EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Wyden Confronts Critics Of His Oregon Logging Bill

Feb 6, 2014

At a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Thursday, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden challenged critics of his Oregon logging bill to admit that they "may be a little bit wrong."

A Seattle company that wants to build a floating wind farm off the shore of Southern Oregon got a green light from some high-ranking officials Wednesday.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Tommy Beaudreau, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, ushered in a new phase of development for Principle Power, Inc.

The 30-megawatt project would be sited 18 miles off the shore of Coos Bay in about 1,400 feet of water. One power cable would connect the turbines to shore.

EarthFix Conversation: Snowshoeing With Sally Jewell

Feb 6, 2014

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was in the Northwest this week. Her swing through Washington and Oregon included a visit to Mount Rainier National Park, where Jewell met with scientists from the National Park Service and the US Geological Survey to talk about the impacts of climate change. While she was there she did some snowshoeing and fielded some questions from EarthFix's Ashley Ahearn.

Sally Jewell: Alright Ashley, retire the microphone, it’s time to suit up.

Ashley Ahearn: So how many times have you done this hike, Secretary?

In the mountains outside John Day, Ore., a wild horse made a tasty find. Hay was strewn about on the forest floor. As she went to eat, the mare took one step too far, tripping a line that slammed a gate closed behind her. She had trapped herself.

On August 4, 2012, a government contractor backed his rig up to the passive trap, preparing to haul the wild horse to the Bureau of Land Management corral in Burns, Ore..

Energy Storage Battery Heads To The Market

Feb 5, 2014

The push to build supersized batteries capable of storing unused energy for later use on the grid is taking a big step forward:

Private companies are interested in moving the technology out of the laboratory and into commercial production.

Many energy experts say for renewable energy to become better integrated onto the grid, some sort of energy storage system is needed. That’s because renewable energy isn’t always reliable. The sun doesn’t always shine. The wind doesn’t always blow.

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. -- Hot on the heels of President Obama's latest state of the union address, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, came home to Washington to meet with scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

But this wasn’t your usual boardroom PowerPoint session.

The group snowshoed out to a snowy overlook to check out the Nisqually Glacier. That’s the source of the Nisqually River, which drains from the slopes of Mount Rainier out into Puget Sound.

Officials say a tiny, unsung fish that lives only in Oregon's Willamette Valley is the first endangered fish in the U.S. to be recovered.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning to announce Tuesday its petition to remove Oregon chub from the Endangered Species List and touting the success story of a minnow that's no more than three inches long.

The blast killed seven workers.

The federal investigators also said problems they found with cracked, corroded steel at refineries in Anacortes and elsewhere "strongly suggest an industry-wide problem."

On the first anniversary of the April 2010 blast, the Chemical Safety Board released preliminary findings: Microscopic cracks in the steel of a poorly maintained piece of equipment called a heat exchanger led to the explosion.

Pot vs Fish: Can We Grow Salmon-Friendly Weed?

Jan 31, 2014

As marijuana has become more mainstream, the business of cultivating the plant has boomed. That’s true nowhere more than in coastal northern California. There, the so-called Emerald Triangle of Mendocino, Trinity and Humboldt counties is believed to be the largest cannabis-growing region in the US.

But as the hills have sprouted thousands of new grow operations, haphazard cultivation is threatening the recovery of endangered West Coast salmon and steelhead populations.

How The Farm Bill Funds Environmental Programs, Too

Jan 31, 2014

The Farm Bill doesn't just put billions of dollars into agriculture programs. The Agricultural Act of 2014, as the bill is formally called, will also affect conservation of Northwest wildlife and natural resources.

The House has passed a version of the bill, and it's expected to go to the Senate Monday.

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.