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.

Earth Day got you thinking about how your diet impacts the planet?

The World Resources Institute has news to ease a meat-lover's conscience: In a new report, it says you don't have to bid burgers bye-bye in order to reduce the environmental footprint of what you eat. Cutting back could go a long way, it says.

In the report, the nonprofit calculates the planetary effect of various possible changes in how the world eats.

Old-growth forests in the Northwest have the potential to make the extremes of climate change less damaging for wildlife. New research out of Oregon State University shows complex forests do a surprisingly good job of regulating temperature on the ground – even compared to fully mature tree plantations.

“On a sunny day, if you were sitting underneath them, you’d get a similar amount of shade,” says study co-author Matt Betts, an Ecologist at OSU.

Herrera Beutler Pushes More Oil Train Spill Planning

Apr 22, 2016

Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler has introduced a bill that would help firefighters around the country get grant money for oil train derailment and accident planning.

The bill doesn’t actually call for more dollars. Instead, it would create a higher priority for funding plans in communities where oil trains regularly travel.

UW-Tacoma biologist Aimee Kinney looks for small invertebrates that salmon feed on along a less-degraded patch of heavily walled Alki Beach in West Seattle.
kUOW Photo/John Ryan

In Seattle's King County, property owners have walled off most of the shoreline with concrete bulkheads and other heavy infrastructure.

Along Hood Canal and other rural parts of the sound, the owners of coveted waterfront homes keep building more walls to keep their properties from eroding.

Oregon regulators have results back from new air quality monitors installed after toxic hot spots were found in Portland. They show yet another reason for concern.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted 4-1 Thursday to approve new air pollution restrictions for colored glassmakers statewide.

Commissioner Morgan Rider voted no, saying the rules were a rushed overreaction to public outcry and would be unnecessarily burdensome to businesses.

Courtesy of David Haldeman

This Humanities Washington Think & Drink conversation addresses the effects of climate change in the Northwest. It features Amy Snover, director of the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien and KUOW environment reporter Ashley Ahearn. They spoke at Naked City Brewery and Taphouse on March 30. Anna Tatistcheff recorded their talk.

The Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, one of Washington's top 10 sources of greenhouse gases.
Flickr Photo/Scott Butner (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/e4EJ5B

The Tesoro oil refinery in Anacortes, Washington, is getting hit with more fines.

This time, the Environmental Protection Agency wants the refinery to pay about $720,000 for safety violations.

The U.S. Senate passed energy legislation Wednesday with a host of provisions important for the Pacific Northwest. This is the first time in nearly a decade an energy bill of this scale has passed from one house of Congress to the other.

Provisions in the Energy Policy Modernization Act would:

- Speed up a long-awaited land swap near Mount Hood.

A buyback of emissions-cheating cars was one solution Volkswagen offered in federal court Thursday, outlining an agreement between the carmaker and the Justice Department over hundreds of thousands of diesel vehicles that were sold in the U.S. despite not meeting pollution standards.

Car owners would be able to choose between having their vehicle fixed or accepting a buyback; financial details weren't revealed about the plan, which both the government and VW are calling an "agreement in principle."

On Friday, most of the world's governments are set to sign the most sweeping climate agreement in history. Their signatures will codify promises they made in Paris last December to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

The two largest sources of those gases are the U.S. and China. Whether they keep their promises will in large part determine whether the Paris deal succeeds. And it is by no means clear that they'll be able to keep their promises.

San Francisco will soon begin requiring new buildings to have solar panels installed on the roof.

It's the first major U.S. city to have such a requirement, according to Scott Weiner, the city supervisor who introduced the bill.

After Fires In West, Mushroom Hunters 'Chase The Burn'

Apr 20, 2016

Right now, and in the coming weeks, from Northern California to Alaska, commercial and amateur mushroom hunters will be scouring hills that were ravaged by fires last summer and fall. Their prey? Morel mushrooms.

"Sometimes we call it 'chasing the burns,' " mushroom enthusiast Kevin Sadlier says, in search of the black morel mushrooms that grow in the springtime after a forest fire.

An apparent surge in leakage from a huge tank of radioactive waste set off alarms at the Hanford nuclear site in south-central Washington. This involves an aging, double-shelled tank that contractors were slowly pumping out.

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