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environment

Driving up the coast toward Bay Center, Washington, it’s obvious when you start to approach Willapa Bay. Fifteen foot high piles of shucked empty oyster shells began to appear on the side of the road. This is an oyster town.

But it's also home to a sinking piece of history.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington are banding together in support of clean energy. They met Saturday in Seattle to discuss concerns over the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate policies that combat climate change.

“It doesn’t make sense for Oregon to do it alone; it makes sense when we do it in a regional basis,” Brown said, emphasizing that West Coast states need to work together.

The Trump Administration has issued an executive order rolling back fuel economy standards for cars and trucks and is expected to do the same soon for the Clean Power Plan. Both were designed to put the United States on a path to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Gary Holland of Northeast Southwest Trucking in Portland used clean diesel grant money to replace four of his old diesel trucks with new ones, including this 2016 model.
EarthFix Photo/Cassandra Profita

The decision by Volkswagen to cheat on diesel emissions tests means Oregon and Washington are in line for a big payday.

The states plan to turn millions of dollars from the company’s settlement into cleaner air by replacing dirty old diesel engines. Some say the money presents a golden opportunity to start phasing them out altogether.

The difference between a dirty old diesel truck and a new, clean one is up to 95 percent less pollution coming out of the exhaust pipe.

Seattle's Gas Works Park About To Undergo Toxic Cleanup

Mar 20, 2017

Kite flyers, picnickers, and Ultimate players treasure Seattle’s Gas Works Park, whose famous towers and pipes were once part of a coal gasification plant on the shore of Lake Union that lit up early Seattleites’ homes.

But beneath the grass lies a more insidious legacy of the park’s industrial past: toxic waste.

Over the weekend a large diesel spill developed on the Columbia River near downtown Wenatchee, Washington. So far state officials haven’t been able to locate the source of the spill.

Members of Idaho’s Nez Perce tribe are concerned about their treaty rights under a new president. That was the topic of the day at a conference that opened Friday in Lewiston, Idaho.

KUOW/John Ryan photo

In a budget marked by deep cuts across most federal agencies, science and environmental programs took some of the biggest hits in President Donald Trump’s proposed spending plan released Thursday.

Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen was paid $11,438 for his first four weeks working for the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, with a listed annual salary of $161,900, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Washington state and the U.S. Forest Service signed an agreement last week that officials say will improve on-the-ground management of public lands susceptible to wildfire.

During a public hearing Tuesday, businesses said on a proposed carbon tax in Washington state would cost jobs and hurt the state’s economy.

Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said 2.7 million acres of state land is in poor health and some of that is at risk of catastrophic wildfire.

When it comes to facing the reality of climate change, the Republican Party, now led by the Trump Administration, has been slipping ever farther from its roots as a champion of American science.

Last week brought further evidence of this disconnect — but it also held out a glimmer of hope that the party's turn away from the U.S. effort in science is not universal.

The streets of Dalianhe, in China's frigid northeast province of Heilongjiang, are lined with black snow. The town is home to one of China's largest open-pit coal mines. Workers drive through its front gate into a massive gorge with cliffs the color of ink — a canyon of coal. Thousands of feet below, it's silent but for the drip of melting snow.

How Traffic Is Drowning Out Frogs' Mating Calls

Mar 13, 2017

Chances are you’ve heard the Pacific chorus frogs’ call before. Its classic “rib-bit” is featured in basically any movie that needs frog noise.

The Pacific chorus frogs’ call is ubiquitous in the Northwest. But the amphibians are having more and more trouble hearing themselves.

Traffic is drowning them out.

During mating season the chorus of “rib-bit” “rib-bit” “rib-bit” attracts the females to ponds where they mate.

Polluting industries in Washington state don’t like Gov. Jay Inslee’s cap on carbon emissions -- and they don’t think it’s legal.

The Northwest has had above-average snowpack and rain in many areas this winter. That’s good -- it’s wiped out drought. But all that water has wildland fire managers concerned about the terrain’s greening cheatgrass.

The remotely operated underwater research vessel known as Boaty McBoatface is preparing for its first research mission — an expedition into "some of the deepest and coldest abyssal ocean waters on earth."

Boaty McBoatface, of course, was the moniker that emerged triumphant in an online poll meant to name the newest research ship in the U.K.'s Natural Environment Research Council fleet. But the council opted to overrule the will of the people, and named the ship the Royal Research Ship Sir David Attenborough instead.

One of the three boilers at King County’s West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant is back on line, heating water to the ideal temperature for the microorganisms that digest Seattle’s sewage. That’s an improvement since February, when an electrical outage followed by a mechanical failure caused massive flooding inside the plant.

There are nights when a phone call wakes Elizabeth Sanchey out of a dead sleep. At the other end, a voice alerts her to a snowy wreck with a semi-truck leaking oil or a logging truck that’s crashed on the Yakama Nation Reservation in Washington's Columbia River Basin.

And even through the fog of sleep, she knows this call is important. When gasoline or oil gets spilled, it needs to be cleaned up — and her hazmat crew is the one to do it.

Oregon’s backlog of expired water quality permits is among the worst in the country, meaning the state has let facilities discharge pollutants at levels that may violate current protections for the state’s waterways.

That's the argument of a lawsuit filed in Multnomah County today by two environmental groups seeking to force the state’s Department of Environmental Quality to update hundreds of old permits.

King County Releases Findings On Sewage Plant Failure

Mar 7, 2017

King County released preliminary findings Tuesday of what went wrong at the West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant. This February, an electrical failure there caused flooding and a massive dump of sewage into Puget Sound.

First, an electrical failure shut down the pumps that move treated wastewater into the sound. While electricians were trying to fix that, devices that measure how much raw sewage is in the plant also failed. Tanks filled up, and the plant flooded.

West Coast energy regulators met Tuesday in Seattle to renew their pledge to join forces in reducing the region's shared carbon footprint.

The chairs of the Washington, Oregon and California utility commissions cited as one of their goals the improved integration of the West Coast's power grids.

Washington's peak energy draw happens when people turn up their thermostats in the winter. Meanwhile, Californians' heavy reliance power is during the summer, when air conditioners are running, said Dave Danner, chair of the Utilities Commission of Washington.

A federal judge has denied a request by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River tribes to halt construction of the final piece of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Seattle and Puget Sound.
Flickr Photo/Shannon Kringen (CC BY SA 2.0)/http://bit.ly/1SvhrSN

Puget Sound may have a murky future.

The White House is proposing a 93 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency's budget for Puget Sound restoration. The proposal would cut the EPA’s overall budget by about $2 billion.

Bill and Cindy Wheeler have lived on Lake Sawyer for 30 years, but they don't know the weir master.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Our region’s rapid growth is straining our lakes, especially little lakes on the fringes of urban areas. When growth approaches, the communities around them aren’t always prepared to protect them from pollution. 


The latest Washington state water supply forecast is out and managers said Monday there’s no reason to believe the state might face drought this year.

Nisqually tribe biologist Chris Ellings holds up a sample of plankton from Puget Sound.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

The Trump administration has proposed cutting federal funding for restoring Puget Sound by 93 percent.


The U.S. is producing less air pollution, but smog levels are still rising in the western U.S. because of pollutants released in Asian countries that then drift over the Pacific Ocean. Researchers say their findings show the importance of a global approach to preserving air quality.

"Scientists found Asian air pollution contributed as much as 65 percent of an increase in Western ozone in recent years," NPR's Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai. "China and India, where many consumer products are manufactured, are the worst offenders."

A tiny brown bat wriggles about John Huckabee’s gloved hands, voicing its displeasure with a high-pitched series of screeches and squawks.

The wildlife biologist expertly grasps one of the bat's wings and unfolds it. Bending close, he searches for telltale signs of infection.

“There are a few small deep pigmented areas of scarring,” Huckabee said, turning the bat over in his hands. “But overall looks like he’s in very good shape.”

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