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 Oregon start-up that’s trying to use kites to generate electricity has secured close to a quarter of a million dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agencies.

Beaverton-based eWind Solutions is working with Oregon State University to develop kites that generate power by flying in a figure ‘8’ pattern. The hope is that will make the kites pull hard on their cords, which are attached to a ground-based ratchet system that spins a power generator.

Yellowstone National Park, a wilderness recreation area stretching for nearly 3,500 square miles atop a volcanic hot spot in Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho, may be in trouble.

Each year, Yellowstone attracts millions of visitors and provides a home to countless animal species, including the once-threatened grizzly bear and bison. But finding the right balance between tourism and preservation can be tricky.

Fishermen Look Ahead To Slow Ocean Salmon Season

Apr 15, 2016

Fishing groups saw it coming: the counts were looking low for this year’s runs of chinook - and abysmal for coho. And now commercial and recreational fishermen are coming to terms with lower ocean salmon catch limits set Thursday by fishery managers.

The new recommended catch limits put forth by the Pacific Fishery Management Council cut the non-tribal quotas by more than half in most areas.

Bob Rees is with Northwest Steelheaders, a sport fishing group. He says low number of fish make anglers less excited to spend the money and effort to get out on the ocean.

If you snip a bit of DNA from a vegetable, but add no new genes, does that vegetable qualify as a genetically modified organism, or GMO?

Is The Future Of Solar Bright In Oregon?

Apr 14, 2016

When the most recent legislative session ended in Oregon, the state’s energy future looked very different than it had just a few months earlier. Lawmakers moved to get Oregon off of coal by 2030. And that means replacing one-third of the state’s power supply in just 14 years.

Renewable energy development will likely benefit – and in particular, Oregon’s new laws are setting up solar as a potential big winner.

People who are interested in solar energy but don't own the perfect roof on which to install solar panels may have the option to buy into a bigger, centrally-located project. These are called shared solar or community solar. There's a boomlet of such projects in Washington state right now, while there are hardly any in sunnier Oregon and Idaho.

But Washington's generous solar incentives are coming under scrutiny.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says two artistic glassmakers in Portland should have installed pollution controls on their furnaces under national rules that were in place for years before emissions became an issue in the city.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced the EPA’s determination in a news release Wednesday.

The Bureau of Land Management released a new proposal Tuesday for managing the former Oregon and California Railroad forestlands in Western Oregon.

The so-called “O&C Lands” have traditionally been used to generate money for local counties, but since the 1990s, those revenues have been shrinking.

Bullseye Glass has announced it plans to resume using cadmium in its glassmaking operation now that the company has installed a pollution control device to reduce harmful emissions.

The company voluntarily suspended its use of cadmium and arsenic in February after a U.S. Forest Service study and follow-up air testing revealed heavy metal hot spots near the Southeast Portland facility. In March, Bullseye announced plans to install a pollution control device.

Vancouver Port Hears From Public On Oil Terminal Lease

Apr 12, 2016

Commissioners at the Port of Vancouver are weighing whether or not to breathe new life into what could be the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal.

The project’s backers, oil company Tesoro Corp. and logistics firm Savage Industries, have asked the port to extend the terms of their lease by two years.

Trans-Alaska Pipeline, northern Brooks Range, Alaska. Rocks in the background produce oil on the North Slope.
Flickr Photo/U.S. Geological Survey (Public Domain)/https://flic.kr/p/ogvPnb

Bill Radke speaks with New York Times reporter Kirk Johnson about how the crash in oil revenues for Alaska is threatening rural schools in the state. 

Are Pandas Bad For Washington?

Apr 12, 2016
pandas
Flickr Photo/iheartpandas (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/kvuifK

David Plotz has one message for Northwest animal lovers when they consider adding pandas to their zoos in the next year: Don’t do it.

“Pandas have been duping us for a generation now,” Plotz said. “These animals don't want to survive. They're evolutionarily a dead end. They don't take care of their children. They don't breed. They eat only one food.”

A leading brand of home and garden pest-control products says it will stop using a class of pesticides linked to the decline of bees.

Ortho, part of the Miracle-Gro family, says the decision to drop the use of the chemicals — called neonicotinoids, or neonics for short — comes after considering the range of possible threats to bees and other pollinators.

"While agencies in the U.S. are still evaluating the overall impact of neonics on pollinator populations, it's time for Ortho to move on," says Tim Martin, the general manager of the Ortho Brand.

Oregon House Speaker Criticizes DEQ Investigation Of Swan Island Odors

Apr 11, 2016

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek has criticized the state Department of Environmental Quality’s handling of a contentious air quality problem in North Portland, and is asking the agency to reconsider a determination that paint fumes from a truck maker are not posing a nuisance to neighbors.

The big Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011 happened more than five years ago, but debris from that disaster is still washing ashore on the Pacific Northwest coast. The chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration visited Long Beach, Washington, Friday to hear about the ongoing response. 

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