Northwest Environmental News

Three environmental groups are suing the Port of Vancouver to overturn the approval of a lease for the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal.

Columbia Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center say the Port of Vancouver Commission held an illegal executive session before approving the lease in July. They're asking the court to rescind the lease.

SEATTLE -- Each fire season is a roll of the dice.

Some years lightning strikes more often. Other years soggy summers keep big burns at bay.

This year more than 4,000 wildfires burned almost a million acres across the Northwest. That might sound like a lot, but it falls below the 10-year average. In the last decade, only one year has had fewer fires than this year.

PORTLAND – On hot summer days, 74-year-old HelenRuth Stephens doesn't dare leave her apartment. Not to get the mail or take out the trash.

"You don't do it because you'll be breathless by the time you get back," she says.

She suffers from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Both affect her lungs. Hot weather drains her energy, she says, and makes it hard for her to breathe.

Stephens is the type of person public health officials worry about as they're preparing for climate change.

About a hundred people attended a community meeting on the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal in Vancouver Monday night.

Tesoro Corporation and Savage Companies have proposed to transport up to 380,000 barrels of crude oil a day through the Port of Vancouver. The Port approved a lease for the project in July.

Toxic Algal Blooms And Warming Waters: The Climate Connection

Sep 30, 2013

SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- A photograph displayed in Jacki and John Williford's home commemorates a camping trip that would go down in family history.

The most memorable event from that outing in 2011 involved the mussels John and his two children collected from a dock near Sequim Bay State Park on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. The family took them back to their campsite and steamed them in white wine with garlic and oregano.

“It was really good. Like the best mussels in the whole wide world,” remembers their son Jaycee, now 7. “And they were huge.”

How Farmworkers Experience A Warming Climate

Sep 27, 2013

HOOD RIVER, Ore. -- For 20 years, Victor Gonzales has traveled the West picking crops. In the Northwest that means pears, cherries and apples.

Right now, he’s working at a Hood River pear orchard. In the summer, temperatures here can reach 100 degrees. Gonzalez remembers one day when he’d been working really hard, sweating more than normal.

Gonzales felt like he was going to pass out. He was shaky and very sleepy, he says through a translator. Instead of sleeping, he went to the farmworker housing unit and drank a lot of water and rested until he recovered.

Jewell Praying Wolf James is a tribal leader and master carver of the Lummi Nation. Ten years ago he carved totem poles and presented them as gifts and symbols of solidarity and healing for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. He drove the totem poles across the country to Washington, D.C. and New York.

Now he’s on another journey with a slightly different mission. The Lummi tribal reservation abuts the proposed site of the largest coal export terminal on the West coast. He’s carved a 22-foot totem pole that represents tribal opposition to coal and oil exports in the Northwest.

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. House has passed a bill that includes a one-year extension of federal subsidies for timber counties.

Oregon counties would get about $100 million under the extension of the now expired Secure Rural Schools program. The money was attached to a must-pass bill that would avert an impending shutdown of the federal helium reserve.

The House decision on Wednesday sends the measure back to the Senate, which has already backed the bill but must conform with technical changes made in the House.

The biggest railroad in the Northwest forcefully defended the safety of oil trains Wednesday.

It happened at a meeting in Seattle of environmental regulators from the West Coast. The context is the rapid rise in crude oil trains coming to the Northwest from North Dakota and this summer's deadly explosion in Quebec.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe hazmat expert Patrick Brady calls that train accident "an anomaly."

Study: Dams Help The NW Cope With Climate Change

Sep 25, 2013

A new study suggests Columbia River Basin dams are helping the Northwest cope with climate change.

Scientists say one result of rising average temperatures is that water from snowmelt is flowing earlier into rivers. That could mean lower flows during summer and fall when the water is needed for fish and crop irrigation.

But the new study says Columbia River Basin dams are helping offset these shifts.

There’s a new plan for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The federal government is looking for ways to process certain types of radioactive waste more quickly, while managers there figure out how to solve major technical challenges at its massive Waste Treatment Plant.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz released the new “framework” Tuesday after a year of study.

A river basin cleanup in north Idaho is showing just how difficult it is to remove long-term pollution from Northwest waterways.

This month, the EPA is running tests on layers of muck from the bottom of the Coeur d'Alene River. It’s downstream from a federal superfund site.

As part of the test, a technician lowers a seven-foot tube into the riverbed, like a straw into a piece of bread.

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Hearing the term “green jobs” brings to mind images of people installing solar panels or constructing wind turbines.

Not maintaining laundry machinery, which is what Mike Mitzel does for a living.

Mitzel is an alum of the green jobs training initiative. He now works as a maintenance mechanic for the University of Washington’s Consolidated Laundry Facility.

New advisories from health officials in Washington and Oregon warn that some fish in the Columbia River aren’t safe to eat.

The warnings do not apply to ocean-going fish like salmon and steelhead.

Oregon State Police have removed a huge banner from the Oregon State Capitol Building and detained five environmental protesters.

The activists created a spectacle Thursday when two of them rappelled down the outside of the dome. The banner they unfurled protested logging policies on state forest land.

The display attracted a crowd of onlookers. Dane Rowinski said he doesn't know much about the issue, but he admired the protesters' technique.

U.S. House Debate Forest Bill

Sep 19, 2013

The U.S. House of Representatives debated a bill Thursday that would dramatically increase logging on federal forestlands in the Northwest.

The Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act affects national forests across the country. But it also includes provisions specific to the former railroad lands in Western Oregon known as the O&C lands.

Oregon representatives Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader spoke on behalf of the bill.

Seattle Garden Project Sheds Light On The Decline of Bumblebees

Sep 13, 2013

SEATTLE -- You’ve probably heard about colony collapse disorder, the mystery of honeybees dying in large numbers. And if you've been paying attention to our earlier reports, you may also realize that bumblebees, too, have been hit hard.