Bellamy Pailthorp | KNKX

Bellamy Pailthorp

Environment Reporter

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat from the Seattle offices of KNKX Public Radio News, where she has worked since 1999. She also hosts and produces the weekly segment, The Weather With Cliff Mass, which airs every Friday. She holds a Masters in journalism from New York's Columbia University, where she completed the Knight-Bagehot fellowship in business reporting in 2006 mid-career during her stint on KNKX’s Business and Labor Beat from 2000-2012.

From 1989-98 she lived in Berlin, Germany freelancing for NPR and working as a bi-lingual producer for Deutsche Welle TV after receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1989 for a project on theater studies and communist history. She holds a Bachelors’ degree in German language and literature from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. (Yes, she is fluent in German.)

She strives to tell memorable stories about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Character-driven narratives of exploration and innovation excite her. 

Outside work, she practices yoga, walks half marathons with friends, backpacks with her husband and extended family, reads and watches fiction with nieces, enjoys tasting new foods and admiring all kinds of animals -- especially her two house cats, who often remind her she should spend more time sitting on the couch with them.

Ways to Connect

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

One in six children in Washington is food insecure. And in the greater Seattle area, one in eight working people struggles against hunger.

That fight  will be center stage on Monday (Nov. 11) at a food justice panel at Town Hall Seattle.

Northwest Harvest is one of the panel organizers. The organization is aiming to cut hunger rates in Washington in half by 2028.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Normally early November is a wet and stormy time of year in the Northwest. Not this year. It has been generally dry and sunny over the past few weeks — dry enough to tie a record for lack of rain, assuming no precipitation falls on Friday.

“The record for a period in November is 14 days. That happened in 2002. That’s a very long stretch of no rain,” says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

“In fact, I think it’s the longest stretch of this particular year, even including the summer, of having no rain.”

Courtesy King County Solid Waste Division

King County is grappling with how to handle its trash as the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill reaches capacity. The Maple Valley facility, which first accepted waste in the mid-1960s, is expected to fill up in less than 20 years. Expansion efforts have stalled as neighbors complain about the effects of squeezing more refuse into the little space remaining.

Smoke from the Maria Fire billows above Santa Paula, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. Calmer weather allowed crews to increase containment on wildfires after a three-week siege of gusts fanned blazes across California and led utilities to cut power.
Noah Berger / The Associated Press

People in the Puget Sound region have experienced chilly weather this week, especially overnight. Temperatures have dipped into the low 30s in some places, with cool and partly sunny weather most days. That's going to continue pretty consistently through the weekend.

At the same time, furious winds have been stoking California's wildfires. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says the cold here is directly connected to the Diablo and Santa Ana winds that are fueling infernos there.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Weeks after thousands of young people stormed the streets to demand more action on climate change, the issue is shaping campaigns across the nation.

That wave is rippling through two races in Western Washington — and big money is flowing in, both for and against candidates who are outspoken about the need to rein in use of fossil fuels.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

This fall, the Puget Sound region has graced residents with an abundance of clear and crisp sunny days – classic fall weather. And the colors displayed on fall foliage have been exceptionally stunning, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass.

Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation, speaks Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, at a rally supporting Initiative 1631.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, is the new president of the National Congress of American Indians.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Oyster growers in Southwest Washington have given up on their push to use a controversial neurotoxin to control burrowing shrimp. The shrimp can turn oyster beds into quicksand that suffocates the shellfish.  The growers have dropped an appeal before the state Pollution Control Hearings Board, in favor of a settlement agreement with the state department of ecology.  

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

It’s been a dark and stormy week in the Pacific Northwest. Starting Wednesday, the region was pummeled with wind and wet stuff as series of weather fronts started pushing through the skies above us. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says that’s going to continue all weekend and into next week, before it lightens up a bit.

The contrast can be jarring, especially when you have the stunning crisp fall days of early October that we did this year, often with sunshine. But Mass says this is absolutely normal.

A worker at Goose Point oyster growers in Grays Harbor County.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A U.S. judge has thrown out a federal permit for the Washington state shellfish industry that failed to comply with environmental regulations.

Courtesy Washington Department of Natural Resources

It’s been more than two years since Cooke Aquaculture’s net pens collapsed at Cypress Island near Anacortes. The fallout led the state Legislature to ban net-pen farming of non-native fish in Washington waters.

Now, Cooke is back with plans to farm two native species in its pens in Port Angeles Harbor.

"Tonight from Seatown," an image from Seattle on Oct. 10.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says it’s going to get a bit warmer over the weekend and he’s confident that “real rain” won’t set in until Tuesday evening.

But it’s harder to answer the question many people in Washington are wondering about right now: with record early snowfall in our passes and the unseasonably cold start to fall, should we expect a cold, snowy winter too?

The dark-eyed junco is a "backyard" bird in Washington — and could become much less common, depending on how much warming occurs.
Laure W. Neish/VIREO / Courtesy Audubon Society

More than half of the birds in our state are at risk of extinction because of climate change. That's according to a new national report from the Audubon Society, which gives detailed analysis of climate impacts on about 600 species of North American birds — and a state-by-state breakdown of their fates. 

The final meeting of Governor Jay Inslee's Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force took place at the Intellectural House on the campus of the University of Washington on October 7, 2019.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Their goal is clear: to prevent Puget Sound’s iconic Southern Resident killer whales from going extinct. Solving that problem is anything but simple.

The task force convened by Gov. Jay Inslee to save the orcas added 13 new recommendations this week, at its final meeting. The additions to the group’s so-called “Year 2 Report” cover more than 100 pages, adding climate change and population growth to the list of issues complicating orca recovery.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Not long after we crossed the threshold into autumn last week, leaving the fall equinox behind and watching the days grow shorter, an extreme cold wave hit the West. Records were smashed all around the region. Montana was hit by blizzards and several feet of snow. And in Washington, some of the higher elevations saw almost that much. Spokane got its earliest snow ever. 

A 'rainbow surprise,' as seen on Seattle's waterfront, September 16, 2019.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Fall arrived in the northwest with a September that has been wetter than normal. Now, unusually early cold is expected to hit the region as an early blast of Arctic air heads our way this weekend. It’s expected to bring record low temperatures to parts of the state and snow east of the Cascade mountains. But as it gets colder, the west side will dry out.

In this July 31, 2015 file photo, an orca whale "spyhops," a vertical partial-rise out of the water, in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands. Southern Resident orcas are critically endangered, after their numbers have dwindled to 73.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Editor's note: Gene Johnson of The Associated Press wrote much of the story accompanying this audio.

SEATTLE (AP) — Seventeen states sued the Trump administration Wednesday to block rules weakening the Endangered Species Act, saying the changes would make it tougher to protect wildlife even in the midst of a global extinction crisis.

Erich Hoyt (in the front of the boat, with a camera) during the early days of orca research with the whale known as  Top Notch (A5) in the foreground,  in Johnstone Strait, north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Peter Thomas / Courtesy of Erich Hoyt

Two pods of the scarcely seen Southern Resident orca population showed up in the waters off Seattle within just a few hours of author Erich Hoyt’s return to the Pacific Northwest for his book tour.

Sunset in Seattle, June 8, 2019.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

September is one of those months in the greater Puget Sound region that can be glorious, with sunny blue skies serving as a stunning backdrop for crisp autumn leaves and classic Northwest views of mountains and water.

Not so much this year. It’s been cloudy and cool. And very wet.

Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Srevice

For more than 20 years, mysteries surrounding an endangered seabird have suspended logging activities on about 170,000 acres of state trust lands in Washington.

Now, the state Department of Natural Resources says it’s learned enough about the marbled murrelet to protect its habitat and free up some of the lands that were previously tied up.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

UPDATE, Sept. 20, 6 p.m.: Adds details from strikes in Seattle and Tacoma, as well as audio of a live Q&A with reporter Simone Alicea, who followed a march by Amazon workers, and audio of a live Q&A with environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. 

A glass wall inside the new Burke museum reveals many objects and artifacts that are not part of current exhibits.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

The Burke Museum in Seattle holds more than 16 million objects related to natural and cultural history. At any given time in the past, only a tiny fraction of the collection has been visible to the public.

Soon a much greater percentage of the objects will be visible. After closing its doors to the public more than nine months ago, the Burke has moved into a new building.  

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Lightning lit up skies around the Puget Sound on Thursday night, and another big rainstorm is on its way to Western Washington. But KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says none of the incoming weather systems are likely to outshine the extraordinary display of lightning that hit the region last Saturday night.

Alaska Airlines launched a #fillbeforeyoufly campaign to encourage reduced plastic use. Passengers, boarding a flight to Los Angeles, were gifted stickers and stainless-steel bottles Sept. 12 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Of all the things people do every year, flying causes more greenhouse gas pollution than almost anything. Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is working to shrink that carbon footprint. Its latest move is a campaign to reduce plastic waste on flights.

Industry is ever-present around Commencement Bay in Tacoma. Citizens for a Healthy Bay is among the organizations that are invested in improving and maintaining the health of those waters.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

David Bean remembers when his family didn’t have enough room for all the salmon in their boat. 

“We caught so much fish that we had to call folks to bring their skiffs over,” said Bean, chairman of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. “I remember one, we overflowed that skiff so much to one side it flipped over and we lost one skiff-load of salmon. But we still had three.”

The waters in and around Tacoma have changed since then. Still, efforts made in recent years have spurred progress. 

Washington state ferry
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Washington’s ferry system runs on diesel fuel that causes more air pollution than anything else the state transportation department operates. That’s changing as the state Department of Transportation works to convert two of its Jumbo Mark 2 ferries to hybrid-electric propulsion. And now it has officially launched the first new construction of a hybrid ferry, amid much fanfare.  

A harbor seal named Oscar by locals keeps an eye on people fishing and crabbing hear the Des Moines Marina, Thursday, July 21, 2016.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

One of the biggest issues facing Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident killer whales is a lack of Chinook salmon, their preferred food. A Seattle chef and the PCC Community Markets chain have stopped selling local Chinook, in an effort to help provide more for the orcas.

But fisheries experts say people eating Chinook is not the problem.

Elliott Bay and Mt Rainer as seen from Seattle January 28, 2015, when the effects of 'The Blob' were at full strength.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Despite a summer that has been relatively cool overall, a warm area of surface water has formed off the West Coast. It’s about 3-5 degrees warmer than normal for the eastern Pacific Ocean and covers about 6.5 million square kilometers, from Alaska to Hawaii to California. It has put federal fisheries and marine scientists on alert.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

August is often thought of as the hottest time of the summer in the Pacific Northwest, with searing blue skies and sunshine – ideal for boating or heading to a shady park with a wading pool.

That's especially true of the past two summers, when hotter-than-average temperatures dried out everything and boosted wildfires that spewed smoke into the region.

So, the rapid cool down that started Thursday comes as a bit of a shock.

The 8 million-gallon containment tank is seen from a distance on Tacoma's tideflats at the site of a liquefied natural gas plant currently under construction.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Editor's note: This series originally published May 22. Environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp was in Tacoma on Tuesday covering the latest developments, including an anti-LNG march and a public hearing related to permits for the proposed project. Listen to her coverage on All Things Considered today and Morning Edition tomorrow, and revisit previous coverage (updates at the bottom of this post).

Puget Sound Energy CEO Kimberly Harris wasn’t surprised to receive a call from Gov. Jay Inslee the afternoon of May 8. But she was surprised to hear what he had to say.

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