EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Oregon and Washington are joining a coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia in suing the Environmental Protection Agency and its administrator Scott Pruitt over the decision to roll back greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles built between 2022 and 2025.

The states argue those emissions standards for cars and light-duty truck models were put in place to help reduce carbon pollution and oil consumption.

More than a dozen local organizations and environmental groups say they're pressuring the Portland Business Alliance to withdraw its support for a proposed gas terminal and pipeline in Southern Oregon.

Members from organizations that include Stop Fracked Gas/PDX and Columbia Riverkeeper stood outside the Oregon Convention Center Tuesday, May 1 where the Portland Business Alliance was holding its sold out annual meeting. More than 1,200 people were expected to attend.

Outside, protestors handed attendees small pieces of paper that asked: "What are you thinking?"

Gas company NW Natural spent $21 million building a state-of-the art groundwater treatment system that would stop toxic pollution from flowing off its industrial site into the Willamette River.

It's a celebrated example of "early action" taken voluntarily by some of the companies responsible for cleaning up contamination at the Portland Harbor Superfund Site.

Some Trails Closed By Eagle Creek Fire To Reopen This Summer

Apr 29, 2018

The U.S. Forest Service plans soon to reopen some of the trails in the Columbia River Gorge that have been closed since the Eagle Creek Fire last year.

According to Lily Palmer with U.S. Forest Service, the trail to Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls will be the first to reopen early this summer. Trails east of Cascade Locks, including Starvation Creek Ridge Loop and Herman Creek, Mount Defiance and the Pacific Crest Trail should reopen later in the summer.

Last summer's Eagle Creek Fire burned more than 48,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge. Conservationists estimate that it may take years for some areas to reopen to the public. But despite the devastation, some areas in the Gorge are seeing their first signs of rebirth. 

Enter, the humble mushroom. The charred wood and decaying organic matter in the wake of a fire create the perfect environment for several types of fungi to thrive. Oregon's mushroom hunters are forecasting a mushroom bonanza this spring — including a bumper crop of the coveted wild morels.

The U.S. House approved a bill Wednesday that would circumvent a federal judge’s order for dams on the lower Snake River to spill more water and protect current dam operations through the next four years.

The additional spilled water is meant to help migrating salmon, meaning it would not be available for generating electricity.

Patricia Marín still remembers the day nine years ago when her daughter Azul started coughing and couldn't stop. Her breathing was ragged.

At the time, Azul was just 18 months old. Marín brought her to the emergency room.

"The hospital got her symptoms under control," Marín says, "but, a week later, she stopped being able to breathe again and I had to take her back."

It was a cycle. By the time her little girl was 5, Marín says, "Azul lived in the emergency room."

The Pacific Northwest could soon become a hub of ocean energy technology. An Oregon State University project to set up a wave energy test site is now applying for the federal permits needed to move ahead.

A federal judge ordered a Germany-based eyeglass manufacturer on Monday to pay $750,000 in criminal fines for repeatedly discharging hazardous waste from its facility in Clackamas, Oregon.

Court documents show Carl Zeiss Vision, Inc. routinely discharged industrial wastewater with very high and low pH levels into the Kellogg Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

"By failing to disclose its discharges to Clackamas County, the company operated completely outside pretreatment regulations for years," the U.S. Attorney for Oregon's office said in a release.

Homes located near or inside forests are a big complication for managing wildfires. Forest managers find themselves under increasing pressure to suppress natural fires because of the risk of nearby homes igniting.

But experts now say keeping those homes from burning could be cheaper and simpler than previously thought.

Researchers at Oregon State University have worked out a way to detect and identify whales long after they move on — just by sampling the water.

When whales swim they leave behind a plume of genetic material in the environment: skin, poop and bodily fluids. If you know what to look for, you can use that DNA to figure out what kind of whale went by.

While searching for seabirds in July of 2017, biologist Luke Halpin instead saw a sea bubbling with about 200 bottlenose dolphins and 70 false killer whales. It would be an unusual sight anywhere — bottlenose generally travel in much smaller groups — but Halpin’s sighting was made more remarkable by where it happened. These usually tropical animals were off the west coast of Canada.

In a big grass pasture in the shadow of Mount Rainier, hundreds of chickens are crowded around a little house where they can get water and shelter from the bald eagles circling overhead. This is the original location of Wilcox Family Farms, an egg farm that also has locations in Oregon and Montana.

SunPower, a solar manufacturing company headquartered in San Diego, California, has purchased SolarWorld Americas, a solar panel manufacturer based in Hillsboro.

Details of the sale weren't disclosed. In a news release, SunPower announced plans to use the Hillsboro solar panel manufacturing plant to make the solar panels the company currently manufactures overseas, marking the company's "return to U.S. manufacturing."

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to log trees killed or damaged in last year’s Chetco Bar Fire. Chetco Bar was by far Oregon’s largest wildfire in 2017, burning just over 191,000 acres in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Jessie Berner is the Chetco Bar Coordinator for the Forest.

"We are trying to capture the value of those trees to try to recoup some of the economic value of that timber in support of our local communities," she says.

Growing up, Gary Kempler remembers watching flocks of bighorn sheep near his hometown of Clarkston, Washington.

“Good size herds along the river,” Kempler said — he could see up to eight flocks in one day.

Slowly, after the wildlife faced battles with a virulent form of pneumonia, Kempler saw fewer and fewer bighorns. Maybe one or two sheep at a time.

Farmers, fish advocates, tribes and government officials are headed to federal court in California on Wednesday to argue who will get water — and when — in the Klamath Basin.

Federal dam operators are asking to open the irrigation season next week in lieu of holding back water to benefit fish.

In recent years, salmon in the Klamath River have suffered from high rates of disease. Warm water and low flows on the dam-controlled river helped a parasite ravage juvenile fish at rates far higher than federal protections allow.

Washington regulators have tentatively denied a controversial request by shellfish growers to poison burrowing shrimp that damage commercial oyster beds. Growers say controlling the shrimp is vital to the shellfish industry in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor.

The native shrimp are kind of like finger-sized moles of the ocean. They dig tunnels in the tide flats and anything put on top – whether it be a oyster or a rubber-booted shellfish farmer – just sinks into the mud.

The Trump administration wants to slash the federal government’s biggest source of funds for conservation on private land. Here's what you need to know:

1. That funding is found in a surprising place: the Farm Bill.

Nationally, Farm Bill programs conserve about 50 million acres of land. For scale, that's more than half the entire acreage of the National Park system.

There’s a whole suite of conservation programs in the Farm Bill, but most of them do one of two things.

Oregon, Washington Sue EPA Head Over Alleged Clean Air Act Violations

Apr 5, 2018
Contributed by Michael Durham/East Oregonian

Oregon and Washington have joined a lawsuit alleging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is violating the Clean Air Act. The lawsuit says the government needs to limit methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities.

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