Environment | KNKX


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

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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.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

This story originally aired on January 20, 2018.

Feeling out of place takes on whole new dimension when you’re in a foreign country. Perhaps no one understands this more than new immigrants and refugees. And there’s a woman who meets lots of them here in the Seattle area.

Sophorn Sim is an outreach worker for the environmental non-profit, ECOSS, connecting other refugees and new immigrants with resources and ways to live healthier lives.

A school of juvenile coho salmon.
Alaska Sea Grant / Courtesy University of Washington News and Information.

It’s long been known that shellfish and other marine life are sensitive to ocean acidification caused by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some fish lose their sense of smell in acidic waters. There was a hope that salmon would not be affected. A new study shows otherwise.  

A target set up in the so-called "Shoofly Pit" in Tahuya State Forest. DNR would like to move this unofficial site, but is struggling to find a better alternative.
Phil Greenwald

Representatives of the state Department of Natural Resources will be in Belfair on Monday evening. They’re meeting with members of the community to address concerns about an unregulated increase in target shooting in Tahuya State Forest.

Orca whales swimming
The Associated Press

People who love Puget Sound orcas and want to save them from extinction will rally in Olympia tomorrow. And Gov. Jay Inslee plans to join them, immediately after announcing his budget priorities for the coming year.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed an ambitious package of legislation aimed at tackling climate change.

oyster grower on a boat
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

GRAYS HARBOR, WASH. — An oyster shack tops the list of offerings in the local farm fresh guide here. No visit would be complete without exploring the shellfish industry. The region, together with Willapa Bay, produces 25 percent of all oysters in the country. But currently, growers are facing a big challenge.

Elaine Thompson / File / AP Photo

A coalition of state legislators, environmental groups and retailers have proposed a sweeping ban on single-use plastic bags. If approved, Washington would join just two other states in the nation to impose the statewide restriction.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Oyster growers on the Washington coast will have a chance to convince regulators to let them use a controversial pesticide to control native burrowing shrimp. The shrimp can infest oyster beds and turn them into quicksand. Members of the Willapa Bay Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association say they’ve lost hundreds of acres of tidelands to the problem.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

For the fourth year running, employees of Seattle-based REI have the day off on Black Friday. The co-op’s stores are all closed on the biggest retail day of the year – and its website won’t process any sales.

REI says its #OptOutside movement is growing.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

The state Department of Natural Resources is asking the Legislature for nearly $90 million dollars to protect and improve aquatic lands. DNR chief Hilary Franz says the package will support the work of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

It may seem like nothing is happening to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state, especially after the failure of the carbon-fee measure, Initiative 1631. But work is progressing on a regional "clean fuel standard."

Elaine Thompson / File / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee received a final report and recommendations from the Orca Recovery Task Force he appointed in May. The group suggests 36 action items to keep the Southern Resident killer whales from going extinct. Among the most controversial is a temporary ban on whale watching of the endangered orcas, for three to five years.

It's been more than a century since sea otters were hunted to near extinction along the U.S. West Coast. The cute animals were successfully reintroduced along the Washington, British Columbia and California coasts, but an attempt to bring them back to Oregon in the early 1970s failed.

Now a new nonprofit has formed to try again.

Elaine Thompson / File / AP Photo

The state’s Orca Recovery Task Force will deliver its final recommendations to Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday. Among the controversial items on the list is a last-minute proposal for a temporary ban on whale watching tours near the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife suggested it as an alternative to a no-go zone west of San Juan Island. It’s proposed to last three to five years.  

But some whale-watch companies are concerned it would create false impressions about their industry.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

Anyone living in the Puget Sound region has likely seen stories about prescription and illegal drugs polluting local waterways. Scientists have found traces of opioids and other pharmaceuticals in shellfish – and they're believed to also harm salmon and other fish.

Yet the Food and Drug Administration continues to advise people to safely dispose of many leftover meds by flushing them down the toilet.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Dozens of youth climate activists and their supporters rallied outside the federal courthouse in Seattle on Monday. Their demonstration was one of more than 70 such gatherings planned around the country, in support of the 21 young plaintiffs in a landmark case against the U.S. government.   

Elaine Thompson / File / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force now has 35 items on its revised draft of recommendations to help Puget Sound’s endangered killer whales.  

Members have been meeting since May and are getting ready to finalize their report. But they’re still accepting comments until midnight Monday, and they want people to get involved.  

Ted S. Warren / file / AP Photo

One of the big decisions Washington voters face this election lies in Initiative 1631, which asks voters to impose a fee on carbon emissions. That’s the air pollution that comes from fossil fuels used in industry and transportation.

Rachel La Corte / AP Photo

Olympia’s Capitol Lake was designed to be an ornamental reflecting pool to compliment the dome of the legislature. But the lake is in trouble.  A $4-million dollar study of options to fix it is underway.

Public comments on what should be included in the study will be heard Monday at a meeting in Olympia.

Ed Ronco

Inside the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham, the crowd had questions: Will there be jobs? What will the housing look like? Can I still get down to the beach? What about traffic in the area?

The redevelopment of Bellingham’s waterfront brings a lot of unknowns. What is clear, though, is that change is happening at the foot of the city’s downtown, where heavy industry once sat for more than a century.

Northwest Indian College



Communities in the Salish Sea basin are working to clean up pollution and better understand how to foster a sustainable environment. It requires data collection and lab work. But it also requires a connection to the cultures of the many nations that touch the Salish Sea.


John Scurlock / Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

This week in Whatcom County, officials are staging an emergency response drill to test and increase their preparednesss in the event that Mount Baker blows its top.

That might seem unlikely, but Baker is considered an active volcano. In fact, it has the second most thermally active crater in the Cascade range.

Nicholas K. Geranios / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee has received a letter from the region’s leading killer whale scientists, calling for the removal of four dams on the Lower Snake river.