environment

Coal Train Impact
8:44 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Documents Reveal Army Corps’ Earlier Concerns About Coal Trains And Wetlands

The TransAlta Centralia Generation Plant has been burning coal since 1971. The coal burned there was mined on-site until 2006 when the Centralia mine closed and the power plant began bringing in Powder River Basin coal by train.
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.

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Fuel Emissions
4:09 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

Study: Alaska Airlines Pollutes Less Than Other US Airlines

Flickr Photo/InSapphoWeTrust

Mile for mile, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines pollutes less than any other US airline. That's one of the findings of a new study of fuel efficiency in the aviation sector from a nonprofit group.

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Vashon Clean-up
1:11 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Restoring Puget Sound Shorelines One Beach At A Time

Creosote pilings at Dockton Park. They may look benign, but beneath the mud, Rabourn says they're still full of creosote, which ends up in shellfish, herring and larger predators.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

David Hyde went to visit the Vashon-Maury Island Basin steward for King County, Greg Rabourn, who helps restore Puget Sound shorelines one beach at a time. Rabourn led Hyde on a tour of the Dockton shoreline, where he and his team have been removing creosote pilings, bulkheads and decades of fill.

The site was originally a salt marsh. Then, a sawmill came in, and covered the marsh with log ends. Later came fill dirt, bricks from a nearby factory, and boulders. Now, all that stuff has been scraped away revealing spongy peat -- a gift from that long-buried marsh. Rabourn says he suspects there are dormant seeds hiding in that peat that could now sprout after seeing sunlight for the first time in a century.

Rabourn is a native plant expert and has been a frequent guest of KUOW as part of the Greendays panel.
 

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Pests
10:02 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Ouch! Yellow Jackets Having A 'Banner Year' In Northwest

Wikimedia

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 3:28 pm

Still smarting from a wasp sting this summer? Well, you're not alone. It's been a "banner year" for yellow jackets in the Northwest by many accounts.

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E-Waste
11:30 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Locked Phones: Good News For Carriers, Bad News For The Environment

Flickr Photo/Adam Russell

This January, changes in federal law made it illegal to unlock cell phones. This was great news for phone companies that like people to be locked into one carrier but bad news for the environment. Ross Reynolds talked with Kiera Butler, senior editor at Mother Jones, about locked phones and e-waste. 

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Tsunami Aftermath
1:03 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Japan Aims To Contain Nuclear Contamination With Wall Of Ice

NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane and other NRC officials stand in the darkened interior of Reactor 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex on December 13, 2012.
Flickr Photo/Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Japanese officials are still battling radioactive groundwater that is leaking as a result of the Fukushima Nuclear plant meltdown triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The latest effort to block contaminated water from leaking into the Pacific Ocean is a $470 million ice wall. How do you build an ice wall and how does it work? Larry Applegate, the president of Seattle-based firm SoilFreeze, a company that  creates frozen walls and tunnels, explains the technology to Marcie Sillman.

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Nuclear Waste
11:49 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Hanford Tank Farms Get All-Clear After High Radiation Reading

Ann King. File photo of a storage tank at Hanford.

Originally published on Fri September 6, 2013 9:37 am

The tank farms at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington have the all-clear for work to resume after a high-radiation incident briefly shut down much of the site last month.

In late August, Hanford workers responded to an emergency of a high-radiation reading near a tank known as C-101.

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Environmental Study
12:03 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Pollution, Not Rising Temperatures, May Have Melted Alpine Glaciers

The Alps' largest glacier, Aletsch Glacier, extends more than 14 miles and covers more than 46 square miles.
Wikimedia.org

Originally published on Tue September 3, 2013 8:28 am

Glaciers in the Alps of Europe pose a scientific mystery. They started melting rapidly back in the 1860s. In a span of about 50 years, some of the biggest glaciers had retreated more than half a mile.

But nobody could explain the glacier's rapid decline. Now, a new study from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory uncovers a possible clue to why the glaciers melted before temperatures started rising: Soot from the Industrial Revolution could have heated up the ice.

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Salmon Spawning
10:30 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Washington Tribes Grow Impatient With Fish-Killing Dam

The pink salmon run is strong this year. That's presented a challenge to the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for moving returning salmon in the White River around the Buckley and Mud Mountain dams.
Credit 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.

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Oil Transportation
11:14 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Shell Moving Ahead On Oil Train Project For Puget Sound Refinery

The oil refinery in Anacortes, Wash., with Mt. Baker in the background.
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.

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Film and Books
6:00 am
Mon August 26, 2013

Isabella Rossellini, Creativity With Sir Ken Robinson And George R.R. Martin

Flickr Photo/Sharyn Morrow

Actor, Model Isabella Rossellini On Making “Green Pornos”

Isabella Rossellini became famous for high-fashion modeling and for her acting roles in over 60 films and television shows. But she also makes films about sex. Specifically, the sex lives of animals. From the elephant seal to the little anchovy — all erotic encounters are on the table. Isabella Rossellini joined us back in 2009.

Sir Ken Robinson On Creativity

"All children are born artists. The problem is to remain artists as we grow up," says Sir Ken Robinson, an international expert on creativity. School, he says, encourages us to become good workers, not creative thinkers. So how do we fix it? Marcie Sillman talked with Sir Robinson in 2009 about his book, "The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything," and the challenges of teaching creativity.  

A Conversation With "Game Of Thrones" Author George R.R. Martin

With HBO's "Game of Thrones," George R.R. Martin's world of Westeros is seducing TV viewers much as it captured readers. Martin began writing science fiction stories in the 1970s, and early on his stories were nominated for awards. Raised in a housing project in New Jersey, he used to write monster tales for the neighborhood kids. Steve Scher talked with George Martin in 2012.

Salmon Recovery
10:39 am
Thu August 22, 2013

Can-Am Leaders Launch Salmon Recovery Effort

Salmon leaders from Washington and British Columbia gathered in Seattle for the launch of a new $20 million research and recovery project.
EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Leaders on salmon research and recovery from the United States and Canada came together in Seattle Wednesday to announce a new project.

It’s called the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, and it’s meant to address a major question: Why aren’t salmon and steelhead in Washington and Canadian waters recovering, despite the millions of dollars that have been spent on research and habitat restoration?

“We have a fairly clear idea of what salmon need and what they’re doing in the freshwater environment. We know considerably less about the marine systems,” said Jacques White, executive director of Long Live The Kings. The Seattle-based nonprofit is coordinating the effort along with the Pacific Salmon Foundation in B.C.

White says the project will focus on answering questions about what’s happening to salmon and steelhead when they leave the freshwater rivers and enter Washington’s Puget Sound and British Columbia’s Georgia Strait.

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Mysterious Migrations
12:01 am
Thu August 22, 2013

Where The Whale Sharks Go

A whale shark dives near the surface in waters off the coast of Mexico.
Marj Awai Georgia Aquarium

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 12:17 pm

Of all the creatures in the sea, one of the most majestic and mysterious is the whale shark. It's the biggest shark there is, 30 feet or more in length and weighing in at around 10 tons.

Among the mysteries is where this mighty fish migrates and where it gives birth. Now scientists have completed the biggest study ever of whale sharks, and they think they have some answers to those questions.

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Coal Train Study
10:21 am
Wed August 21, 2013

Seattle Mayor’s Coal Economics Study Released

Port of Seattle Photo/Don Wilson

The results of an economic analysis of coal export impacts on Seattle have just been released, more than a month after they were handed over to Mayor Mike McGinn, who commissioned the report.

The report, titled City of Seattle Economic Analysis of Proposed Coal Train Operations, cost $25,000. It was completed by Community Attributes and delivered to the mayor’s office on July 10.

But McGinn did not release the report to the public until The Seattle Times filed a public records request. Then the mayor posted the study to his blog on Friday afternoon, within nine minutes of giving a copy of the report to The Seattle Times.

When asked about the delay on the July 10 report, McGinn told EarthFix and KUOW, “That wasn’t the final because my staff and others provided comments to them and they made substantial revisions after that.”

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Environment Research
10:07 am
Fri August 16, 2013

Scientists Look For Climate Change Clues In Wildfire Soot

Anna King Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 4:10 pm

You may know that on a hot, sunny day it’s better to be sitting in a white car than a black one. White reflects sunlight, while black absorbs more of it.

The same concept applies to researchers trying to figure out what effect wildfires have on climate change. And part of the answer is whether the smoke particles are dark or reflective.

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