environment | KUOW News and Information

environment

Day becomes night when industrial smog is heavy in North Birmingham, Alabama, as on this day in July of 1972. Sitting adjacent to the U.S. Pipe plant, this is the most heavily polluted area of the city.
LeRoy Woodson for the EPA via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/545397

The Trump administration has proposed cutting the EPA's budget by 30 percent. What does that mean for polluted communities in the U.S.? 


As part of a set of ambitious new environmental goals, France expects to do away entirely with the sale of diesel and gas vehicles by 2040.

Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot announced the proposal on Thursday as part of the country's renewed commitment to the Paris climate deal, reports the BBC.

Hulot said that financial assistance would be available to lower-income drivers to replace their gas vehicles with cleaner ones.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

The agency that manages Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic national parks will see big budget cuts, if the Trump administration has its way.


Ivy grows rampant in Seattle, where roughly 10 percent of public land is infested with the plant.
King County

Ivy is perfectly picturesque when growing in the English countryside or climbing the hallowed walls of Cambridge.

But here in the Pacific Northwest, ivy is a bully. A tree-killing, rat-infested, bird-poop-traveling bully.

The triumph and tragedy of the Ballard Locks

Jul 3, 2017
A postcard of the Ballard Locks, 1917
Flickr Photo/Seattle Municipal Archives (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/ecguhZ

Bill Radke speaks with Seattle Times environment reporter Lynda Mapes about the 100-year anniversary of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also known as the Ballard Locks.

Mapes discusses how truly transformational the Locks were, for both good and ill. She details the ways in which the city was reshaped in ways that were only possibly because of the Locks. But she also discusses the human cost and how the oppressed Native American population was even further harmed by this progress. 

A new bill in Congress would make sure Washington's four lower Snake River dams stay standing. It’s push back against a recent court order to find “a new approach” to protect threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

That approach could include removing or altering the dams.

That's not something Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, thinks would be good for the Northwest. Newhouse introduced the legislation, along with four other Northwest representatives.

Recent University of Washington oceanography graduate, Frances Eshom-Arzadon, collecting samples for microplastics study.
Courtesy of Frances Eshom-Arzadon

If you put any fleeces in the wash lately, there’s a chance small pieces of plastic fibers from the clothing could be sitting on the sands of a Puget Sound beach.

A recent University of Washington graduate conducted a local study on microplastics. They’re teeny, tiny pieces of plastic that can be smaller than a grain of rice. 

PacifiCorp Looks To Expand Wind Energy As Coal Plants Retire

Jun 29, 2017

PacifiCorp is moving forward with a 20-year plan that reduces its use of coal-fired power while expanding investments in wind energy.

The utility, which serves customers in six Western states, has proposed spending $3.5 billion on a plan to add 1,100 megawatts of new wind energy — mostly in Wyoming — as well as a new transmission line.

The plan will also re-power wind turbines in the Columbia River Gorge by adding bigger turbine blades and upgrading equipment inside the turbines to increase their energy output by an average of 20 percent.

Study: Orcas Lose Two-Thirds Of Their Pregnancies

Jun 29, 2017

Two-thirds of all detectable orca pregnancies have ended in miscarriages over the past seven years, a new study shows.

To figure out if orcas were pregnant, the researchers trained dogs to find orca scat and then tested the scat’s hormone levels. What they found was sobering.

“Of those that we confirmed were pregnant, 31 percent of the pregnancies are successful. So 69 percent were lost,” said Sam Wasser, a University of Washington professor and study author.

If the world does nothing to limit carbon emissions, the US economy will suffer — but, according to a new study published Thursday in Science, the Pacific Northwest might actually benefit.

Two wildfires in north-central Washington are being managed as one. Fresh firefighters poured in Thursday to battle the Sutherland Canyon Fire, which grew dramatically overnight. The Spartan Fire near Wenatchee is transitioning to mop-up.

Fourteen states — including Oregon and Washington — are threatening to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Clean Air Act.

In a letter to the EPA sent Thursday, the group argues Director Scott Pruitt broke the law when he ordered his agency to halt part of the rule-making process for regulating methane and other air pollution from oil and gas facilities.

Climate scientists agree that this century is getting much warmer and that such warming will likely bring economic pain to the U.S., but economists aren't sure how much. Now, a team of scientists and economists, writing in the upcoming issue of the journal Science, says it can at least tell which parts of the country are likely to suffer the most.

The Green River emerges from the Howard Hanson Dam. The Green River receives several smaller tributaries.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Washington environmental groups are criticizing the Trump Administration's push to rescind a federal clean water rule. The rule prevents polluters from dumping into small waterways that flow into larger lakes and rivers.

When a bark beetle outbreak started killing off decades-old pine trees in a research forest in western Montana, Forest Service researcher Sharon Hood made the best of the situation. She and other researchers started studying which trees were dying, hoping that information would help land managers.

Liza Jane McAlister of Oregon opens a gate for the hay truck on 6 Ranch as her herding dog looks on from the back.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Why would a fourth-generation rancher who doesn't put much trust in the government choose to work with federal agencies to restore salmon runs on her property? 


A climate activist from Oregon will not serve jail time for his part in an oil pipeline protest last fall. A Washington judge instead sentenced the so-called “valve turner” to a month of community service and six months of probation.

Ken Ward of Corbett was one of five activists who turned valves off on several pipelines bringing oil from Canada to the United States. A Skagit, Washington, jury convicted him of second-degree burglary earlier this month.

For the first time in more than four decades, the Yellowstone grizzly bear is set to lose its federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Citing a rebound in the bear's population, the U.S. Department of Interior announced its intention Thursday to end these protections and return oversight of the animal's status to the state level.

The agency says the rule to remove the grizzly from the endangered species list will be published "in coming days" and "will take effect 30 days after publication."

Challenging The Idea That Electric Vehicles Are For The Rich

Jun 20, 2017

Poor people spend more of their income on gas and transportation and their neighborhoods often are more exposed to air pollution.

At the EV Roadmap Conference in Portland Tuesday, experts discussed how electric cars could help on both fronts.

The national conference drew more than 600 people to Portland to discuss all kinds of issues related to expanding the use of electric vehicles, from financing more charging stations to the possibility of self-charging autonomous electric cars.

Steve and Sandy Swanson were in a festive mood. It was an early December day and their house was ready for Christmas.

“We already had our Christmas tree up,” Swanson remembers. “The house looked beautiful.”

But, then, a representative of the Navy knocked on the door of their home on top of a ridge on Whidbey Island,

“She walked in, and she seemed genuinely moved by the bad news she was going to have to tell us,” Swanson says.

Washington state officials say people in Eastern Washington need to hunker down for a likely dust storm and possible wildfire conditions Tuesday night.

You've heard the one about it being so hot you can fry an egg on a sidewalk, well how about it being hot enough to ground a jet?

That was the case in Phoenix on Tuesday, where temperatures were forecast to climb as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

A federal judge will allow the Trump administration to complete its review of national monuments before deciding how to move forward with a lawsuit involving the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument.

Two timber companies in southern Oregon have filed a lawsuit against the expansion, arguing the enlarged Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is a violation of presidential authority and could hamper their logging operations.

Kenny Wayne Gunner plays guitar in downtown Bremerton at lunch time
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Earlier this year, the Navy scraped the hull of the U.S.S. Independence to prepare it for dismantlement. That likely released heavy metals into the waters of Puget Sound, which is bad for salmon and orcas. The Navy didn’t get a permit for the work, so environmental groups sued this week.

But in Bremerton? It's going to take more than that to shake this town's love of the Navy.


Millions of tubular sea creatures called pyrosomes have taken over the Pacific Ocean in an unprecedented bloom that has scientists baffled.

These bumpy, translucent organisms look like sea cucumbers that range in size from six inches to more than two feet long. But they’re actually made up of hundreds of tiny animals knit together with tissue into a filter-feeding cylinder.

Wildfire Smoke Pollution Is Worse Than We Thought

Jun 16, 2017

All that black smoke you see floating up from a wildfire — it’s full of small particles that are bad for your lungs and heart.

It turns out, the small particles are a lot worse than researchers previously thought. A new study found there are three times as much pollution in wildfire smoke plumes than predicted from earlier estimates.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt
WH.gov

President Donald Trump's proposal to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency faced a tough crowd Thursday.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had come to Congress to sell the budget.

Kwiaht

The Bureau of Land Management will not allow an archaeological dig at Iceberg Point in the San Juan Islands this summer after officials got an earful from residents concerned about possible impacts to the popular area.

In two weeks, thousands of peace-loving, free-spirited campers will descend on Oregon for the 2017 Rainbow Gathering in the Malheur National Forest.

The annual summer event attracts hippie types and wanderers from across the nation.

Rainbow members announced Thursday on social media that the July 1–7 gathering will be in a large field at Flagtail Creek, about 20 miles northwest of the tiny town of Seneca, Oregon, off Highway 395.

Seabirds Disappear In The Midst Of Plans To Shoot Them

Jun 15, 2017

For the second year in a row, thousands of cormorants have vacated their nesting grounds at the mouth of the Columbia River, derailing a plan to shoot and kill the seabirds to protect fish.

East Sand Island is usually packed with around 15,000 nesting cormorants this time of year; but right now there are none – just a handful of abandoned nests and broken eggs.

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