Earthfix

Major changes are underway, with more on the horizon for Oregon’s pioneering bottle deposit system.

Those changes -- the biggest since the Bottle Bill's adoption a generation ago -- have been slowly playing out as grocery stores close their return stations in favor of centralized off-site redemption centers.

And the state will soon determine if the deposit paid for each bottle and can of soda, water or beer will remain at a nickel or double to a dime.

Those changes are all about increasing the rate of empties -- and deposits -- that get returned.

The Obama administration delivered a trade war victory Tuesday to an Oregon solar manufacturer and others in the U.S. sector.

The Commerce Department sided with SolarWorld by upholding tariffs on solar panels imported from China and Taiwan.

The Commerce Department ruled that competitors from those two countries have been using illegal foreign government subsidies and dumping solar panels in the US market at below-cost prices.

After a more than a year of testing, dairies in Washington’s Lower Yakima Valley are trying to reduce water pollution from manure. A report from the Environmental Protection Agency had found the dairies were likely sources of nitrate pollution to nearby residential wells.

EVERETT, Wash. -- A judge ruled against a couple Tuesday after they sued for the right to drill a well and build a new home on their property in Skagit County.

The case marks the latest battle in the ongoing fight over water rights in Washington's Skagit River valley.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel dismissed the case brought by property owners Richard and Marnie Fox. He told the couple that they can't build a home on their property because they don't have legal access to water.

Editor's Note: This story was updated Saturday, Dec. 13.

One small point in a spending bill approved by Congress Saturday could be a big deal for sage grouse.

A spending bill rider would delay a decision about whether to extend endangered species protection to the greater sage grouse. A decision about whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act is currently scheduled for September, 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.

For decades the Army Corps of Engineers used an island near the Bonneville Dam as a dumping ground. Toxic chemicals leaked into the Columbia River. The island is also a historic fishing site for the Yakama Nation.

The tribe is now suing the Corps to recover costs from helping clean up the contamination.

In 2003, the Corps removed electrical equipment and contaminated sediment found at the bottom of the river. In 2007, it dredged the area to remove more contaminated soil.

Federal timber payments to counties in the Pacific Northwest may be a thing of the past, after funding failed to make it into a Congressional spending bill this week.

For the past century, when timber was logged on federal land, the county where that land was located would get a cut of the profits. The reason: counties couldn’t collect property taxes on federal lands, yet still had to provide services there.

SEATTLE -- As the waters of the Pacific warm, methane that was trapped in crystalline form beneath the seabed is being released. And fast.

New modeling suggests that 4 million tons of this potent greenhouse gas have escaped since 1970 from the ocean depths off Washington's coast.

A new study finds a statewide carbon tax would allow Oregon to reach its emissions reduction goals with little economic harm.

The Northwest Economic Research Center at Portland State University spent eight months examining the economic and environmental effects of a carbon tax in Oregon. Researchers considered taxes between $10 a ton and $150 a ton on greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, natural gas for heating and fossil fuels used to generate electricity.

Winter storms off the Oregon and Washington coastlines are expected to bring a new wave of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Scientists say objects are already washing ashore – with potentially invasive organisms riding along.

In March, 2011 an earthquake and tsunami devastated a large swath of eastern Japan. The tsunami reached heights of over 100 feet in some places, washing large quantities of manmade materials out to sea. Japanese officials estimate that about 1.5 million tons of debris floated out into the Pacific.

Scientists determined this weekend that the dead orca that washed up on Vancouver Island last Thursday was pregnant when she died.

The young female was a member of the endangered southern resident killer whale families of Puget Sound.

Experts who conducted the necropsy on the whale said her fetus was between 5 and 6 feet long - about a half the length of the mother. The fetus was already decomposing, suggesting to scientists that the mother was attempting to expel her stillborn calf when she died.

Illegal Four-Wheeling Takes A Toll On Public Lands

Dec 5, 2014

ETHEL, Wash. -- “Drivers, are you ready?” an announcer shouts from to a line of trucks, Jeeps and other rugged vehicles.

Mud is everywhere. Soupy brown liquid splashes up four feet high. The four-wheelers plunge into a mud bog. The vehicles race through the mud to see how far they can go.

Most don’t make it to the end. Even the announcer notices.

“Our pits aren’t that easy this year,” she explains to the crowd that's gathered.

It’s a challenge these drivers are ready to tackle.

A national defense bill expected to pass Congress this session includes a major expansion of Oregon Caves National Monument in Southern Oregon.

The expansion involves a land transfer of 4,070 acres from the Rogue Siskiyou National Forest to the National Park Service.

It also makes the River Styx – which runs through the main cave system in the national monument – the first underground river to receive Wild and Scenic status.

This summer, the Huckleberry wolf pack killed more than 30 sheep in northeastern Washington. Wildlife officials then authorized the killing of up to four wolves. A sharp shooter accidentally killed the pack’s alpha female.

The idea behind the kill order: taking out wolves with a habit of preying on livestock will protect cattle and sheep.

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