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.

Port Of Longview Votes No On Propane Terminal

Mar 12, 2015

Commissioners at the Port of Longview voted unanimously on Tuesday against pursuing a propane and butane export terminal.

The commissioners voted against Haven Energy’s proposal, despite the port’s chief executive Geir Kalhagen recommending the project for economic reasons.

Ashley Helenberg is a spokeswoman for the Port of Longview.

"They chose not to enter into the agreement for several reasons including that they were not comfortable with the site that was identified for the project and felt that it provided too few jobs to justify the risks presented,” she said.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has made what is perhaps her boldest political statement since she took office in February.

Low snowpack this winter could lead to an earlier, and more extreme fire season in the Northwest.

In many parts of Oregon and Washington, the snowpack is just ten to twenty percent of the average. It's not that precipitation is low, it's just that it has fallen as rain rather than snow.

John Saltenberger is with the Interagency Coordination center in Portland. He says the low snowpack means fire season could come early. Normally, firefighters are brought on in June, in anticipation of fires starting in July or August.

SEATTLE -- Port officials are standing behind their controversial decision to host Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet, despite protests, legal action and a city-led investigation.

The Port of Seattle signed a lease earlier this month that has caused a stir among some citizens and elected officials. At a public meeting Tuesday the port's commissioners got an earful when they opened the floor to testimony about their decision to lease Terminal 5 to Foss Maritime, which will then host Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet.

Nicaragua produces no oil, but is a land of fierce winds, tropical sun and rumbling volcanoes. In other words, it's a renewable energy paradise — and today the Central American nation is moving quickly to become a green energy powerhouse. Within a few years the vast majority of Nicaragua's electricity will come from hydroelectric dams, geothermal plants and wind farms.

Nicaragua's largest wind farm lies on the shores of giant Lake Nicaragua, which stretches halfway across the country.

Action Taken To Protect Fish At Bottom Of Ocean Food Chain

Mar 10, 2015

West Coast fishery managers adopted a new rule Tuesday that protects many species of forage fish at the bottom of the ocean food chain.

The rule prohibits commercial fishing of herring, smelt, squid and other small fish that aren't currently targeted by fishermen. It sets up new, more protective regulations for anyone who might want to start fishing for those species in the future.

An orca pod travels past the Seattle skyline. A new study shows that pods are most likely led by older females.
Courtesy of NOAA/Candice Emmons

Nearly every mammal on earth reproduces until they die – except for humans, and two species of whales.

A new study shows that older, female killer whales are most likely to lead their pods as they travel through the salmon foraging grounds of the Pacific Northwest.

Wyoming lawmakers have passed legislation that would allow the state to finance the construction of coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.

On Friday, Wyoming’s state legislature sent to Gov. Matt Mead a bill that would allow the state to issue up to $1 billion in bonds to help fund out-of-state projects, including coal export terminals.

Lloyd Drain, director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, said these projects would be good for Wyoming coal and the Northwest, too.

Arsenic in drinking water is a worldwide problem. Now a discovery by scientists at the University of Oregon could lead to a new way to remove the toxic chemical, making groundwater supplies safer for communities.

In the environment, arsenic is continuously cycling through different forms and combinations. Sometimes it’s dissolved in water, embedded in rocks, or in gas form in the air. Sometimes the chemical has organic molecules attached to it. Sometimes it doesn’t.

What happens when the price of oil tanks and suddenly you're faced with a whole lot less money to deal with your town's explosive growth?

If you're 52-year-old Rick Norby, you lose a lot of sleep.

"I haven't slept since I became mayor," he says. "I really ain't kidding you."

When Norby became mayor of Sidney, Mont., oil prices were about $100 a barrel. A year later, they've fallen to roughly half that. Yet oil production has continued to churn right along.

City officials are scrutinizing whether the Port of Seattle's permits allow Shell Oil to dock its Arctic drilling fleet at Terminal 5.
Flickr photo/Chas Redmond (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds speaks with City Councilman Mike O'Brien about plans for Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet to dock in Seattle.

Mayor Ed Murray joined O'Brien and other City Council members Monday in directing the Department of Planning and Development to investigate a lease that would allow Shell's fleet to dock at Terminal 5.

Keep grizzly bears in Alaska, residents of Central Washington residents have told federal agencies. Agencies are considering reintroducing the bears to the area.
EarthFix Photo

Bill Bruton, who lives in the foothills of the North Cascades, isn’t too keen on having grizzly bears as his neighbors.

That’s a proposition that has drawn dozens of his neighbors to meetings hosted by federal agencies in central Washington – Okanogon, Winthrop and Wenatchee. Those agencies want to reintroduce the animals to this part of the state, where ranches and homesteads butt up against public forestland.

Washington's Makah Indian tribe wants to resume its traditional practice of whale hunting.

The first step in winning federal approval came Friday, when NOAA Fisheries issued a draft environmental impact statement analyzing the tribe's request.

An activist in Eugene has created a block-long art installation to protest a proposed natural gas pipeline being proposed for Southern Oregon.

Mary DeMocker constructed a 300-foot-long fake pipeline out of wire and black plastic sheeting. It runs across the yards of six houses near the University of Oregon. Each house is marked with a large banner reading “condemned.”

Scott Pattee stands well over 6 feet, but he’s dwarfed by the tall white tube set up near the Stevens Pass Ski Area to measure snow depth.

Little black numbers marking inches of snow ascend the side of the tube. The top number reads 250 inches, an amount of snow that’s hard to imagine right now.

Most of the mountains around Pattee are green and brown, not white - even though it’s officially still winter until March 19 arrives.

And the snow depth, according to the tower?

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