Environment | KNKX

Environment

Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KNKX's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.

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A drift net fishing boat in Bristol Bay.
Courtesy Mark Titus, Eva's Wild

Bristol Bay, Alaska, provides more than half of the world’s sockeye salmon. And every summer, hundreds of commercial fishermen from the Puget Sound region join Alaskan locals to reap the benefits of its pristine salmon habitat.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, center, pulls off his "100%" cap, standing for a goal of 100% clean energy, after posing for a photo with supporters after signing climate protection legislation Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Washington state now has the strongest clean electricity law in the nation. That's how many environmentalists describe new regulations that force utilities to get off coal by 2025 and to be 100 percent free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

Transient whales swim through the Salish Sea near Friday Harbor in March. While sightings of transients are growing, the endangered Southern Resident population is bordering on extinction.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

“For as the orca go, so go we.”

Those were words from Gov. Jay Inslee as he signed five bills that aim to help keep endangered Southern Resident killer whales from going extinct. All are based on recommendations from the orca recovery task force he convened last year.

Growler jets
John Froschauer / The Associated Press

A national parks organization filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy last week, related to jet training at Air Station Whidbey Island.

The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association sued the Navy to get more information about the exercises, which are planned for one of the quietest places in the lower 48.

A drone view of flooding in Hamiton in 2017.
Courtesy of Joan Cromley

A town on the Skagit River that’s plagued with chronic flooding is one step closer to moving out of the flood plain. That’s thanks to a $1 million investment from the conservation group, Forterra.

Recycling is changing dramatically. So, a Seattle Public Utilities staffer put on some gloves, rolled up her sleeves and sorted through the recycling at a local coffee shop with KNKX Public Radio. Here are the top 10 tips she shared.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Recycling the right way is a point of pride around here. “Obsessive Compulsive Recycler, you’re one of us,” local insurance company Pemco says in one of its cheeky Northwest Profiles.

But getting it right has become more difficult, after China stopped accepting most of our recyclable waste. With so much piling up, some worry if their careful efforts are ultimately keeping the items out of landfills.

AL GRILLO / AP Photo

More than 200 businesses — including many in Washington state — are calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to suspend permitting for the controversial Pebble Mine project. The proposed mine would be located in the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, in Bristol Bay Alaska.  

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

UPDATE, April 25: A previous version of this story inaccurately conflated two separate environmental reviews.  

The U.S. Navy is in the middle of an environmental review process for a proposal to conduct training and testing activities in offshore areas along the West Coast, including Washington, and associated airspace. Now, the public is getting more time to weigh in on the impacts.

Mount Rainier in Washington state is surrounded in a haze of wildfire smoke, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015.
Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

Warmer weather and wildfire smoke are causing more air pollution in Washington. Three metropolitan areas in the state have the worst air pollution in the nation. They made the top-15 list for particle pollution in this year’s “State of the Air” report from the American Lung Association, which looks at both particle pollution and ozone.

A drone photo of the Arlington Microgrid Community Solar Project, which officially launches on Monday, April 22, 2019 in honor of Earth Day.
Courtesy Snohomish County PUD

Solar power can feel out of reach. Upfront costs are usually considerable and you need a sunny roof or open space where you can put the panels.

Community solar projects make it more accessible, by allowing ratepayers to buy shares in an installation that’s financed and operated by a group of investors. Utilities around the state, including Seattle City Light and Avista, offer them. Now, Snohomish County PUD is getting in on the game — in a big way.

courtesy of state Department of Health

A bill that would address environmental justice is still alive in the state Legislature.

The so-called Healthy Environment for All, or HEAL, Act passed the House in the nick of time, getting a last-minute bipartisan vote of 88-10 just after 5 p.m. Wednesday, to clear the cutoff deadline.

Rick Bowmer / AP Photo / file

Low numbers of Chinook salmon expected to return to the Columbia River this summer have led state and tribal officials to close that fishery until Aug. 1. They’ve also announced new restrictions on Puget Sound Chinook.  

A whale watching boat, from a distance, watches one of several transient killer whales during a whale watching trip last month.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Experts and enthusiasts agree, whether on water or on land: it’s difficult to describe the feeling people get in the presence of orcas.

“I wish you could bottle what happens when people see whales,” said Donna Sandstrom, while passing out binoculars to passersby in West Seattle. “The sheer joy and the awe is always moving.”

The male wolf in the newly named Diobsud Creek pack. This radio-collared male appears to have a mate. They live in Skagit County near Marblemount, north of Highway 20.
Courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Endangered gray wolves are back in Western Washington. That’s according to the latest census of the endangered population from state wildlife officials. It’s the first time the count has included a pack living west of the Cascades.       

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Members of Gov. Jay Inslee’s orca recovery task force and environmental groups supporting its work say they have four critical bills that are still in play this legislative session. They’re calling on state lawmakers to keep moving the bills forward.

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Based on legislative budgets released so far, a major increase in state funding for wildfire fighting and prevention looks likely. Washington's Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz, has requested an unprecedented $55 million dollars to fight and prevent wildfires. She argues this will save taxpayer money in the long run.

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

One of the biggest priorities among environmental groups working in Olympia this year is passage of a law to transition the electrical grid to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. It’s also a cornerstone of Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest policies to address climate change. The proposal faces a key vote in the state House finance committee on Friday morning.

courtesy Ronn Griffin

Thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest — commercial fishermen, their crews, sport fishermen, seafood processors, even many boat builders — depend on wild salmon caught every summer in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The Trump administration has re-started permitting for a controversial mining project there — and locals are gearing up to fight it.

greenway vista
Margaret Ullman-Hess

A sweeping public lands package was signed into law Tuesday by President Donald Trump, containing numerous benefits for Washington state. It includes a National Heritage Area designation for the Mountains to Sound Greenway, which covers 1.5 million acres stretching from Ellensburg to Seattle along the Interstate 90 corridor. 

Courtesy of Washington State University

The Port of Seattle is holding its first summit on sustainable aviation fuels. It’s part of a push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from flights that originate at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

In what’s been called the most ambitious statewide climate science education initiative in the country, Washington state is putting $4 million dollars this year toward training teachers who want to integrate climate science into their lesson plans. It’s part of fulfilling so-called "next-generation science standards," which aim to get students solving problems rather than memorizing facts.

In this Sept. 7, 2012, file photo, gillnetters repair a net near the mouth of the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon. Washington state is collecting feedback from the public as it considers fishing restrictions amid dwindling salmon populations.
Don Ryan / The Associated Press (file)

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has launched two months of public meetings as regulators decide how much salmon can be harvested from state waters. The process includes the first official statewide forecasts detailing how many salmon are expected to return in 2019.

Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

A de facto ban on whale watching boats that would have required them to stay 650 yards away from endangered Puget Sound orcas for three to five years has been stripped from revised legislation. The compromise goes against a recommendation from Gov. Jay Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force.

This 2018  photo shows the Kirkeholmen oil tanker anchored outside the Kinder Morgan Inc. Westridge oil terminal in Vancouver, Canada, at the end of the Trans Mountain. A project to expand the pipeline would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline.
Jeremy Hainsworth / The Associated Press

Canada’s National Energy Board has again approved the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. If completed, the project will see a massive increase in oil tankers through the Salish Sea.

Tribal members and their supporters fill the office of Gov. Jay Inslee on Jan. 23, 2018, in protest against the construction of a liquified natural gas plant being built in Tacoma.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Climate activists rallied on the Capitol steps in Olympia on Thursday and delivered boxes containing nearly 150,000 written comments to Gov. Jay Inslee.

They're urging him to reject proposals for fracked gas infrastructure in Washington, including two projects already underway, in Tacoma and Kalama.

In this photo taken May 3, 2016, Donna McNeal, of Orion Environmental Services, collects a water sample from a classroom sink for lead testing at Fawcett Elementary School in Tacoma.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

More than 60 percent of Washington schools tested by the state Department of Health last year show unsafe levels of lead. That’s according to a nonprofit group that's pushing for higher standards in the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

In this file photo from May 2015, Eric Hall, a manager for Taylor Shellfish, displays burrowing shrimp from the mud below his feet at low tide in Willapa Bay. Last April, state ecology officials denied a permit for imidacloprid to control the shrimp.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Oyster growers want to force the state Department of Ecology to allow the use of pesticides in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. A bill before the state Legislature would require the agency to grant permits to control burrowing shrimp. It also would transfer oversight and regulation of the pesticides to the state Department of Agriculture.

Water is sprayed to keep dust down as a piece of heavy equipment is used to begin work dismantling the Alaskan Way Viaduct, beginning on the southbound Columbia Street onramp, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Demolition of Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct is underway. Crews began tearing down a former on-ramp near First Avenue and Columbia Street on Friday. Another piece near the market began coming down shortly thereafter.

Unlike the almost instantaneous implosion of the Kingdome just a few blocks away 19 years ago, the removal of the old double-decker freeway has to happen in relative slow motion.

Cover image of the new book by David Moskowitz.
David Moskowitz / Mountaineers Books

For centuries, mountain caribou have inhabited the unique inland rainforest of the Pacific Northwest. And they were once so abundant, they were considered an "insurance food" for indigenous tribes in the area that spans the northeastern corner of Washington state, as well as parts of Idaho and British Columbia.

Jeff Barnard / The Associated Press

One of the top issues for environmental groups this legislative session is the pollution caused by thin, single-use plastic bags. They fly out of landfills into waterways, harming marine life and water quality. They also gum up recycling machinery and contaminate commercial compost.

So, Washington's Environmental Priorities Coalition is pushing for a statewide ban on the bags.

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