columbia’s existing clean fuel standards. 

Flickr Photo/Ryan Sitzman

UPDATE: 10/18/13, 2:30 p.m. PT.

This story does not reflect recent donations of approximately $150,000 made to a political action committee that supports Whatcom County Council candidates believed to be sympathetic to the proposed coal terminal in Bellingham, Wash. Donations were made to Save Whatcom, a conservative PAC.

Original Post:

A relatively small county council election in Washington state’s far northwest corner could play a major role in the future of the US coal industry.

The Whatcom County council could end up casting the deciding votes to permit the controversial dock for the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would transfer coal from trains onto ships bound for Asia. It would be the largest coal export terminal on the West Coast.

Katie Campbell / Earthfix

SAMMAMISH, Wash. — A photograph displayed in Jacki and John Williford’s home commemorates a camping trip that would go down in family history.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

In 2009 President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. It provided $500 million for research and green-jobs training. Here in Washington, $16 million in federal funds went to green jobs training.

Pamela Gerber

Proposals to make the Northwest a major coal exporting region have made for a familiar debate over the potential impacts on people and the environment. Will it help the economy? What will coal dust do to the air we breathe? Will our rivers and marine waters be threatened?

Here’s another question: Will coal trains harm the wetlands of the Pacific Northwest?

So far, wetlands have not been a central part of the public debate over coal exports. But concern over these ecologically sensitive areas are familiar to the federal regulators who will decide whether to permit coal export terminals.

In fact, according to government documents obtained by EarthFix, the Army Corps of Engineers has already studied the issue. And in at least one instance, it’s reached a conclusion:

Coal trains are bad for wetlands.

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Right now there are tens of thousands of salmon dying at the base of an outdated dam on the White River east of Tacoma in Buckley, Wash.

Flickr Photo/RVWithTito

On Thursday morning Shell Oil will be meeting with officials from a county in Washington state to talk about plans to build a rail extension to deliver oil from North Dakota to its refinery near Puget Sound.

Pages