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.

An earthquake of magnitude 7.1 struck the southern coast of Alaska early Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey says. The quake, which was centered just over 160 miles southwest of Anchorage, hit at 1:30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. EST), waking up many residents of Alaska's largest city.

Washington state ends public comment Friday on a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has taken public comment on the Vancouver Energy Project since November when it released its draft environmental impact statement.

The project is a joint venture backed by oil company Tesoro Corp. and logistics firm Savage Industries.

The agency is taking comments on its website until 11:59 p.m. Friday.

Solstice's Joe Santucci says new technologies reduce the need for power-hungry lights. But they aren't totally embracing LEDs.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

Marijuana growers in the Northwest are going to use a lot of electricity in the next 20 years, enough to power up to 200,000 homes, according to a recent forecast.

That’s because a lighting module to grow four marijuana plants takes as much energy as 29 refrigerators.

 A fashion faux pas could be the worst consequence if you wear the wrong color for the season. But a new scientific paper finds much higher stakes when it comes to mismatched coat colors in the animal world.

Can the ‘Godzilla’ El Niño’ solve California’s drought problem?

Jan 22, 2016
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 Image by Airborne Snow Observatory program, NASA/JPL, California Institute of Technology

The Los Angeles River has once again come to life, supercharged with rainwater. Freeways have flooded. And California’s Sierra Nevada mountains — the so-called “snowy mountains” — are living up to their name.

This is all thanks to the huge ocean-atmosphere event Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert is calling a “Godzilla El Niño.”

PacifiCorp is now trying to reach a quick deal with federal and state regulators to remove four aged dams on the Klamath River.

The aggressive action by the big western utility follows the failure of Congress over the last four years to pass sweeping legislation aimed at ending the water wars in the Klamath Basin that straddles the states of Oregon and California.

Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that paves the way for a partial closure of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant in Montana.

In the face of mounting environmental regulations, Puget Sound Energy wants to develop a plan to close two of Colstrip's four coal units – a move that could reduce the amount of coal-produced electricity used by Washington consumers.

The Washington utility is one of six owners of the overall plant, but co-owns units 1 and 2 with just one other company, Talen Energy.

Separation of church and state? When it comes to fighting food waste, the U.S. government is looking to partner up with the faithful.

To help you learn more about our state animal, Think Out Loud compiled this list after talking to Frances Backhouse, author of "Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver."

BHA refuses to allow those who want to steal your public lands get away with this. It's time to restore law and order, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. #keepitpublic

A group of Oregon sportsmen are attempting to drum up a formal opposition to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.

Activist Michael Lapointe at the BNSF Railway blockade in September 2014.
Rising Tide Seattle

Five climate change activists who blocked an oil train in Everett were convicted Friday of trespassing – but the jury gave environmentalists something to celebrate anyway.

A proposed summertime ban on consumer fireworks is firing people up at the Washington state Capitol. It’s just one of many ideas being floated in Northwest statehouses to avoid a repeat of last summer's bad wildfire season.

Citing concerns over pricing and pollution, the Obama administration on Friday unveiled a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. The change won't affect existing leases, which generated nearly $1.3 billion for the government last year.

The Department of the Interior says it wants to make sure the money it's charging for coal leases takes into account both market prices and what's often called the "social costs" of coal — its impact on climate change and public health.

The agency says federal lands account for roughly 40 percent of all U.S. coal production.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Northwest coastal tribes have counted on salmon and herring for thousands of years to fill their nets and fuel their cultures. That could change in just a few decades as warmer waters drive fish north, according to a study out this week from the University of British Columbia.

Warm ocean temps could be starving Alaskan seabirds

Jan 14, 2016
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Nigel Roddis/Reuters 

An estimated 8,000 black and white seabirds, called murres, were found dead on a beach in Alaska earlier this month.

Their bodies were found floating in the surf and washed ashore in the Prince William Sound community of Whittier. Wildlife ecologist Dan Grear said this is the biggest die off of the common murre in Alaska this season, but not the first.  

"Carcasses started to be noticed this fall in Alaska, and as the winter has progressed into December and early January, observers ... have started to find thousands of dead murres on specific beaches,” Grear said.

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