environment | KUOW News and Information

environment

T.J. Guiton

The Arctic Challenger left Puget Sound's Bellingham Bay Wednesday night and arrived at a deep-water anchorage near Anacortes, Wash., Thursday morning. The barge is part of Shell Oil’s fleet of vessels aimed at exploring the Arctic Ocean for oil.

The Arctic Challenger’s oil-spill containment system failed its first field test off Anacortes in September. Since then, Shell has rebuilt a 20-foot oil-containment dome that was “crushed like a beer can” in the first test.

Noah Berger / AP Photo

Energy expert Amory Lovins outlines a path to eliminate use of oil and coal in the United States by the year 2050 in his new book "Reinventing Fire." Lovins says the path will grow the US economy by 158 percent, and it can happen with no new federal taxes or subsidies.

Ross Reynolds talks with Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder Amory Lovins about energy independence.

Flickr Photo/Ryan Sitzman

Officials from the US Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Ecology hear public comment in Seattle this afternoon about a plan to build the largest coal export terminal on the West Coast near Bellingham. KUOW's Ashley Ahearn joins us with details. Then, we look at Michigan's new "right to work" legislation and the possible ripple effects in Washington state with University of Washington Professor Jim Gregory.

Ashley Ahearn

Exporting coal via the Northwest has become an issue so divisive that old friendships and alliances strain under the pressure. No matter how you feel about climate change or construction jobs or any number of issues bound to the five coal export terminals under consideration around the Northwest, chances are you know someone who feels differently about the issue than you do.

Eric Stowe / Splash

Eric Stowe’s Seattle-based nonprofit Splash works to provide clean water to children in China and the developing world. Ross Reynolds talks with Eric Stowe about how he got involved in clean water and the struggles he faces in his work .

Pat Gaines / Flickr

Coming up on The Conversation, December 7 at noon.

December 14 kicks of the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count and volunteers that have dubbed themselves as the Binocular Brigade are hoping to see some rare species. Here in Seattle there have been reports of snowy owl sightings. What is this large white owl doing here in Washington? Ross Reynolds talks with Seattle Audubon Conservation Director Matt Mega.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The federal government plans to release a major document early next week that could guide a couple of decades worth of cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. This is important because it maps out decisions like where to bury the radioactive waste, and how much to leave in place.

The new document is huge -- 6,000 pages huge. And it’s taken about 10 years to draft.

LONG BEACH, Wash. – It’s been more than four months since the last confirmed piece of Japanese tsunami debris washed ashore on the Pacific Northwest coast. Even sightings of suspected disaster debris have tapered way off in recent months. Does that mean we’re just in a lull or past the worst of it?

Damaged oil-spill containment dome
BSEE (via KUOW FOIA request)

A KUOW investigation has led a top congressman to demand answers about Shell Oil's underwater accident this fall in Puget Sound.

As we reported on Friday, an underwater test near Anacortes left Shell's first-of-its-kind oil-spill equipment “crushed like a beer can.”

Ground Truth Trekking

Landslide season has begun. That's when we hear stories about houses sliding down Seattle's famously steep slopes. But according to geologist "Hig" Higman, landslide season is about to get even hairier.

Katie Campbell

As regulators in the region weigh the potential impacts of trains full of coal moving along the Columbia River and the shores of Puget Sound, trainloads of oil are quietly on the move. There are billions of barrels of oil in the Bakken shale formation – located in North Dakota and Montana mainly. And some of that oil is now making its way to refineries in Puget Sound.

Damaged oil-spill containment dome
BSEE (via KUOW FOIA request)

UPDATE on Congressional interest in this story here.

Shell Oil has been building and testing equipment designed for the Arctic Ocean here in Puget Sound. In September, a key test of underwater oil-spill equipment was a spectacular failure.

Katie Campbell

Rescuing shellfish from the rising acidity in Puget Sound will require a wide-ranging response: everything from curbing greenhouse gases and controlling water pollution to growing more seaweed and putting restaurant-discarded oyster shells into shallow bays. Those are among the recommendations in a long-awaited report on ocean acidification that was delivered today to Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire by a blue-ribbon panel.

Woman with unbrella helps kids get on a bus
KUOW/Deborah Wang

Western Washington is bracing for more precipitation after record heavy rains snarled traffic and caused localized flooding on Monday.

According to the National Weather Service, 2.03 inches of rain fell at Sea-Tac Airport between midnight and 5:00 p.m. Monday. That breaks the previous record for the day of 1.23 inches set in 1962.

The National Weather Service says a second storm is expected to hit the region Tuesday, and an even stronger weather system will move in on Wednesday, bringing high winds to the coast.

Defending Nature With Sound

Nov 19, 2012
Flickr Photo/Michael Q Todd

Sound recordist Martyn Stewart says he started working for Mother Nature at an early age, “fighting for the planet and her critters.” Stewart has captured the sounds and plights of animals around the world for more than 150 films, documenting everything from fox hunts in the UK to dolphin slaughters in Japan. His latest film is “Dawn to Death: The Dolphins of Taiji.”

Also this hour: we sift the details of the Hostess bankruptcy with Fortune magazine's David Kaplan and talk with veteran broadcaster Bryan Johnson, who retired from Seattle’s KOMO 4 earlier this month after 53 years with the station.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Utility regulators are on the verge of ending the automatic delivery of White Pages phone books to Washington households. Legislation to do the same in Oregon hasn't gone anywhere.

In Washington and Oregon, state law requires the local phone company to deliver a phone book to each landline customer. But telecom companies contend most consumers no longer want a printed copy of the White Pages dropped on their doorsteps.

Frontier Communications government affairs manager Carl Gipson made that case to state regulators in Olympia.

Election 2012: Recap, Reaction and Analysis

Nov 7, 2012
Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna
Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna campaigns

The votes have been counted and another election day has come and gone. We recap the major races, reflect on the new reality of our political landscape and hear your reaction to last night's results at 206.543.KUOW (5869) or weekday@kuow.org.

Government agencies have begun the environmental review process for the largest proposed coal export terminal in the Northwest. It would be located near Bellingham, Washington.

If it’s built, the Gateway Pacific Terminal would draw trains from across the region, carrying coal from Wyoming and Montana to be exported to Asia, and those trains would move through Seattle. That would lead to more traffic, according to a new report from the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Read the full story on KUOW's Earthfix

Flickr photo/Haris Bahrudin

Weekday green thumbs Marty Wingate, Willi Galloway and Greg Rabourn join us to answer your flower, vegetable and native plant questions. Need guidance for your garden? Call us at 206.543.5869 or email weekday@kuow.org.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

The University of Washington got its launch Wednesday as the country's biggest testing ground for smart grid technology.

Smart grid is a catch-all term for something power providers are still trying to figure out — namely, how do you use modern technology, like the Internet, to manage how much power is flowing through the grid at any given time?

Read the full story on KUOW's EarthFix

Northwest Wild Mushrooms In Short Supply

Oct 24, 2012

Northwest wild mushrooms are in short supply this year. That’s had a big impact on the region’s lucrative mushroom hunting industry. It’s also changed what’s on fall restaurant menus in the Northwest and across the nation.

At Pagliacci Pizza in Seattle this autumn customers are often coming home to their families without the coveted mushroom Primo Pizza. The Northwest’s bleak mushroom crop means sometimes the stores cut back on the number of pies, or don’t have them at all.

Writer Craig Childs
JT Thomas Photo

Earth is an always-changing planet. Earthquakes thrust new mountains upward, sea ice melts, oceans rise, deserts spread, species die, civilizations collapse. Award-winning writer and commentator Craig Childs traveled to the desolate places on Earth where forces of nature are forever remaking the planet. He joins us to discuss his newest book, “Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth.”

RICHLAND, Wash. – Managers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation have confirmed that a radioactive waste tank has a slow leak. That waste isn’t getting into the environment.

This house-sized vessel is known as AY-102. It’s made of steel and concrete and buried underground to shield workers from high levels of radiation. It’s full of hazardous radioactive sludge left over from plutonium production here.

It was designed to last for about 40 years, and it’s already had its 44th birthday. The tank is leaking into the space between its two hulls in two spots.

Office of the President of Kiribati

The South Pacific island nation of Kiribati (pronounced Kir-uh-bahs) is comprised of 32 atolls and a raised coral island. It is the only nation in all four hemispheres of the Earth. But the future of the 100,000 residents is uncertain because of fears that global climate change will raise the ocean levels, making Kiribati, which is only 6 feet above sea level, uninhabitable by the 2050s.

Brenda Peterson: Finding Common Ground

Oct 9, 2012
KUOW's Dave Beck and author Brenda Peterson
(Photo: Robin Lindsey)

It's sometimes difficult to engage in conversation with people whose beliefs are very different from your own. But Brenda Peterson, a West Seattle author and environmentalist, has found a place on a local beach where she can have those conversations. It's a sanctuary for Brenda where she finds connection with creatures of all kinds. And it's the place where she founded the nonprofit Seal Sitters a few years ago.

Seal Sitters is a volunteer organization that watches after seal pups that show up on Puget Sound beaches. Brenda Peterson speaks with KUOW's Dave Beck. Her new children's book, based on her experiences with Seal Sitters, is called "Leopard and Silkie."

Other stories from KUOW Presents:

Flickr photo/Washington Department of Natural Resources

Dryer than normal conditions prompted Washington Governor Chris Gregoire to declare a state of emergency and extend a ban on outdoor fires. Outdoor burning is banned in all counties until October 15. The state is experiencing a rare stretch of dry weather.

Pink Dolphins In The Trees

Oct 5, 2012
Pink dolphins swim among flooded trees.
(Photo: Kevin Schafer)

The Amazon River is home to a creature that looks like it was conjured out of a dream: pink river dolphins. They have long, toothy snouts, and adult males can turn bubblegum pink. But what really makes these creatures unique is their habitat. When the Amazon River floods each year, the surrounding forest fills with water. The dolphins are free to swim where no other dolphins do: among the tops of trees.

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