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environment

Baby humpback whales seem to whisper to their mothers, according to scientists who have captured the infant whales' quiet grunts and squeaks.

The recordings, described in the journal Functional Ecology, are the first ever made with devices attached directly to the baby whales.

People around the world use more than a trillion plastic bags every year. They're made of a notoriously resilient kind of plastic called polyethylene that can take decades to break down.

But the humble wax worm may hold the key to biodegrading them.

It was an accidental discovery. Scientist and beekeeper Federica Bertocchini was frustrated to find that her beehives were infested with the caterpillar larvae of Galleria mellonella, commonly known as a wax worm.

President Trump may not talk much about electric vehicles, but there's another American — with better name recognition in China — who does.

The voice of actor Leonardo DiCaprio, popular in China for his role in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, graces the showroom of Auto Shanghai, the city's biennial automotive expo, accompanied by images beamed on a circular wall showing Beijing covered in smog and children wearing pollution masks.

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.

Most creepy, crawly bugs are pretty much harmless when it comes to infectious diseases.

But there are two classes of little critters that cause big — and we're talking big — problems: ticks and mosquitoes.

To learn how climate change could alter the course of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases, we talked to two scientists who have devoted a major chunk of their careers to answering that question.

Let's start with the bloodsuckers that can stay on your skin for days.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by from left, Vice President Mike Pence, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, speaks at EPA headquarters in Washington, March 28.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Trump administration has started hiring for federal agencies, but not at the Environmental Protection Agency, according to internal documents obtained by KUOW.

Trump proposed cutting the environmental agency's budget by 31 percent, more than at any major federal agency, and scrapping 56 programs there, including funding for Puget Sound restoration.

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.

Abigail Swann is a professor and climate scientist at the University of Washington
University of Washington / Quinn Russell Brown


University of Washington professor and climate researcher Abigail Swann tells politics reporter David Hyde about why she signed a protest letter directed at EPA chief Scott Pruitt. She also shares a story about the time a border official told her climate science is a hoax:  

Kevin Butt's job is to find cleaner ways to power Toyota. One of the hardest places to do that is at the automaker's sprawling plant in central Kentucky, a state where nearly 90 percent of electricity still comes from coal.

Butt points out a new engine assembly line, where a conveyor belt moves in a slow circle. He says it was specially designed with a more efficient motor. There are also enormous fans overhead and LED lights, all changes that save millions.

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.”

Northwest rivers are running high as all that winter snowpack melts into spring runoff.

And that means the region is producing too much of a good thing: carbon-free, renewable energy in the form of both dam-generated hydropower along with electricity from spinning wind-farm turbines.

That's prompted the federal government to take an action it avoided during the last four years of drought conditions: shutting down wind power.

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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