EarthFix

News Fixed on the Environment.

EarthFix is a public media partnership of KLCC, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Idaho Public Television, KCTS9 Seattle, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Jefferson Public Radio, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s targeting a former creosote plant in the Seattle suburb of Renton for “immediate attention.”

The Quendall Terminals, on the southern shore of Lake Washington, joins Oregon’s Portland Harbor on the EPA's list of 21Superfund sites across the country for expedited cleanup and redevelopment.

Ocean Trash: What You Need To Know

14 hours ago

The story of a piece of litter doesn’t end at your curbside. Every year, millions of tons of trash find their way down storm drains and rivers to the ocean. Ocean currents take over from there, carrying man-made stuff thousands of miles away to far-flung corners of the planet—even to places otherwise thought to be untouched by people. And that makes marine debris difficult to clean up.

Here’s what you need to know about the trash that’s piling up on Pacific Northwest beaches and around the world’s oceans:

The Environmental Protection Agency says its targeting the Portland Harbor Superfund Site in the Willamette River for immediate attention.

California billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer is hoping Oregon will be the next state to fight the Trump administration’s policies on climate change.

Oregon Democrats are working on legislation for the upcoming February session that would cap greenhouse gas emissions. Steyer, who was active in California’s push to pass cap-and-trade legislation, is lending his financial support to the state’s progressive endeavor.  

'OPB Politics Now': Oregon National Monument Faces An Uncertain Future

Dec 8, 2017

President Trump ordered the shrinking of two national monuments in Utah this week. Attention immediately shifted to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says should also be smaller. We talk through the politics of these moves and get into Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's actions on the thorny issues of the state budget and PERS. Short answer: task forces!

Geoff Norcross talks with EarthFix reporter Jes Burns along with OPB political reporters Jeff Mapes and Lauren Dake.

Federal agencies are a step closer to deciding how best to manage the Columbia River system and protect endangered fish. They outlined goals for a range of plans at a public meeting Thursday.

A series of public meetings this past year gave the agencies plenty to think about. They received more than 400,000 comments about how to protect endangered salmon and steelhead and, at the same time, maintain navigation channels for river traffic, control floods, and meet hydropower demands.

The Trump administration is rolling back a requirement for trains carrying highly explosive liquids — like the oil trains that run through the Columbia River Gorge en route to Northwest refineries.

The 2015 rule was supposed to make these hazardous trains more safe, following a number of derailments. But that was under President Obama, Now, President Trump's Department of Transportation says railroads with trains carrying highly flammable liquids will not have to update their braking systems.

A band of raccoons scamper over a downed tree. A coyote sneaks a drink from a mossy pool. The black and white photos that flash across Professor Mark Jordan’s computer screen look like they could have been shot out on the Olympic Peninsula or maybe at a remote spot in the Cascades — until a curious house cat sneaks out of the underbrush.

Oregon Sending Help To Battle Growing Southern California Fires

Dec 6, 2017

Teams from Multnomah County all the way down to Jackson and Josephine counties are en route to Southern California where a series of fast-moving fires continue to rip through the Los Angeles area. 

The Oregon State Fire Marshal sent 10 strike teams consisting of 50 engines and about 100 personnel overnight Tuesday, making Oregon the first state to send resources to the Golden State for this event.

NASA, Scientists Want Help Measuring The Snow

Dec 5, 2017

Cities, farmers, and conservationists all need to know how much water is in each winter’s snowpack.

But there aren’t many weather stations that measure the snowpack, and “they tend to be at lower elevations,” says David Hill, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Oregon State University.

That’s why a team of Northwest scientists and NASA are looking for help. They’re asking snowshoers, snowmobilers, and skiers in Washington and Oregon to measure snow depth in the backcountry.

 

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is calling for one of the Northwest’s national monuments to be reduced in size.

 Zinke released a months-old report Tuesday making recommendations to President Trump on the fate of national monuments that previous presidents had established or expanded. Among the recommendations: that the president roll back at least part of the expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National monument.

Updated (Wed., Dec. 6, 7:45 A.M.): In lieu of the nation's withdrawal from an international agreement on climate change, 50 municipal leaders from around the country, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, signed a charter Tuesday committing their cities to emissions reductions. 

When Climate Change Makes It Hard To Breathe | Terrestrial

Dec 5, 2017

Climate change isn’t just contributing to drought, superstorms, sea level rise and flooding. It’s also making it harder for many people to breathe. People like 13 year old Estefany Velasquez. Her family faced a tough choice because of her asthma.  

Oregonians are still waiting to hear the fate Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument after President Trump announced Monday that he will shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah.

Southern Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou is on the short-list of national monuments being targeted by the Trump administration. The list also includes Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke toured Cascade-Siskiyou this summer as part of a far-reaching review of recently designated monuments across the country.

At a hearing in Portland Wednesday, Oregon environmental regulators took questions and comments on the new statewide air pollution rules they’re proposing.

The rules would limit the total health risk polluters can impose on their neighbors. In the first five years, they would target 80 yet-to-be identified polluters that pose the highest health risks and bring them into compliance.

This is the final part in a series on the future of fish farming in the Pacific Northwest. Read part 1 here.

Inside a chilly warehouse on the north end of Vancouver Island, eight giant tanks are lit with swimming pool lights. These are fish tanks — some of the biggest fish tanks around. Every so often the glistening back of a fish surfaces.

The Historic Multnomah Falls Lodge opened its doors to visitors Wednesday for the first time since the Eagle Creek Fire prompted its closure in September — peak visitor season.

Remnants of the fire remain, leaving popular areas off-limits to visitors including the lower viewing platform and trails surrounding the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon.

This is the first part in a series on the future of fish farming in the Pacific Northwest. Read the second part here.

The Hope Island Fish Farm floats in the middle of Puget Sound, about a 15-minute boat ride from Whidbey Island’s Deception Pass. Narrow metal walkways surround giant nets anchored to the bottom of the sound. Those nets hold thousands of Atlantic salmon--though it’s difficult to see them till they jump.

UPDATED (Wednesday, Nov. 29, 8:55 a.m.): Washington state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council voted unanimously Tuesday to turn down a controversial oil terminal planned for Vancouver, Washington.

The council’s decision to not recommend the project is another major blow against the massive oil-by-rail facility proposed by Vancouver Energy.

It’s also one of the last steps in a years-long permitting process to develop the oil terminal. The ultimate decision on whether the project goes forward will be up to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Autumn rains have washed away the smoke of the summer wildfires. But Congress remains embroiled in a high-stakes environmental debate over how to reduce the growing threat of catastrophic blazes in Western forests and rangelands.

Lawmakers are under more pressure to act after a wildfire season that was particularly harrowing. Nearly 9 million acres – an area about the size of New Jersey and Connecticut combined – burned. Intense smoke hit many of the West’s major cities, including Denver, the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland.

The long hunt finally paid off on the night of Aug. 6 for two employees of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They’d spent a combined 85 hours and driven 752 miles in pursuit of the Harl Butte wolf pack in the northeast corner of the state.

They had already come close, spotting wolves twice but never firing a shot.

But finally, on a Saturday evening, they killed a young male. Two days later, an Oregon Fish and Wildlife employee fired a kill shot from a helicopter while patrolling the rolling forests and pastures. This time it was a young female.

A Washington energy council has released a massive environmental report that could decide the fate of a controversial $210 million oil terminal in Vancouver.

The state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, discussed findings from the Final Environmental Impact Statement Tuesday afternoon at a special meeting in Olympia.

Satish and Arlene Palshikar live in a house in Southeast Portland that's coated with recycled bluish-white paint. Their boxy silver television is a 1990s vintage model they plucked from the curb.

"It said, 'Works fine,' so we said 'OK, we’ll take it,'" said Arlene Palshikar. "No packaging. Just load it in the car.”

They collect and reuse rainwater, compost their own food waste and avoid plastic whenever possible. It takes two months to fill their trash can enough to put it out on the curb for pickup.

Last year, five activists from the Pacific Northwest shut off pipelines bringing oil into the US from Canada. All five were arrested and charged with various felonies and misdemeanors. Now, a development in one of their trials could set a new precedent for cases in which climate change activists have been arrested for acts of civil disobedience.

What happened that day in October of 2016?

What if you looked around, saw where things are headed on this planet, and said to yourself, I want to start fresh. A group of scientists did just that. But things didn’t go as planned.

It’s been a long haul, but West Coast seal and sea lion populations have recovered over the past 40 years. All those extra predators may be eating more chinook salmon than people are catching, according to a new study.

Increasing numbers of marine predators could be bad news for chinook salmon — and for critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

Carbon emissions are making the oceans more acidic. That’s long been known to harm shellfish, but new research shows more acidic water could take a toll on salmon, as well.

  Everyone poops. Even climbers on the world’s tallest mountain.

All that human waste has caused a lot of problems for local villagers near Mount Everest’s base camp. But a group of Northwest volunteers thinks they've found a fix.

Right now, Sherpas carry barrels of human excrement down from base camp on the backs of yaks. The barrels used to be dumped into large pits above a glacier that flows into the valley below. After those pits filled up, the waste has been carried to excavated sites alongside water banks.

This story was updated on Monday, Nov. 20 with new information about opposition to the decision.

The federal government has approved plans for a controversial transmission line that would cross public lands in eastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho. The Bureau of Land Management announced Friday that Idaho Power will get right-of-way on federal lands for the 300-mile project.

Burn scars left after major wildfires can look pretty bleak.  But take a couple million steps back and you’ll find those fires aren’t keeping up with the natural filling-in of forest vegetation.

New research out of Oregon State University makes the case that considering the big picture is important to our understanding of fire in our region.

Pages