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.

When new signs go up on the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge this year changing it to bear the name of Billy Frank Jr., he won't be there to see it.

But his son takes solace in knowing that lots of other people will.

"People will drive through the Nisqually area, a stone's throw from where my dad was raised, and see my dad's name for the rest of time," Willie Frank, Billy's son, said. "He's never going to be gone."

Five environmental activists who chained themselves to train tracks in Everett to protest oil and coal trains begin trial in Snohomish County District Court on Monday.

The activists face criminal charges alleging they trespassed on BNSF Railway property and blocked an oil train for eight hours on Sept. 2, 2014.

Amid a drop in demand for coal, a key investor in a proposed coal export project on the Columbia River filed for bankruptcy Monday.

Arch Coal is a 38-percent shareholder in the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals project, which would export 44 million tons of coal annually through a terminal in Longview, Washington. Arch owns mines in Colorado, Wyoming and five other states.

Officials with Arch Coal say the company's mines will stay open and the bankruptcy won't affect its employees.

Hundreds of people are expected to turn out Tuesday for the second public hearing on a proposed oil terminal in southwest Washington.

For the second time this month, the public will once again get to voice their thoughts about the Tesoro-Savage backed oil terminal called the Vancouver Energy Project.

The hearing is being lead by the Washington State Energy Site Evaluation Council.

We asked two weather experts from the Pacific Northwest 10 questions about the weather ahead in our area. From what mobile app is a must have to the urban myth that Portland is the wettest place in the country. What followed was a mix of vital information and interesting factoids from two weather aficionados that report on the Northwest area daily.

For a while, scientists assumed there was a link between lead exposure and adult deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Now, Oregon Health and Science University says it’s been able to confirm that link.

Children inherit a propensity for ADHD from their parents, but there’s also considerable evidence it can be triggered, or made worse by environmental factors — like lead.

By looking at the genetics of almost 400 children, OHSU professor Joel Nigg says that they’ve been able to scientifically confirm a lead and ADHD link.

No Power To Come From Puget Sound Tides

Jan 7, 2016

The utility wanted to put two turbines on the bottom of Puget Sound near Whidbey Island.

But at the very end of last year they surrendered their federal license.

It was a pilot project and would have been the first of its kind here. As the tides flowed in and out, the turbines would spin and generate enough power at maximum output for about 500 homes.

While Harney County residents are asking armed protesters to leave, many locals are sympathetic to their issues. Economists say the root may lie in the west’s rural economy.

Harney County is sparsely populated, with 7,000 residents living on 10,000 square miles of land. That used to mean a healthy timber industry.

But Josh Lehner with the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis says since 1978 Harney County has lost 99 percent of its wood product jobs, “All those manufacturing jobs are gone," he said.

With the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge ongoing in Eastern Oregon, there’s been renewed attention on federal grazing policy — and attempts to understand where the root of these rural frustrations lie.

Quite a bit has been said about what a deep discount ranchers are getting to graze their livestock on public lands — and how the U.S. taxpayer is essentially subsidizing those who do. But as often is the case, the truth isn’t so cut and dry.

So why the talk about how cheap it is for ranchers to graze cow and sheep on federal lands?

Malheur Occupation: Who Has A Claim To This Land?

Jan 6, 2016

On Tuesday Jan. 5, LaVoy Finicum, a spokesperson for the armed occupiers in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, told OPB's Think Out Loud his group would like to see the federal government return the wetland area property rights to local ranchers.

Nancy Langston disagrees with Finicum's premise.

New carbon pollution rules in Washington will pack the biggest wallop for cement makers, oil refiners and paper mills.

These are among the industrial manufacturers that will be required to lower their greenhouse gas emissions under the draft rules released Wednesday by Washington. Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration.

Oregon Utilities Agree To Phase Out Coal-Fired Power

Jan 6, 2016

Oregon utilities have agreed to support a bill that would phase out coal-fired power in Oregon by 2030.

The agreement follows negotiations with the backers of a proposed ballot measure that set the same target for eliminating coal from the state's electrical supply.

The proposed legislation would only affect Pacific Power and Portland General Electric, which together serve about 70 percent of Oregon's electricity. It also calls for doubling the amount of renewable energy the utilities generate by 2040.

Community members in Harney County are scheduled to gather Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the county fairgrounds to discuss the situation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward wants the armed occupiers of the Wildlife Refuge headquarters to leave the county. In a recorded statement, Ward said the goal of the meeting is for the community to unite around that message.

Most ranchers aren’t taking the same hardline, anti-government stance as the armed militants who took over Eastern Oregon's Malheur Wildlife Refuge headquarters.

Still, their dissatisfaction and distrust of federal land managers are deep running and deeply rooted in environmental conflict.

Hundreds of people showed up to speak Tuesday at a hearing on the controversial Vancouver Energy oil terminal.

Tesoro Corporation and Savage Companies have proposed building what would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country at the Port of Vancouver in Washington.

Supporters of the project welcome the jobs and economic development that would come along with the terminal. Opponents say shipping that much oil is too dangerous and they'd rather see the port develop cleaner energy.

LaVoy Finicum is a member of the armed group occupying a federal building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He is a rancher from Arizona and supporter of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, who are now in federal custody. Finicum spoke with OPB's Think Out Loud host Dave Miller Tuesday.

On the eve of opening day at Mount Hood Meadows, the ski resort sounded like a construction site.

A front-end loader scooped snow from the parking lot, its over-sized tire chains chinking as it crossed the pavement and emptied its load into a rubber-tracked dump truck. After a few more scoops, both machines rumbled toward a nearby chairlift to drop their haul.

In the ski industry, they call this "snow harvesting": Moving snow from the parking lots to the lower lifts and slopes so people can start skiing sooner.

An afternoon of peaceful protest in Harney County, Oregon took a turn Saturday, when a small group of men armed with pistols and long rifles occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

“The main reason we're here is because we need a place to stand,” said Ammon Bundy, the apparent leader of the group.

“We stand in defense,” he said. “And when the time is right we will begin to defend the people of Harney County in using the land and the resources.”

Oregon’s controversial decision to take gray wolves off the state’s endangered species list is headed to court.

Three environmental groups filed a legal challenge of the decision Wednesday under the state’s Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild claims the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife violated its own laws by failing to use the best available science and prematurely removing protections for Oregon’s 81 gray wolves.

Northwest Snow Piles Up Ahead Of Schedule

Dec 29, 2015

Oregon and Washington have above-average snowpack levels basically everywhere, according to numbers released this week.

The color-coded maps from the National Weather Service in Portland range from light to dark blue for nearly all of Oregon and much of Washington. That means snowpack is at least 130 percent of average.

Poor Start To Whale Watching Season

Dec 28, 2015

Winter storms and rain have reduced visibility at the coast this season — meaning the whale watching hasn’t been so good.

But Oregon State Park Ranger, Luke Parsons, expects that to change this week as clear skies and calmer weather are in the forecast.

He says up to 20,000 whales will swim by during the migration.

“They weigh anywhere between 20 and 40 tons each and so when you see a whole group of these go by, it’s pretty awe inspiring just to see that type of sea life, this close to us in Oregon," said Parsons.

It’s been a difficult couple weeks for the small Southern Oregon community of Glendale.

“The weather hands us unexpected things from time to time, and you just manage it and deal with it in as quick and best a fashion you can,” says Mayor Adam Jones.

After days of heavy rains in mid-December, the amount of wastewater coming through the city’s treatment plant exceeded capacity. Raw sewage overflowed into Cow Creek, a tributary of the Umpqua River.

Oregon Suction Mining Moratorium To Take Effect Jan. 1

Dec 22, 2015

On Jan. 1, 2016, Oregon will join California in at least temporarily banning the use of a controversial gold-mining technique in which miners essentially vacuum up river beds to recover the mineral. Environmental groups say a ban is long overdue. But independent miners say the state is illegally interfering with their federally-granted rights.

Oregon and Washington fisheries managers announced Monday that commercial crab season will open Jan. 4.

That’s about a month later than it was scheduled to start. High levels of domoic acid in the Pacific Ocean had delayed the season.

Scientists suspect a lingering patch of warm water led to high levels of the toxin.

Kelly Corbett of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the state has been testing sites along the coast on a weekly basis.

“All areas that were tested for a third time in a row have all trended downward,” Corbett said.

Outdoorsmen emerge from their tents and truck beds in the early morning light. After a big breakfast they ready dry suits, diving masks, air hoses and a contraption that looks like a small pontoon boat.

This group is carrying on the age-old tradition of small-scale gold mining. Their method of choice is known as suction dredging.

“People have been prospecting for gold since prehistoric times,” miner Ron Larson says. “Gold has always lured mankind and man has always chased it. We feel a connection to those early miners.”

On a rainy fall day, a group of bundled up hikers explored Leslie Gulch. Kirk Richardson, with Keen Footwear in Portland, pointed to a bulbous rock formation jutting from the canyon wall.

"I like this one that’s kind of a split molar root," Richardson said. "Looks like something you’d see in a dentist X-ray."

Congress has adjourned for the year without authorizing the Klamath water agreements. And now the locally-negotiated compromises will expire at the end of the year unless signees decide to extend.

The three agreements would have provided a degree of peace in the Klamath basin water wars. But they needed congressional approval to move forward.

Supporting groups will meet Monday, Dec. 28, to decide whether to wait around yet another year for Congress to act. But some parties are already indicating they want out.

Upcoming King Tide Offers A Preview Of Sea Level Rise

Dec 21, 2015

What will coastal communities look like as the sea level rises with climate change? This week's king tide could offer a preview.

Several groups will be photographing the effects of the extremely high tides expected Wednesday through Friday. They hope it will help communities visualize and prepare for a warming world.

This week Congress passed a bill that increased funding to suppress wildfires. That's after agencies spent more than $1.7 billion on wildfires in 2015. That's the costliest season on record.

Oregon Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley praised the funding increase. But they also said Congress needs to do more to ensure that firefighting doesn't consume other agency programs.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn't see a need to require labeling for genetically engineered salmon. But Congress does.

In the federal spending package approved Friday, lawmakers directed the FDA to make sure the controversial new fish is labeled for consumers.

The Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty has engineered a fish that grows to market size faster than Atlantic farmed salmon.

Pages