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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Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Leaders from five Coast Salish tribes joined a delegation from the United Tribes of Bristol Bay in Seattle this week to formally unveil a Bristol Bay Proclamation.

It demands that the U.S. government protect the tribes' way of life, as “people of the salmon,” by halting the permitting process for the so-called Pebble Mine in Southeast Alaska. And it’s a pledge of unity in a fight that has been an uphill battle.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talks to the media after a state Supreme Court ruling that reinstated a severely limited version of his plan to cap carbon pollution in the state, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, in Olympia, Wash.
Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

In a close ruling, the state Supreme Court has partially invalidated the Clean Air Rule drafted by the Department of Ecology.

The court says it cannot be used to regulate companies that sell or distribute petroleum or natural gas, because they don't make their own greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters of climate action remain optimistic.

The Capitol dome is seen across Capitol Lake in Olympia. The Legislature convenes today for the 2020 session, and environmental groups are identifying their top priorities.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

As the new session gets underway in Olympia today, environmental groups have released their legislative priorities.

Items topping their list this year are renewed attempts to pass a clean fuels standard to reduce carbon pollution from transportation, as well as a statewide ban on thin, single-use plastic bags. 

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks during a news conference, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019, in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has signed an executive order implementing a Green New Deal for the city to fight climate change.

As she signed the executive order, Durkan also announced $250,000 in environmental justice grants, going to seven projects that respond to the impacts of climate change. 

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

It's not only a new year but Jan. 1 also marks the start of new regulations on recycling for residents of King and Pierce counties.  

Seattle Public Utilities and King County Solid Waste are no longer accepting plastic bags or plastic wraps in curbside bins. (Pierce County already made this change). Instead, residents are asked to bundle these thin plastics up at home and take them to drop off sites at retail stores.

The main reason for the change is that thin plastics get caught in the gears of the sorting machines that separate different kinds of recycling. 

The half-built LNG facility at the Port of Tacoma.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The Puyallup Tribe and a coalition of environmental groups have filed two separate appeals against the permit for a controversial liquefied natural gas plant at the Port of Tacoma.

Island Spring Organics owner and founder Luke Lukoskie samples the processed soy that will become organic tofu.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Transportation remains the largest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases in Washington. Tailpipe emissions amount to about 40 percent of the problem.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency wants to tackle that with a first-ever regional clean fuels standard, covering King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties.  

A young southern resident killer whale chases a Chinook salmon in the Salish Sea near San Juan Island, Washington, in September 2017. Image obtained under NMFS permit #19091.
John Durban/Southwest Fisheries Science Center / NOAA Fisheries

Chinook salmon – the Northwest’s largest and most iconic fish species – are shrinking.

Researchers have documented that adult kings returning from the North Pacific are on average 10 percent shorter and as much as 30 percent lighter than 40 years ago.

Larry Workman / Quinault Tribe

Rising sea levels caused by global warming hit coastal communities the hardest. In Washington, many of those communities are tribes that settled near the water long before climate change became an issue. A new bill moving through Congress aims to provide them with more relief.  

The liquefied natural gas facility under construction in Tacoma's tideflats recently received its final permit from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Environmental groups in Tacoma say they're planning a swift appeal against the decision from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency approving a permit for the liquefied natural gas facility that's being built in the city's tideflats.

Members of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians gather alongside students at Chief Leschi Schools for climate emergency vote.
Courtesy of Puyallup Tribe

The governing council of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians has approved a resolution declaring a climate emergency. The vote took place at a special meeting held during an assembly at Chief Leschi Schools, with all grades of the schools gathered around.

An orca is seen swimming free in the Salish Sea.
Photo by Katy Foster

In the Puget Sound region, whale lovers call the early 1960s the Capture Era. That’s when hundreds of local killer whales were rounded up, hunted and sold to amusement parks. Seattle became a hub of that brutal international trade, which decimated the population of now-endangered Southern Resident orcas. 

Makah Tribal Council member Patrick Depoe has been present since the hearing started last week. He says the response this time around is nothing like 20 years ago.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This story has been updated to include remarks from members of the Makah tribe. 

Thor Hanson / Courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Wildlife officials are appealing to landowners on San Juan and Lopez islands. They’re asking them to set aside patches of habitat for the rare island marble butterfly, before it gets official protection under federal law.  

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.

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg attracted thousands of fellow climate activists, many fellow teenagers and their parents, to Vancouver, B.C., on Friday.
Craig McCulloch / KNKX

Less than a week after the Canadian general election, teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg arrived in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday to speak.

The 16-year-old attracted thousands of fellow climate activists, many fellow teenagers and their parents, to the downtown core.

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.  

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.

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.

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.

This May 3, 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 pipeline that begins in northern Alberta.
Jeremy Hainsworth / The Associated Press

British Columbia’s top court has issued a ruling that affects the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. While it may not stop the project, it could cause a further delay.

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.

In this Aug. 7, 2018, photo, Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, swim off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C. J50 has since been declared dead, one of several deaths in recent years.
Brian Gisborne / Fisheries and Oceans Canada via Associated Press

The federal agency in charge of endangered orca recovery is proposing to add more than 10 million acres of Pacific coastal waters to the area it considers "critical habitat." The government does not expect the expanded habitat designation to affect coastal economies.

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.

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