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.

Railroad industry experts are questioning the early explanation from Union Pacific for why its oil train crashed in Mosier, Ore.

Union Pacific said the preliminary indications from its investigation are “the failure of a fastener that connects the rail to the railroad tie,” according Justin Jacobs, a railroad spokesman.

A scene from a simulation by the Washington State Department of Transportation of what could happen if a massive earthquake hits the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
YouTube/WSDOT

Emily Fox talks with Lt. Col. Clayton Braun about Cascadia Rising, a four-day exercise to test the emergency response to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Braun is a member of the Washington State National Guard.

For weeks, DEQ and Bullseye Glass have been negotiating over whether the company should be allowed to resume using heavy metals while DEQ crafts rules for the art glass industry. Late Monday, the two sides announced a deal. OPB's April Baer sat down with DEQ's Keith Johnson to find out more about the major points.

Jim Appleton, the fire chief in Mosier, Ore., said in the past, he’s tried to reassure his town that the Union Pacific Railroad has a great safety record and that rail accidents are rare.

He's changed his mind.

After a long night working with hazardous material teams and firefighters from across the Northwest to extinguish a fire that started when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in his town, Appleton no longer believes shipping oil by rail is safe.

A train carrying Bakken crude derailed Friday afternoon near Hood River Friday afternoon, sparking a large fire and forcing a nearby school to evacuate.

The 96-car Union Pacific train was carrying Bakken crude oil headed for Tacoma, Washington, when it is believed to have experienced a braking issue and derailed near Mosier, Oregon, about 70 miles east of Portland.

The latest information from officials indicates 16 train cars derailed, four caught fire and some exploded. It sent black smoke into the sky, closed nearby highways and caused evacuations.

Black smoke billowed high into the sky above Interstate 84 Friday afternoon after 11 oil train cars derailed near Mosier, Oregon. At least one of the derailed cars spilled oil and caught fire.

The oil train fire in the Columbia Gorge is the first one since Oregon lawmakers approved funding for a hazardous materials incidents plan last year.

A photograph posted to Twitter of the oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon.
Twitter

A train towing cars full of oil derailed Friday in Oregon's scenic Columbia River Gorge, sparking a fire that sent a plume of black smoke high into the sky.

The accident happened just after noon near the town of Mosier, about 70 miles east of Portland. It involved eight cars filled with oil, and one was burning, said Ken Armstrong, state Forestry Department spokesman.

Bill Radke, second from left, said he was sick of frozen smiles. And Melanie McFarland, next to him, pointed out that crazy bouquet that's been sitting in our green room. Far left, former Mayor Mike McGinn. And far left, Seattle Channel's Joni Balter.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Yeah, those flowers are amazing. But this week!

Seattle city Councilmember Tim Burgess is proposing new regulation on short-term rentals that would affect how people rent on sites like Airbnb and VRBO. He sees it as one the fixes to the affordable housing crisis in the city. Is it fair to fix Seattle’s housing crisis at the expense of short term renters?

Washington state officials are holding a public hearing Friday in Vancouver on new rules targeting oil train safety.

One proposed rule would require trains carrying refined or crude oil to submit spill response plans that the state would approve.

Another proposed rule would make oil terminals and refineries alert the state that they plan to receive crude oil. Right now, companies that move oil by rail aren’t required to share that information with state officials.

For years, Multnomah County has been warning people about lead contamination in the home — from paint dust to pottery.

It’s also warned about water, but with the caveat that lead in the water is not a common source of poisoning.

News that 47 Portland School District buildings have shown elevated lead levels in the water in recent years has some experts re-examining that stance.

Forterra/Florangela Davila

Bill Radke speaks with Gene Duvernoy, president and CEO of Forterra, and Estela Ortega, executive director of El Centro de la Raza, about why their organizations are teaming up to create affordable housing and what building apartments has to do with saving the environment.

Beach-goers soak up the sun in view of the Puget Sound and Olympic mountains behind during a likely third day in a row of record high temperatures Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in Seattle.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Another hot summer is ahead for Washington. The National Weather Service predicts the entire nation will have higher than average summer temps, especially in coastal states.

The weather service says Washington and Oregon have a 50-60 percent probability of well above average temperatures this summer. It's the same prediction for Alaska and the northeast. 


A new report finds an oil tanker grounding on the Columbia River could cost more than $170 million dollars in damages. Estimates show the oil tanker could spill 8 million gallons of Bakken crude oil.

The report commissioned by the Washington Attorney General's Office looks at possible accident scenarios linked to the proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

Peter and Pam Hayes's claim about herbicide exposure in the forest of the Oregon Coast Range begins the same way as most from the news in recent years.

On May 17, they and two others were out tending their property. They heard a helicopter in the distance and thought little of it. Then, they say, they began to smell and taste chemicals.

“The helicopter was not over me. It was not droplets. It was just a super strong, strong taste," Pam said.

Why Are The Trees Green?

May 27, 2016

Consider the logical beauty of the blood test.

Its underlying theory is simple: The cocktail of molecules that is your blood is actually the mirror of active processes throughout the body in which chemicals — fats, proteins, sugars, enzymes, hormones, etc. — push and pull against each other.

Disease is what happens when, perhaps as a result of the admission of a germ from the outside or as a result of some unfortunate growth process, the amount of one molecule or another or the ratio of different substances to each other gets out of whack.

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