Environment

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Environmental groups are mobilizing against proposals to export coal through Northwest terminals. That coal would be mined in the Rockies and travel by train across Idaho to Oregon and Washington ports to be shipped to Asia.   Protesters rallied in Oregon’s capital Monday. They're asking Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to block permits for several coal terminals.

Critics say the coal-laden trains would spew dust and block traffic. And environmental groups oppose the use of coal as an energy source regardless of where and how it's shipped.

NW Residents Willingness To Pay For Renewable

Apr 10, 2012
Aaron Kunz / Earthfix

Northwest residents say they want more clean energy and less of their electricity from fossil fuels.

Renewable energy has been praised for its ability to provide power without releasing carbon emissions into the air. Wind, solar, biomass and geothermal are currently in use in the Northwest. But so is coal, natural gas and nuclear.

“I’m concerned about what we’re leaving for our future generations," says Boise resident Alex Feldman. "And I guess I don’t want to go down in history as the generation that sort of screwed it up.”

inl.gov

Investigators at the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho say they should have initial results by midweek on how radioactive particles got outside.

Cobalt, Cesium, and Europium are the radioactive materials investigators have found on the INL grounds. Workers with radiation detectors continue to comb the facility, the employees, and any vehicles leaving the site.

The Forest Service has received funding to buy a few privately owned parcels of land in the northwest. 

The money for the land buys comes from a federal conservation fund, that gets a tiny percent of the royalties from offshore oil drilling.

Debbie Okholm is with the Forest Service. She says more than 15 percent of the land inside national forest boundaries in the northwest is actually owned by other people. So the forest service focuses on acquiring that land.

lengmomo/ Flickr

The Northwest spring is getting off to a wet start. But Eastern Washington farmers appear to be right on schedule. 

Asparagus is the herald of spring. That’s because the crop depends heavily on soil temperature to sprout.

Farmer Alan Schreiber says if he and his neighbors harvest asparagus before April 5th it’s an early year. If they harvest after April 15 it’s late.

So far, it looks like the green and purple spears will pop up right on time. Schreiber says growers have been out in the field working for more than a month.

Report: Geothermal Industry Is Expanding

Apr 5, 2012

A new report says the geothermal industry is steadily growing. Projects are planned throughout the Northwest.

Although renewable energy development faces uncertainties with production tax credit extensions, the Geothermal Energy Association says its industry is expanding. A new report found about 150 projects in the works in the western United States.

Karl Gawell  is the association’s executive director. He says several projects are opening up new areas for geothermal development. Washington is one. Gawell says finding new resources can sometimes be tricky.

Grisly Photo Adds Fuel to Wolf Hunt Debate

Apr 4, 2012
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

A photo of a trapped wolf in Idaho has splashed new fuel on the flames of the debate over wolves. Environmental groups say the image demonstrates what they see as the cruelty of wolf trapping in Idaho. But state and federal authorities say there was nothing illegal about the picture.

An anti-trapping group in Montana found the photo on a forum called Trapperman.com. In the background, you can see a wolf with one of its hind feet caught in a trap. The snow around the wolf has turned pink from blood. In the foreground a trapper smiles at the camera.

Call For Emergency Research Of Tsunami Debris

Apr 2, 2012
U.S. Navy

A year after the devastating earthquake in Japan, up to 100,000 tons of tsunami-generated debris is posing an urgent threat to coastal economies in the western U.S. That’s according to Senators Maria Cantwell and Mark Begich, who have written a letter to President Barack Obama, asking that emergency research funds from the National Science Foundation be mobilized to help scientists hone in on what needs to be done to prepare for the arrival of the debris.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife

Wolf hunting ended Saturday in most of Idaho. Hunters have bagged 372 animals since the season began in August,  cutting the state’s estimated wolf population roughly in half, according to the latest count. Idaho Fish and Game officials are pleased, while wolf advocates find the high total worrisome.

 There was high interest in this year’s hunt. Idahoans and out-of-staters purchased more than 43,000 wolf tags. The individual success rate wasn’t great. But overall, Idaho wildlife manager Jon Rachael says the hunt met the state’s goals.

Water Will Flow To Southern Oregon Farms April 1st

Mar 30, 2012
Earthfix

Idaho farmers this time of year are thinking a lot about water and wondering if there will be enough for their crops and livestock. A wet spring has boosted snow packs and hopes throughout the region. But in Southern Oregon’s Klamath Basin, farmers are a bit worried.  That's because local officials have declared a drought in Klamath County.   

Rob Unruh’s farmhouse is just about a mile from the border with California. This winter, he planted wheat in the field in front of his house, to hold the soil in place. Skinny green stalks, almost invisible, poke up out of the ground.

Tom Banse

The region’s main electricity wholesaler, the Bonneville Power Administration, has major shortcomings with regards to its cyber security and computer systems. That’s according to a report released Thursday by the Department of Energy’s investigative arm. The BPA is taking issue with the seriousness of the findings.

The federal auditor is concerned BPA is not well-enough equipped to handle a cyber attack. And the years-long review also dinged BPA for security gaps. That could jeopardize the regional electricity grid and in the worst case black out customers.

Warm Winter Means Buggy Spring In Southern Idaho

Mar 29, 2012

Here come the bugs. It was a warm winter in the southern half of Idaho. That means insects are emerging earlier and will have longer breeding seasons.

Jonathan Ross is with Gemtek Pest Control in Boise. He says calls for service are up 40 percent this month over a year ago.

 “And if we look at the last 5 or 6 years it’s really higher than it’s been any of those years.” 

Ross says he’s already getting calls for ants in people’s homes. But he’s especially worried about a possible banner year for flying, stinging insects.

Coal Train Traffic Increase Could Be Bad News For Health

Mar 29, 2012
Courtney Flatt

There are now six new export terminals proposed to be built along the Northwest coast. The goal? To bring American coal to Asia, via train and ship.

If these terminals are approved that could mean more than 100 million tons of coal traveling by rail across Idaho, Washington and Oregon every year.

The potential for more train traffic has public health experts concerned. 

A pipe failure on Monday in British Columbia has released an estimated 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage into the Columbia River. Emergency crews from the British Columbia Ministry of Environment stopped the flow yesterday afternoon.

But Washington Department of Ecology spokeswoman Jani Gilbert says once the sewage is in the river, there’s nothing they can do to clear it out.

Mike and Chantell Sackett imagine a rustic, three-bedroom A-frame, with views of Priest Lake and the rugged landscape that surrounds it. But the EPA told them in 2007 that because their plot is designated as a wetland, they could face steep fines for building.

The coupled hired engineers who dispute that finding. But they never had a chance to argue that point. In an interview last fall, Chantell Sackett said the case comes down to this exchange with a EPA manager.

"I said, 'So, why would I stop building my house? She said, 'Because we told you to.'"

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