environment

There are more than two dozen pens at the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, Calif., and no vacancy. They're filled with more than a hundred sea lion pups, grouped by health condition.

The pups in the first row of pens are swimming in small pools and sliding across the wet concrete.

"These guys on this half of the facility are actually doing pretty well," says Lauren Palmer, the chief biologist at the center. "They're eating on their own. They're playing. They're porpoising."

The Department of the Interior has unveiled new regulations on hydraulic fracturing operations that take place on federal lands, requiring companies using the drilling technique to ensure wells are safe and to disclose chemicals used in the process.

The rules change follows a more than three-year review process and will affect the 90 percent of oil and gas wells on federal lands that now use so-called fracking to extract oil and gas.

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.

Chief Willy Harper inside the Oso fire house. It has reverted to a quiet volunteer fire department in the months since the slide.
KUOW Photo/Daniel Berman

Sunday marks one year since the Oso landslide. Highway 530 will shut down in the morning as people gather to commemorate the day.

The Oregon Transportation Commission on Thursday voted 3-1 to deny a $2 million grant of state funds for dock improvements at Port Westward in Clatskanie, Oregon, a project tied to proposed coal exports.

It was the second time the commission voted down the controversial application, which the former chair of the commission claims she was fired for refusing to approve the first time.

Environmental groups had urged the commission to reject the application and lauded the vote.

Poop Water: Why You Should Drink It

Mar 19, 2015
Bill Gates challenges "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon to guess which is the poop water made in the Omni Processor.
Screenshot from YouTube

Ross Reynolds speaks with Peter Janicki, the Washington-based creator of the Omni Processor, a machine which turns human waste into clean drinking water.

Also, Reynolds speaks with psychologist Carol Nemeroff about the psychological aversion many people have to recycled water.

It’s a double-whammy kind of year for the Pacific.

An unusually warm winter in Alaska failed to chill ocean waters. Then this winter’s El Nino is keeping tropical ocean temperatures high. Combine these and scientists are recording ocean temperatures up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average off the coasts of Oregon and Washington.

“This is a situation with how the climate is going, or the weather is going, that we just haven’t really seen before and don’t know where it’s headed,” says National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist Chris Harvey.

How to save rhinos? By turning their dung into paper.

Mar 18, 2015
<a href="http://www.lightstalkers.org/chirodeep-chaudhuri">Chirodeep Chaudhuri</a>

In a small factory in the northeastern India, a strange type of swill churns in a vat. Bits of chopped-up old hosiery swirl around in almost 200 gallons of water while, at six-second intervals, 72-year-old Mahesh Bora adds fists full of rhino dung.

Yes, you read that right.

Bora is making paper. The rhino dung adds fiber to the paper, and Bora says the whole enterprise will help save the endangered Asian one-horned rhinoceros.

When utility companies burn coal to make electricity — and it generated 39 percent of U.S. energy in 2013 — it leaves behind ash that can contain arsenic, selenium, boron and many other toxic substances.

Much of the Northwest has very low snowpack right now. But Mt. Bachelor near Bend is faring better than most western ski resorts.

After a bit of snow over the weekend, Mt. Bachelor now has the third deepest snowpack of any U.S. resort. That's according to On The Snow, a website that tracks resort conditions across the country.

Timber interests and environmental groups are gearing up for a multi-year fight over how federal forests are managed in Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

The Northwest Forest Plan is now 20 years old and due for an update, according to the US Forest Service.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared drought today in three regions of the Evergreen state: the Olympic Peninsula, the east side of the Cascade Mountains including Yakima and Wenatchee, and the Walla Walla region. 

Student activists Angela Feng, Sarra Tekola and Alex Lenferna of Divest UW appear before the UW Board of Regents on Thursday to urge the university to get rid of its coal investments..
KUOW photo/John Ryan

Student activists at the University of Washington urged the Board of Regents on Thursday to dump the university's investments in coal.

Why The Nuclear Energy World Is Thinking Small

Mar 13, 2015

In the world of nuclear power, one technology is generating debate: factory-produced reactors that are no bigger than a house.

These "small modular reactors" are designed to produce power on the scale of a single factory or business campus. That’s a big departure from a traditional nuclear plant — the kind that's powerful enough to run an entire metropolis and big enough to be seen from miles away.

The daffodils and tulips are up and so are hungry black bears. Our unseasonably mild winter is bringing black bears out of hibernation earlier than usual.

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