Environment

KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Seven companies have filed a legal dispute with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the plans to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

The companies, including Chevron, Gunderson, NW Natural, Union Pacific Railroad, Evraz Inc., Arkema and TOC Holdings Co., are all members of the Lower Willamette Group. The group has agreed to accept responsibility for some of the pollution in the highly contaminated 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River and work with the EPA on the cleanup.

It’s Union Pacific’s fault. That’s the basic thrust of a preliminary report from federal railroad regulators on Thursday. It investigates why a nearly 100-car oil train partially derailed and caught fire in the Columbia River Gorge on June 3.

OPB's Kate Davidson spoke to Sarah Feinberg, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration to learn more. The following exchange has been edited for clarity and brevity.

You can hear their full conversation by clicking play on the audio player at the top of the article.

During his daily bus commute in the bustling Indian city of Hyderabad, there was something that really bothered Narayana Peesapaty.

"Everybody was eating something on their way to work," says Peesapaty, who was working as a sustainable farming researcher for a nonprofit organization at the time. But it wasn't his fellow bus riders' snacking habits that troubled him. It was their plastic cutlery.

A new report from the Federal Railroad Administration released Thursday said Union Pacific is solely responsible for an oil train derailment earlier this month in the Columbia River Gorge.

The federal rail agency said in its preliminary findings that the derailment was caused by broken lag bolts that the railroad failed to maintain, which led to a widened track that caused the 16-car derailment.

“When it comes down to it, it’s Union Pacific’s failure to maintain its track led to this incident," said Sarah Feinberg, who heads up the Federal Rail Administration.

If you want to know how our relationship with wildlife has changed, consider how two different Seattle aquariums provided their visitors up-close encounters with one of the world’s largest predatory sharks.

In the 2000s, the Seattle Aquarium used underwater cameras so guests could watch sixgill sharks glide through the waters of Elliott Bay.

Colorful acrylic paintings on red and gray rock formations and profiles of people smoking cigarettes, signed with a repetitive "Creepytings," caused an uproar on Reddit more than a year ago. Now, the uproar is calming.

After spending a month drawing and painting on the rocks in seven national parks, Casey Nocket, 23, of San Diego, was banned this month from national parks and other federally administered lands, according to the National Park Service.

Union Pacific Locomotive Spills Fuel Near Troutdale

Jun 22, 2016

A 92-car Union Pacific train heading east spilled an undetermined amount of diesel fuel near Troutdale, Oregon, on Tuesday night.

The diesel leaked out of the locomotive. The cause was a fuel filter ring that failed, according to Justin Jacobs, a spokesman for Union Pacific.

The railroad has moved the locomotive to a location where officials can get a better sense of the amount of diesel that spilled.

Despite state and local calls for a moratorium, Union Pacific officials say they plan to resume sending crude oil through the Columbia River Gorge this week.

These would be the first trains carrying crude oil to pass on the Oregon side of the Gorge since the June 3 derailment in Mosier where 16 cars carrying crude oil left the tracks. The derailment spilled 42,000 gallons of crude oil and caused a fire that forced 100 people to evacuate their homes. The crash closed Interstate 84 for hours and left a small oil sheen on the Columbia River.

California’s prolonged drought has led to millions of dead trees that could make tinder boxes of huge swaths of the state as it heads into fire season. But the American West isn’t the only place coming to grips with chronic drought.

The World Resources Institute mapped water stress around the world and found major regions of every inhabited continent have serious issues with water. Here & Now‘s Peter O’Dowd gets an overview of drought crises around the world from Betsy Otto, director of the World Resources Institute’s Global Water Program.

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant will be shut down by 2025. The plan was announced today by the power utility operating the plant, along with labor and environmental groups.

A federal judge in Wyoming has struck down the Obama administration's regulations on hydraulic fracturing, ruling that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management doesn't have the authority to establish rules over fracking on federal and Indian lands.

In the ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl said Congress had not granted the BLM that power, and had instead chosen to specifically exclude fracking from federal oversight.

Five years of drought, 100-plus temperatures and gusting winds: Firefighters in Southern California are facing dangerous conditions as they battle two day-old fires east of Los Angeles.

And they're not alone. Wildfires are raging in several Western states as a heat wave grips the region.

The Reservoir Fire and the Fish Fire in Los Angeles County, both of which started Monday, have burned thousands of acres each. More than 750 homes have been evacuated, the LA County Fire Department says.

North Portland Residents Complain Of Flawed Air Testing

Jun 21, 2016

North Portland residents say state air testing in their neighborhood was flawed and doesn’t address their longstanding concerns about strong paint odors.

Neighbors of the Swan Island industrial area voiced their complaints Monday night at a forum at the University of Portland.

The U.S. Department of Energy is considering the future of a public asset worth tens of billions of dollars: the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

A crisp wind rakes the surface of Hood Canal, a narrow, 68-mile waterway and Puget Sound’s westernmost reach.

A group of divers emerges from the chop and wades ashore. They’ve just finished their first open-water dive.

“Congratulations. You’re certified,” said Callie Renfro, the dive instructor.

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