EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

A once-stalled plan to support Christmas tree growers nationwide could be on its way to winning congressional approval as part of the new Farm Bill.

A provision in the bill adds a 15-cent surcharge on the cost of Christmas trees sold by larger farms. The revenue would help market those trees -- a potential boon for growers in Oregon, which leads the country in Christmas tree production.

You’ve likely heard of the dairy industry’s famous "Got Milk?" campaign but you’ve probably never heard an ad that asks, "Got Christmas Trees?"

MUKILTEO, Wash. -- Near the ferry docks on Puget Sound, a group of scientists and volunteer divers shimmy into suits and double-check their air tanks.

They move with the urgency of a group on a mission. And they are. They’re trying to solve a marine mystery.

“We need to collect sick ones as well as individuals that appear healthy,” Ben Miner tells the divers as they head into the water.

Energy and the environment both got brief mentions President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The president spoke for 65 minutes, devoting about five of those minutes to energy and the environment. He pushed natural gas and solar power as ways to reduce carbon pollution as part of his “all of the above” energy strategy.

“Today, America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades,” the president said near the beginning of his speech.

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce has declared the Fraser River sockeye salmon run a “fishery disaster” for nine tribes and non-tribal fishers in Washington state.

The Fraser River empties out near Vancouver, British Columbia. The sockeye salmon from that river are a key resource for the state and tribal fishing industries in Washington.

Developing A Taste For Geoduck In The Northwest

Jan 27, 2014

The Locavore movement is thriving in the Northwest -- with one big exception. When it comes to Puget Sound geoduck clams, the shellfish industry and local chefs are still trying to create a demand for them at home.

Wyden, Merkley Take Railroads To Task Over Oil Train Safety

Jan 24, 2014

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley asked railroad company executives Friday to address mounting concerns about oil train safety in Oregon.

Following several oil train derailments and related emergencies in the past six months, the senators gathered in Portland with public officials officials and rail industry representatives.

While the legalization of marijuana could be viewed as a liberal cause, the counterculture’s favorite herb isn’t exactly eco-friendly.

“Indoor pot farms are energy guzzlers,” said Seattle news analyst Joni Balter.

Californian scientist Dr. Evan Mills released a study indicating the staggering amount of energy that goes into indoor marijuana production.

“We’re talking about lighting levels that match hospital operating rooms, so that’s 500 times greater than what you and I need for reading,” Balter said.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency messed up. And now the mistake has led to a fight between open government advocates and farmers.

The EPA accidentally released the names and addresses of 80,000 farmers to environmental groups. That's a lot of information that's supposed to be redacted.

President of NW Innovation Works Murray Godley faced a litany of questions Thursday night about his company's plan to build a $1 billion methanol plant on the Columbia River.

Godley presented the plan to the Port of St. Helens Commission at a packed meeting in Clatskanie, Ore., where people wanted to know about what kinds of jobs the plant would create, what byproducts it would release into the environment and how safe the project would be.

SEATTLE -- Washington lawmakers took up a proposal Wednesday to require more transparency from companies that transport oil through the state.

The hearing on House Bill 2347 played out before a packed committee room in Olympia. The new bill would require oil companies to file weekly reports with the state Department of Ecology detailing how much oil is being transported, what kind of oil it is, how it’s being moved and what route it’s traveling through the state.

The Salish Sea is a network of waterways that run from northwestern Washington to British Columbia. The waters of the Salish Sea are home to some of the richest marine life on the planet. The Lummi Tribe of Northern Washington rely on the abundance of these waters, but the fish have been in decline for the last century and a half.

Westerly winds can carry air pollution from China across the Pacific Ocean in just a few days.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers in the United Kingdom, China and the U.S.

And within China, roughly 5 percent of emissions of carbon monoxide, black carbon, Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides came from making those exports, according to the report.

An Oregon-based environmental group is declaring victory in a court case against state and federal fishery managers.

The Native Fish Society says the operation of a hatchery on the Sandy River after the removal of Marmot Dam caused harm to four species of protected wild salmon and steelhead.

The group accused the National Marine Fisheries Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife of violating the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Feds Stand By Current Dam, Salmon Plan For Columbia

Jan 17, 2014

The federal government is standing by its previous plans for managing the Columbia River to prevent the extinction of its salmon and steelhead. That means little would change for dam operations on the West's biggest river -- but only if it wins court approval.

SEATTLE -- Washington Sen. Patty Murray on Friday introduced a bill to permanently protect more than 126,000 acres of Washington's Olympic Peninsula -- an area the size of Seattle and Tacoma combined.

Group Calls For Expanding Killer Whale Habitat Protection

Jan 16, 2014

An environmental group is calling for a major expansion in habitat protection for Puget Sound's killer whales.

Research shows the endangered orcas that live in Puget Sound in the summer are venturing up and down the West Coast in the winter to forage for food. Scientists tracking these southern resident orcas have followed the whales as far north as Alaska and as far south as Monterey, Calif.

Washington's top environmental regulator found herself in the hot seat Thursday during a state Senate hearing called by Republican lawmakers who disapprove her agency's scrutiny of a coal export terminal proposed for the northern shore of Puget Sound.

At issue: greenhouse gas emissions.

The worst-case environmental scenario at an oil terminal on the lower Columbia River means 3.8 million gallons of crude spilling into sensitive wildlife habitat and shutting down a public drinking water intake, according to a draft response plan facility managers filed with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

SEATTLE -- Japan's nuclear disaster released hundreds of millions of gallons of radioactive water in 2011, sparking rampant speculation that a contaminated plume would reach the waters of North America's West Coast.

Three years later, such speculation is alive and well on the Internet. Consider this video shot at a beach in Northern California and posted last month to YouTube:

The videographer's Geiger counter shows elevated levels of radioactivity.

WA Environmental Groups' Legislative Focus: Oil Trains

Jan 15, 2014

Oil train safety tops the list of priorities for environmental groups, which outlined their goals Wednesday for Washington's new legislative session.

Right now, rail companies share little information with state agencies that would respond if a train derailed in the Pacific Northwest. Environmental groups would like the Washington Legislature to change that. It's 60-day session got underway this week.