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Earthfix

A Skagit County, Washington, jury found climate activist Ken Ward guilty Wednesday of second degree burglary for turning off an oil pipeline.

Ward, a Corbett, Oregon resident, was one of five activists who took part in the pipeline protest, turning off valves on Oct. 11 to stop the flow of oil from Canada into the U.S. in October. His case was the first to reach a jury verdict.

The Oregon Department of Forestry says wildfire season has officially begun in four regions of the state. 

Mike Shaw is the district forester for ODF’s Central Oregon district. He said this year’s heavy snowpack made for a slightly later-than-usual start to the season. 

“As the snowpack melts and recedes to higher elevation, the lower- and mid-elevation ground becomes available to burn, provided we don’t get much spring rain,” Shaw said.

In the wake of last week’s Trump administration announcement that the United States will pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, states are stepping up to fill the void. Washington announced a partnership with California and New York to form the U.S. Climate Alliance. Within days, Oregon and several other states signed on.

What is this U.S. Climate Alliance?

The United States is stepping away from the Paris Climate Agreement, but the consequences of climate change will be more difficult to leave behind. Take ocean acidification, a major emerging threat to West Coast fisheries.

Researchers at Oregon State University have recorded some of the highest levels of ocean acidification in the world – and they exist right off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.

Portland's Bike-Powered Mill Delivers A Low-Carbon Beer

May 26, 2017

Portland's Baerlic Brewing has teamed up with the Oregon Environmental Council to brew a low-carbon beer using a bike mill to grind the malt for its “Bike Crush Saison.”

The beer, scheduled to be released June 15, will be made with locally grown hops from Crosby Hop Farm in Woodburn. It will only be distributed within a mile of the brewery by bike or hybrid vehicle.

Washington Senator's Temporary Job Ends At EPA

May 25, 2017

Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen has finished his temporary job for the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency.

The Bellingham Herald reports that his 120-day position ended May 20.

Ericksen, a Republican from Ferndale, was hired shortly after the inauguration and during the 120-day period worked as both a state senator and a federal employee.

Culvert Case Decision A 'Win For Salmon' In Washington

May 22, 2017

A big court decision could open up new habitat for salmon in Washington and end up costing the state billions of dollars. The case stemmed from poor maintenance and design of road culverts, which can block fish passage upstream.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday denied the state’s request to rehear the case. A lower court had ordered the state in 2013 to fix hundreds of road culverts.

Road culverts are those metal pipes or concrete boxes you see carrying streams underneath roads. There are thousands across the Northwest.

Thousands of tourists migrate to Seattle’s waterfront each year to experience the ferry rides, kitschy stores and sweeping views of Elliott Bay.

Jeff Cordell says they’re overlooking something that makes the waterfront even more special: filamentous microalgae.

“Brown scum,” he said on a recent visit at low tide, running a gloved finger through a carpet of slimey growth. “We love to see that. This is really good stuff.”

New research shows some of the orca populations that visit the Salish Sea are booming while the orcas who spend most of their time there are suffering. It comes down to what the different orcas eat.

President Donald Trump's administration has signaled it wants local residents to have more say in decisions about public lands in their backyard.

But earlier this month the Interior Department canceled upcoming meetings of local citizen groups that give input to the Bureau of Land Management on how to manage public lands.

Most people have never heard of these groups because much of their work is done behind the scenes. They’re called Regional Advisory Councils — or RACS.

Washington AG Pledges To Defend National Monuments

May 11, 2017

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is pledging to defend the state’s national monuments. Ferguson sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke defending the Hanford Reach National Monument, which is up for review under an executive order.

Can a state environmental-protection regulation be considered a “tax”?

That’s a central question in a lawsuit by business interests against Washington’s regulatory cap on carbon-pollution emissions that went into effect on Jan. 1.

The answer could determine whether Gov. Jay Inslee can make progress on reducing global warming emissions in the state, long one of his top priorities.

Two toddlers run around Sally Garcia Acosta’s house. They squeal as they take their toy cars for a spin — to the living room, through the den, and around the kitchen corner.

Garcia Acosta sits on the couch beside a small butterfly-adorned box. It holds some of her most sacred belongings: memories of her deceased daughter, Maria Rosario Perez.

“This is her little blanket that she had in her little bassinet at that they have at the hospital,” Garcia Acosta said as she smooths out a soft purple blanket.

Smith Rock State Park naturalist Dave Vick peered through his spotting scope perched on a red rock cliff. He pointed the scope toward a tall ponderosa pine, spotting a downy mass in the middle of a 6-foot-wide nest. Inside was a 2-week-old bald eagle, or eaglet, named Solo because he was the only hatchling in this year's brood.

The floppy little bird was guarded by a stately adult bald eagle — one of the two in a nesting pair that lives here year-round. Solo then stared expectantly at the parent bird, opening his beak slightly.

Three national monuments in the Pacific Northwest are officially up for review. The Department of the Interior announced Friday that it’s opening up public comment periods for Hanford Reach, Cascade-Siskiyou and Craters of the Moon national monuments.

A proposed oil terminal in Vancouver, Washington, gained approval of a key permit Tuesday.

The Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, met in executive session before voting to release the draft notice of construction air permit for the controversial project.

A project that would export 44 million tons of coal a year from Longview, Washington, would raise the cancer risk for people living near rail lines, create traffic jams with its mile-long coal trains and increase global greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million tons.

The Millennium coal export project would be among the largest coal terminals in North America, and it would inevitably impact the environment and the surrounding community in Southwest Washington, according to a new report from state and county regulators.

Kill A Juniper Tree, Save A Sage Grouse

Apr 27, 2017

There’s good news for the West's imperiled greater sage grouse. New research suggests the bird has a better chance of survival when juniper trees are removed from its habitat.

The chicken-sized sage grouse's decline has happened over the same stretch of time that's seen western juniper and pinyon pine trees spread out across the bird's sagebrush ecosystem. Reasons for the trees' expansion include fire suppression, overgrazing and changing climate conditions.

As the stands grow more dense, they outcompete sagebrush. They also serve as perches for birds of prey.

Paul Savino’s first patient of the day collapsed under the weight of an overgrown child. He's seen these symptoms before.

“What we have here are a couple of dowel joints that have popped and one that has snapped,” he said. “But the patient will survive, I dare say.”

A piece of sandpaper, some wood glue and 20 minutes later, the toddler-sized wooden chair was back on its feet.

Environmental groups gathered Wednesday outside the Portland General Electric headquarters in Portland to protest the utility’s effort to permit two new natural gas plants to replace its coal-fired power plant, which is scheduled to shut down in 2020.

The protesters carried signs that read: “We want #cleanenergy not #frackedgas,” and they danced to their own rendition of the song “YMCA” that asked: “Why, PGE? The wind can do it, so why, PGE?” The protest coincided with a PGE shareholders meeting at the utility's headquarters in downtown Portland.

The salmon cannon made a big splash a few years ago on local news stations and even had a cameo on HBO’s "Last Week Tonight" with John Oliver. Soon, it could propel fish into its biggest project yet.

Even with all the hubbub around its name, the salmon cannon isn’t so much an explosion as a flexible plastic tube that sucks fish up and over obstructions — like dams.

The state of Oregon has announced a new round of taxpayer-funded grants to help schools and other public buildings better withstand a major earthquake.

The grant program is funded by state bonds. It was created just over a decade ago when lawmakers became convinced of the need to protect critical infrastructure as well as to protect lives of vulnerable people in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.

Washington’s Department of Ecology wants more information before deciding whether to approve a shoreline permit for a controversial methanol refinery in Kalama.

In its application, NW Innovation Works establishes a self-imposed limit of 976,131 metric tons greenhouse gas emissions annually. But in the letter to the county, the Department of Ecology says its calculations found an additional 232,136 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be emitted per year.

Helping juvenile salmon migrate out to sea has long been difficult and controversial. Barging is a common way to get the fish around dams.

The salmon are hauled around eight dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Idaho Conservation groups say this practice harms fish — and needs to stop now.

Seven groups sent a letter to NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, asking the agencies to this spring stop sending salmon along their migration route in barges.

Northwest communities are getting their drinking water from aging infrastructure that is costly to maintain and prone to breaking down.

That’s the conclusion of a new report issued by the Olympia-based Center for Sustainable Infrastructure, which is affiliated with The Evergreen State College.

The center's director, Rhys Roth, said those water systems were state-of-the-art when they were built a century ago.

Boardman is best known to thousands of people for its roadside attraction: a sprawling tree farm along Interstate 84. Acres of poplar trees sprouted in orderly rows along the highway running through Eastern Oregon.

Now, most of those plantation trees have been cut down, the land sold. Part of it will soon become Oregon’s second-largest dairy. Lost Valley Farms just received a key permit at the end of March. Its owners say the dairy should be up and running in a few weeks.

From the BelleWood Acres farmhouse in Washington's Whatcom County, you can see piles of apple crates and rows of trees that stretch for acres. This is the biggest apple orchard west of the Cascades.

“Spring time’s magical in the orchard,” says John Belisle, who owns the orchard with his wife, Dorie.

“There’s bees everywhere,” Dorie agrees. “The orchards hum with their working.”

An early warning system for earthquakes is expanding to Oregon and Washington — thanks to a group of universities and government agencies.

California has had the "ShakeAlert" system for a couple of years. And depending on where an earthquake hits, it can give nearby cities a warning of up to a minute or two. That’s enough for a train to stop, a lift to open, or for people to get out of a building.

Opponents Aim To Block State Funding For Methanol Plant

Apr 6, 2017

Opponents of a methanol refinery proposed on the Columbia River say Washington is poised to spend $12 million in public funds to help build the controversial plant.

They sent a letter to Washington lawmakers Thursday asking them to block that spending because it would pay for a dock and a road needed by methanol project developer Northwest Innovation Works.

Using Whale Breath To Find Out What's Ailing Orcas

Apr 5, 2017

Scientists have a new tool to figure out what’s ailing Puget Sound’s resident orcas. They’re studying whale breath, which is no easy feat.

“We had petri dishes that were mounted on an extendable pole,” explains Linda Rhodes, with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center. “We had to position the boat close enough to the whale so that when it surfaced and exhaled we would be able to pass the petri dishes through the plume.”

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