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.

Winter is usually when cyclists store away their mountain bikes and switch to skis or snowboards. But that’s changing, now that fat bikes have rolled onto the scene.

Fat bikes are the monster trucks of the cycling world. With tires about twice as wide as a regular mountain bike’s, fat bikes provide more traction so they can travel over almost any surface. They bounce over hard-crusted snow and plow through drifts of soft powder.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission decided Tuesday to postpone a vote on new air pollution rules for colored glassmakers.

The decision followed numerous calls for the board to delay its decision and give the public more time to weigh in.

Forest Service lichenologist Sarah Jovan hardly has to walk half a block from her office in downtown Portland to find the type of shaggy, green moss she used to discover the city’s hidden hot spots of toxic air pollution.

“I mean, it’s just everywhere,” she said. “You can see it on all these trees here, across the street. For a sample you’d need probably a couple handfuls.”

Fishery Managers Consider Closing Ocean Salmon Seasons

Mar 14, 2016

To protect fragile runs of coho, regional fishery managers are considering a rare total closure of Oregon and Washington ocean salmon fisheries north of Cape Falcon, near Manzanita, Oregon.

State, tribal and federal fishery managers have three options for non-treaty ocean salmon fisheries north of Cape Falcon. Two options would permit some salmon fishing this year, but one would close both recreational and commercial ocean fisheries for chinook and coho salmon.

Managers are not considering a total closure option for salmon fisheries south of Cape Falcon.

Work is resuming at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but there’s a lot of catching up to do.

Employees had to stay away during the 41-day armed occupation. During that time, some critical work on controlling the common carp got missed.

The carp is an invasive species that really messes up bird habitat on Malheur Lake. Linda Beck is a fish biologist at the refuge. She says they were planning to divert water away from the lake and catch thousands of pounds of carp before they got there. But that was supposed to happen in January; then, the occupation got underway.

Derek Bowen is standing on top of small, enclosed trailer, at the edge of a grassy park in Eugene. It’s overcast and misty but an acronym on the side of this air monitoring station is clear: LRAPA – Lane Regional Air Protection Agency.

Bowen comes down a ladder with a small cylindrical filter in hand. It's been collecting super-tiny particles from car exhaust and wood burning that get lodged in people’s lungs.

We have binders full of stuff for you today. As it turns out, many are full of women.

Qcut And The Quest For Jeans That Fit -

A new Oregon start-up is hoping to provide relief from long, torturous hours of finding jeans that fit. Owner Crystal Beasley, a former Mozilla software developer, has developed an algorithm that pairs users with the right blue jeans out of a selection of some 300 different fits. We learn about some of the potential behind the new technology.

Painfully Honest Job Descriptions for Portland Women in Tech -

Federal energy regulators Friday denied an application to build a liquefied natural gas terminal and accompanying pipeline in Southern Oregon.

In a 25-page final order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission didn’t focus on the Jordan Cove LNG terminal itself. Instead they pointed to the Pacific Connector Pipeline, which would have brought natural gas 230 miles from south-central Oregon to Coos Bay. From there it would be liquefied and put on ships bound for Asia.

After warning Oregon that its rules don’t adequately protect water in coastal streams from logging, two federal agencies are denying the state $1.2 million in grant funds.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sent a letter this week notifying the state’s natural resources director that Oregon hasn’t done enough to prevent pollution from forestry practices like logging and road building.

Portland environmental photographer Gary Braasch described himself as a witness to climate change. He dedicated himself to making images that helped the rest of the world witness it too. Braasch died this week while snorkeling and photographing Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Government agencies announced Wednesday that the health risk around Portland glass manufacturers is low.

The DEQ said Wednesday that it took 67 soil samples from the area around Bullseye Glass in southeast Portland. Samples were taken from a Fred Meyer parking lot, a day care center and Powell Park.

The samples were tested for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and several other elements.

They found that most heavy metals were at background levels. But there were a few samples that showed elevated levels.

Erin Meeker lives within a half mile of Bullseye Glass in Portland. Her 2-year-old goes to daycare across the street from the artistic glass factory.

Meeker is one of the seven people who’ve filed a lawsuit against the glassmaker with help from the Seattle law firm Keller Rohrback.

“My No. 1 concern is our health and our neighbor’s health,” she said.

The artistic glass maker at the center of Portland’s toxic air pollution controversy is taking steps to control its emissions.

Bullseye Glass submitted a notice Friday to Multnomah County that it intends to install a pollution filtration system called a baghouse. It’s meant to capture particulate that would otherwise escape from the company’s glass-melting furnace.

The recent discovery of heavy metal pollution in some Portland neighborhoods has left residents wondering whether they should see a doctor.

Multnomah County Health Department said Friday those most exposed are those who spent significant amounts of time within half a mile of Bullseye and Uroborus Glass. Those are the two art-glass makers linked to high levels of arsenic, cadmium and chromium pollution in Southeast and North Portland.

A few dozen Portlanders rallied at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Thursday to demand stronger action against air polluters, in light of recently discovered concentrations of heavy metals.

"Clean air now! Clean air now!" they chanted as they delivered a letter to the Department of Environmental Quality's downtown Portland office.

Brown said she'll review the request, but added that legislators helped the air quality cause in the regular session.

One of the last actions Oregon lawmakers took before adjourning Thursday was passing a landmark clean-energy bill.

The Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Bill lays out a timeline for Oregonians to stop paying for electricity from coal-fired power plants through its two largest utilities, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric.

Wolf advocates are watching to see if Gov. Kate Brown will sign legislation they say slams the door on legal challenges to Oregon’s lifting of endangered-species protections for the gray wolf. Brown said on Thursday that her office will review the legislation before making a decision.

On a bipartisan vote of 17-11 Wednesday, the state senate ratified a decision state wildlife regulators made last November to remove the gray wolf from the Oregon Endangered Species List.

Seven plaintiffs have filed a class action lawsuit against Bullseye Glass, a Southeast Portland manufacturer accused of emitting unhealthy levels of toxic heavy metals into that air.

Environmental testing by the U.S. Forest Service recently revealed the issue. Researchers found that moss throughout Portland pointed to “hot spots” with concentrations of toxic heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic, nickel and lead.

3rd Portland Company In Toxic Metal Pollution Spotlight

Mar 2, 2016

A third Portland company faces scrutiny for toxic metal pollution.

At a meeting of the Milwaukie City Council Tuesday, state environmental regulators said they will delay issuing a new air quality permit for Precision Castparts due to concerns over metal emissions.

Precision Castparts makes airplane components. One of its large factories sits on the boundary between Southeast Portland and Milwaukie.

That's also where scientists found high concentrations of nickel in moss they were studying.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said Tuesday that she is not aware of any coordination between her office and the White House about a conservation proposal for the Owyhee.

Last year, Portland-based Keen Footwear launched a campaign to convince President Obama to designate 2.5 million acres in southeast Oregon as an Owyhee Canyonlands national monument.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Director Dick Pedersen is stepping down effective mid-March, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday.

Pedersen's resignation follows weeks of public outcry and criticism of DEQ over the discovery of unhealthy levels of cadmium and arsenic in the air in Southeast Portland.

DEQ Deputy Director Joni Hammond will replace Pedersen as interim director until a permanent successor can be named.

Families near two Portland glass manufacturers say they need more help from state regulators.

Last month, warnings were issued about elevated levels of airborne arsenic and cadmium near the Bullseye and Uroborus glass companies.

Environmental regulators have said a novel U.S. Forest Service study of heavy metals trapped in moss tipped them off to problems with toxic emissions at Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland.

But they’ve received a string of complaints dating back decades about the artistic glass manufacturer, according to documents released under Oregon’s open records law.

When Tacoma residents sized up a proposal to build a methanol plant and shipping facility, they saw it mostly as a source of toxic air pollution with a mighty thirst for water and a voracious appetite for electricity.

So the Chinese-backed company behind the project said it wanted to pause the environmental review.

The stretch of public land where Angie Ketscher grazes her cattle is so expansive she’s never seen the whole of it.

Neither has its owner, the Bureau of Land Management.

Ketscher’s ranch is one of four that turn their cattle out to feed on this nearly 300,000 acre parcel of the sagebrush sea.

Standing on a ridge above her ranch, Ketscher pointed across a narrow, treeless valley. Her permit begins on the other side and runs to three separate mountains in the far distance. By horseback, it would take three days to cover that distance.

The Global Reach Of Bullseye Glass

Feb 26, 2016

Glass artists are coming to terms with a world that has a bit less color in it.

Over the past few weeks you've heard us report on the emissions tests that revealed unhealthy levels of heavy metals near the Bullseye and Uroboros glass plants in Portland. Both companies suspended production of some colors. It's making ripples in the supply available to artists far beyond Oregon.

A New York law firm that works with environmental activist Erin Brockovich said it wants to investigate the emissions from Portland art glass factories

The firm is Weitz & Luxemberg, and it's the latest to offer free consultations to Portland residents.

The firm worked on a number of high profile class action cases, including the settlement against BP for the 2010 gulf oil spill.

Attorney Robin Greenwald said a range of legal issues might be raised by the glass factory emissions, include negligence, nuisance and trespass.

Washington state regulators are setting aside the rules they’ve been working on to limit the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted into the air.

The Department of Ecology was instructed by Gov. Jay Inslee to draw up the rules. Originally they targeted about 40 companies including oil refineries, utilities, pulp and paper mills, and steel and concrete manufacturers.

Ecology held meetings with representatives of some of those companies before Friday’s announcement that it was suspending its rule-making process.

Since the discovery of heavy metals pollution coming from an artistic glass manufacturer in Portland, Washington regulators have taken a close look at a similar facility near Seattle. So far, they say, they’re not worried – in part because air monitors nearby aren't detecting elevated metals in the area.

Spectrum Glass in Woodinville, Washington, uses metals to make the same kind of colored glass products as Bullseye Glass in Southeast Portland. But unlike Bullseye it hasn't been using arsenic and it has pollution controls on many of its furnaces.

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