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.

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.

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.

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