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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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.

Elaine Thompson / file / AP Photo

A bill to shield endangered Puget Sound orca whales from noise and other disruptions caused by vessel traffic got a first hearing in Olympia on Tuesday. The most controversial piece of the proposed legislation would implement a temporary, de facto ban on Southern Resident whale watching. 

John Scurlock / jaggedridgeimaging.com

Mountains loom large in the Skagit River Valley. Visitors come from all over the world to spend time exploring the massive peaks of the North Cascades.

But few people get the perspective on them enjoyed by two men who are documenting the response of Washington’s glaciers to climate change.

In this May 3, 2018 photo, a couple walk their dog on the shore near the Kinder Morgan Inc. Westridge oil tanker terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
Jeremy Hainsworth / The Associated Press

This week, Canada’s energy regulator is listening to feedback on the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. It’s part of a two-step process to consider the possible effects of the expansion on climate change.   

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

If you want to keep Puget Sound's endangered orca whales from going extinct, you have to make sure they have enough to eat. That’s a key message from members of Gov. Jay Inslee’s orca recovery task force.

In this 2014 photo, a correctional officer directs an offender through a gate at the Washington Corrections Center For Women in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

The healing power of nature is well established. People who garden, take frequent hikes or regularly play with a dog or cat experience the benefits firsthand. Time spent with nature is known to improve mental health, increase physical health and reduce stress.

A professor of social work and criminal justice at the University of Washington Tacoma wants to see that knowledge put to work in state prisons, to help them get better results.  

Westridge Marine Terminal of the Trans Mountain pipeline in the suburb of Vancouver.
Craig McCulloch / KNKX

The TransCanada pipeline and opponents have filed their final submissions to Canada’s energy regulator. This second review of the proposed pipeline expansion, which would see dramatically increased oil tankers in the Salish Sea, was ordered by a court last year.

In this May 3, 2018 photo, a camp set up by demonstrators opposed to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline through the Canadian Rockies, stands outside the Kinder Morgan Inc. oil storage facility on Burnaby Mountain above the harbor in Vancouver.
Jeremy Hainsworth / The Associated Press

As further review of the Trans Mountain Pipeline continues, a number of First Nations in Alberta are making overtures to buy the project. At the same time, one of Canada’s railways is teaming up with another First Nation to temporarily convert oil into CanaPux, oil bricks that resemble hockey pucks. KNKX’s Craig McCulloch reports.

In this photo on Aug. 7, 2015, a team of scientists climb Sholes Glacier in Mount Baker, Washington. It appears a pattern of heavy Pacific Northwest storms may have obscured the effects of climate change over the past 20 years.
Manuel Valdes / The Associated Press

It appears a pattern of heavy storms in the Pacific Northwest may have obscured the effects of climate change over the past 20 years. Researchers here have identified a southern shift in the jet stream as a source of heavy precipitation that built up snow pack and glacier mass in Washington and Oregon, while they were declining elsewhere.

Ted S. Warren / AP file

Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing to get Washington state to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. And he's not alone. Dozens of environmental groups, labor organizations, local governments and clean energy businesses also support the idea. 

This May 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.
Jeremy Hainsworth / AP file

  

Canada’s energy regulator has issued draft recommendations concerning the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and its impacts on marine life. The expansion would see a dramatic increase in tanker traffic through the Salish Sea and Puget Sound.

In this February 2015 photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA) a new baby orca swims alongside an adult whale. A new calf was spotted Friday. No calf born in the past three years has survived.
NOAA, Candice Emmons / AP file

A new calf was spotted Friday among the population of critically endangered Southern Resident orcas.

Ken Balcomb, of the Center for Whale Research, told The Seattle Times that the calf — just weeks old — was first seen today at the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

Jeremy Judd / Washington State Department of Commerce

Just over a year ago, Gov. Jay Inslee launched his “Washington Maritime Blue” initiative. It aims to make the state’s seafaring sector the most sustainable in the nation, by boosting innovations and clean technology that help the environment and also grow jobs.

courtesy Washington State Department of Ecology

When the Canadian government bought the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline from Kinder-Morgan last year, it also bought a 69-mile-long spur that extends from the border with the U.S. and feeds Canadian crude to four Washington refineries.  

The change in ownership triggered a required update to the oil-spill response plan for the spur, which has been operating since the 1950s.

Brian Gisborne, Fisheries and Oceans Canada / AP file

The population of critically endangered orca whales seems to have reached a tipping point. Just 74 Southern Residents are left in the wild, a number that will likely drop this year after news broke this week of two more starving orcas.  

A wildlife veterinarian on Orcas Island has one idea that could help: a comprehensive health database to enable intensive care to each and every member of the J, K and L pods.

In this Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015 photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA) a new baby orca swims alongside an adult whale, believed to be its mother, about 15 miles off the coast of Westport, Wash.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Candice Emmons / AP Photo

Environmental law in the U.S. regulates pollution, but often doesn’t protect the things we love.  A movement to change that by securing so-called "rights of nature" is taking hold globally – and locally, too.

Seattle-based Arzeda, a company that designs proteins using DNA manipulation, is among the 'deep tech ' startups in Bryan Johnson's OS Fund. He says theirs is one of many new approaches to solving the problems of climate change.
Courtesy Kernel

What if we could radically improve human intelligence and treat mental disorders through neuroscience that connects our brains to the internet? It sounds like science fiction. But an entrepreneur from Los Angeles has a company working on it. He also wants to use technology to help solve climate change — and recently unveiled that vision during a talk in Seattle.

NaturallyWood.com / Courtesy of Forterra

When you think of high-rise buildings, you probably don’t imagine wood as the weight-bearing material. But Washington recently approved a change in its building codes that will allow engineered mass timber in structures up to 18 stories tall. That’s three times as high as current code allows.

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