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.

It’s 8 o'clock on a rainy, windy Saturday morning, and John Hoac and Brandon Teeny just got to school —  Cleveland High in south Seattle. They’re here to measure air and noise pollution on campus.

Oregon Lawmakers Hear Opposing Views On Cap And Trade Bill

Feb 5, 2018

Oregon lawmakers held a joint committee hearing Monday on a bill that would create a cap and trade program to reduce the state’s carbon emissions.

Senate Bill 1507 would set a cap on carbon emissions and require about a hundred companies to buy permits. It would create a market where businesses could buy and sell carbon permits and offsets.

The Trump administration has reversed a key policy for protecting migrating birds. Officials say a century-old federal law is outdated and poses a burden for utilities and energy companies.

Editor's note: An unedited Web version of this story that had been inadvertently published has been removed.

Portland City Council closed a major loophole in regulations protecting children from exposure to lead in paint.

In a unanimous decision Thursday, the council voted to require crews to limit the spread of lead dust and asbestos when they demolish homes built before 1978.

Lead-based paint in homes is the leading cause of lead poising in the nation.

Remodeling an old home can trigger federal requirements to prevent exposure to lead paint. 

The whales off the West Coast depend on sound to communicate, navigate and find food. So, what happens to their health when we fill their habitat with noisy ship traffic?

Brian Allen is up to his elbows in cold, black water. He’s hanging over the side of a small boat, trying to pull in a tangle of ropes.

They’re heavy and being dragged sideways by the current. He strains against them.

Allen is a researcher with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund. He’s working within a 2.5 acre plot of open water near the mouth of Hood Canal, west of Seattle.  The area is roped off on two ends, and inside dozens of buoys bob in the low chop.

Oregon State University researchers have a quandary. They have a nearly-80-foot-long blue whale carcass they want to turn into an educational display…but no funds. 

The blue whale is the largest animal in existence. And the carcass that washed up near Gold Beach in 2015, may be the first one that’s been found in Oregon since the Lewis and Clark era.  OSU has kept the bones in Yaquina Bay so critters can pick its bones clean.

Far more farmed salmon escaped from a collapsed net pen in Puget Sound than was first reported, according to a just-finished state investigation that lays much of the blame on the fish farm's operator.

On Tuesday, three Washington state agencies released their investigation into what happened when the Cooke Aquaculture salmon farm collapsed last August on Cypress Island north of Anacortes. The departments of Ecology, Natural Resources, and Fish and Wildlife conducted the investigation.

The twin-prop airplane banks left and crests a crooked ridgeline of the Cascade mountain range. Inside, Jeff Lewis cups his headphones firmly to his ears.

He’s listening for the sound of a rare animal — one that hasn’t been seen in these mountains for more than 70 years.

"We’re getting a boomer now," he says, as a faint beeping sound pulses steadily over a wall of radio static. "It’s pretty special when you find one of these animals and it’s alive."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has rejected a permit to build the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver. 

Inslee sided with the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which unanimously voted late last year to reject the project, citing significant and unavoidable risks.  

“I found that the review by the Council was extremely thorough and comprehensive and was confident this was the right decision,” Inslee told OPB.  

Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced plans to reopen the West Coast to offshore oil and gas leasing.

It’s a dramatic reversal of Obama-era policies that blocked offshore drilling, and it’s drawn fierce opposition from all three West Coast governors.

Audit: Oregon Must Do More To Prepare For Catastrophic Disaster

Jan 25, 2018

Oregon is not prepared for a catastrophic disaster, according to an audit from the Secretary of State’s office released Thursday. 

The audit, which looked at state and local emergency management efforts, found the state failed to meet national baseline standards for emergency management, and that planning efforts lack on all levels of the state’s emergency management system. 

That’s due in part to “inadequate” staffing statewide, including understaffing at the Office of Emergency Management.

Yet another building with 400 offices, first-floor retail space, and underground parking is going up in Seattle’s South Lake Union.

One of the primary ingredients for the building is concrete. As each concrete truck empties its contents into the site, a new one pulls up: that’s a truckload of concrete every five minutes.

As the Pacific Northwest booms, it’s using a lot of concrete to build buildings, roads and other infrastructure — and making all that concrete is a big part of our carbon footprint.

Hillsboro-based SolarWorld is hiring back workers and planning to ramp up its production now that President Donald Trump has approved a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels.

"My administration is committed to defending American companies," President Trump said before signing a proclamation of import duties on Tuesday, "and they’ve been very badly hurt from harmful import surges that threaten the livelihood of their workers."

Tsunami Watch Tests Readiness Along Oregon Coast

Jan 23, 2018

Emergency management officials along the Oregon and Washington coasts woke up to a tsunami watch Tuesday morning, prompted by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake off the coast of Alaska.

The watch was later downgraded when the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration determined a small tsunami observed in Alaska posed no threat to coastal communities in the Pacific Northwest, but local emergency response protocols were still put to the test.

Trump Approves 30 Percent Tariff On Imported Solar Panels

Jan 22, 2018

President Trump has approved a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels in a decision that could both help and hurt the U.S. solar industry.

The tariff approval, announced Monday by a U.S. trade representative, is expected to help U.S. solar manufacturers including Hillsboro-based SolarWorld — but many argue it will hurt the rest of the U.S. solar industry by raising the price of solar panels.

Farmers, cities, and conservationists rely on melting snow to water their crops, feed their aquifers, and fill streams and rivers for fish. But, usually, no one has any idea how much snowpack--and, thus, snowmelt--to expect until it’s too late.

“It’s important for farmers to understand what can they plant, and when should they plant?” NOAA scientist Sarah Kapnick explained when I caught her on the phone just before the government shutdown went into effect for her agency. “It also matters for people that are really interested in fisheries.”

In the wake of the Oso landslide and the current situation unfolding at Rattlesnake Ridge, Washington state public lands commissioner Hilary Franz is asking the Legislature for more time to review proposals from timber companies to log potentially unstable slopes.

The U.S. Forest Service gave an update on the conditions of Columbia River Gorge trails Friday, indicating that some of the most damaged trails "may take several years to reopen."

Forest Service employees and volunteers have been working since the fall to assess damage from the Eagle Creek Fire to more than 20 miles of trails.

"Crews found a range of conditions from low burn severity to treacherous sections where washouts, landslides, and heavily burned conditions make trails hard to follow," a press release from the agency stated.

Lynn Tompkins peers down at a red-tailed hawk laid across a small exam table at Blue Mountain Wildlife’s clinic in Pendleton, Oregon.

It’s out cold.

“She was in very good shape until she got zapped,” Tompkins says as she removes the bandage on the hawk’s left wing, revealing a raw wound.

The bird was electrocuted a week earlier near Boardman, likely the result of a run-in with a power line.  

Tom and Marie Cawrse live on the far east side of Port Townsend, on the northeast point of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, right on the beach.

Since their house was built three decades ago, ice caps have been melting and the ocean’s been expanding as it warms up.

Oregon lawmakers are considering a major change in how the state will go about reducing its contributions to climate change. 

 

Right now, there’s nothing to stop a lot of Oregon businesses from pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

 

The Clean Energy Jobs Bill introduced Wednesday would launch a cap and trade system that would limit some of those emissions and charge businesses for the right to pollute. 

 

It took the threat of a lawsuit, but a federal agency is no longer killing the Beaver State’s beavers. Environmental groups had challenged the practice in Oregon because, they said, it’s a threat to more than just the state animal.

Beavers just can’t help themselves — they have to build dams from sticks and mud. Those dams can create really good habitat for other species, like imperiled salmon.

“The slow moving waters created by the beavers provide ideal cover and food for endangered fish,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden is calling for an investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s misuse of wildfire preparedness funds after news reports revealed Zinke used the funds for unrelated travel.

Researchers had long suspected salmon have lost huge amounts genetic diversity over the years. But they’d never tested the hypothesis.

Now, technology has finally caught up with scientists' questions.

Researchers were able to compare ancient salmon DNA to modern salmon. They collected a wide range of ancient bones to study the fish's DNA. One sample about 7,000 years old -- that's  3,000 years older than the first pyramid. The most recent was about 150 years old.

A federal judge has approved a plan to spill more water through dams in the Columbia River Basin this spring.

It's part of an ongoing lawsuit over how to manage dams to protect threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon ordered dam managers to develop a plan to spill more water on the Columbia and Snake rivers to help fish.

The Port of Vancouver’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to put an end date on a lease with Vancouver Energy, the company behind a controversial project to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the nation.

At the board’s first meeting of the year, commissioners set a deadline of March 31 for Vancouver Energy to have all necessary permits and licenses in place.

If the company fails to get its paperwork in order, the Port will allow its lease with the company to expire, essentially ending the project.

Could Slower Ships Help The Orcas?

Jan 5, 2018

 

This story first appeared at Crosscut.com

To the human eye, big ships cruising along the west side of San Juan Island this summer might have looked like they were traveling in slow motion. To the perceptive ears of killer whales, those same ships might have sounded a little bit quieter.

Oregon Sues Monsanto For PCB Clean-Up Costs

Jan 4, 2018

Oregon is suing the agro-chemical company Monsanto to help clean up toxic chemicals in the environment. The Attorney General’s Office filed suit Thursday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

The suit is seeking at least $100 million to cover decades of cleanup of a now-banned group of chemicals called PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, which the company manufactured.

Washington’s commissioner of public lands is calling on the state legislature to put a price on carbon to try to curb emissions in the state.

But Hilary Franz differs with Gov. Jay Inslee about how to use the money.

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