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.

Low Oil Prices Hurting Northwest Oil Terminals

Jan 29, 2016

With plans for new oil terminals still pending throughout the Pacific Northwest, low oil prices are hampering operations at existing crude-by-rail operations in the region.

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 biggest climate polluters in Washington have been identified, according to numbers out this week: the TransAlta coal-burning power plant in Centralia, the BP oil refinery at Cherry Point and the Shell Oil refinery in Anacortes.

As the state gears up to regulate climate-harming pollution, the Washington Department of Ecology has been tracking emissions from the state's biggest sources.

Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife officials are debating whether to close the only Columbia River sturgeon fishery below Bonneville Dam to protect the fish until the population rebounds.

CORVALLIS -- An expansion project at Oregon State University’s Reser Stadium has uncovered ancient mammoth bones under the football field's end zone.

Construction crews digging in the north end zone Monday found a 4-foot-long femur bone that experts have confirmed came from a mammoth, a prehistoric species that went extinct at least 10,000 years ago.

Further exploration with the help of archaeologists revealed thousands of bone fragments from several extinct mammals including bison and some kind of camel or horse.

This story was updated at 6 p.m. PST

The City of Seattle is suing Monsanto for manufacturing a cancer-causing chemical that's contaminating the city's Duwamish Waterway.

Monsanto was the sole producer of the chemicals PCBs from the 1930s through the ‘70s. They were used globally to make coolants, paints, lubricants and for other industrial purposes. PCBs also served a fire protection and safety protection for the electrical and other industries, according to the company.

Will The Oregon Occupation Ruin Bird Habitat?

Jan 26, 2016

The employees of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have not been able to go back to their desks ever since the armed occupation started earlier this month.

They’ve been able to do much of their work off-site, but some important stuff is being left undone.

That includes the effort to eradicate an invasive fish from the refuge’s waters.

The common carp arrived in the refuge in the 1920s and multiplied like mad, crowding out native species and severely messing up the habitat.

California is beginning its analysis of how three Klamath River hydroelectric dams are affecting water quality.

The state is in the middle of a series of scoping meetings, providing the public its first official chance to weigh in since the Klamath Basin Water Agreements fell apart at the end of December.

1 Rancher Says He'll Ignore His Grazing Contract

Jan 24, 2016

A rancher from New Mexico signed a letter Saturday telling the federal government he will no longer honor his grazing contract.

Armed occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge had hoped more ranchers would step forward. But Adrian Sewell, who owns 160 acres in New Mexico, was the only one.

He bought his ranch four years ago for about $1 million. It included grazing rights to 33,000 acres of public land.

Sewell said his grazing contract allows for 140 head of cattle, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service is restricting him to 85.

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
C
 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.

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