Bellamy Pailthorp

Environment Reporter

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat from the Seattle offices of KNKX Public Radio News, where she has worked since 1999. She also hosts and produces the weekly segment, The Weather With Cliff Mass, which airs every Friday. She holds a Masters in journalism from New York's Columbia University, where she completed the Knight-Bagehot fellowship in business reporting in 2006 mid-career during her stint on KNKX’s Business and Labor Beat from 2000-2012.

From 1989-98 she lived in Berlin, Germany freelancing for NPR and working as a bi-lingual producer for Deutsche Welle TV after receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1989 for a project on theater studies and communist history. She holds a Bachelors’ degree in German language and literature from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. (Yes, she is fluent in German.)

She strives to tell memorable stories about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Character-driven narratives of exploration and innovation excite her. 

Outside work, she practices and instructs yoga, walks half marathons with friends, backpacks with her husband and extended family, reads and watches fiction with nieces, enjoys tasting new foods and admiring all kinds of animals -- especially her two house cats, who often remind her she should spend more time sitting on the couch with them.

Ways to Connect

Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service

They’re slimy and cold-blooded.

But conservationists say amphibians and reptiles are important indicator species – and some of the most endangered.

Five of these sensitive creatures that call Washington home are among more than 50 included in a petition for federal protection.

Cliff Mass / KPLU

The smoky skies over Seattle are likely from Asia and not Western fires, says Cliff Mass, KPLU weather forecaster and University of Washington professor.

In his blog post on the smoke, he said the air over us can be traced back to Asia at low levels.

WSDOT image

Even as its construction is well underway, design plans for the new 520 bridge across Lake Washington continue to spark controversy.

A federal judge will hear oral arguments tomorrow in a lawsuit against the replacement project by the State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

Big Dipper 2 / Flickr

Dozens of prominent environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth are asking President Obama for help protecting old-growth forests in the northwest.

Steve Holmer, with the American Bird Conservancy, says a new rule designating critical habitat for the northern spotted owl has loopholes.

The Associated Press

If you’ve shopped in Seattle lately, you’re probably aware of the ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags that started July 1. Now, you have to bring your own re-usable tote, or pay five cents for a paper bag.

It’s the second law of its kind to take effect in Washington. And with five more recently approved in cities from Issaquah to Port Townsend, momentum is growing for a possible statewide ban.

WSDOT photo / Flickr

Tolling rates are going up on the 520 bridge this Sunday, in the first of four annual rate hikes. The 2.5%  increase will add about an extra dime to peak fees. It comes 6 months after tolling began on the bridge between Seattle and the east side.

The complete removal of Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct is years away. The tunnel replacing it won’t open till 2015.

But this summer marks a crucial moment for the iconic Pike Place Market as the waterfront is redeveloped.

Photo by andreyphoto.com / Flickr

Rising sea levels in the Puget Sound region may prove costly to taxpayers. A city like Olympia could have to re-build its sewer system. Other cities may find waterfront roads washed out.

The culprit is global warming. Warmer water expands, bringing sea levels higher. And glacial ice that is above water now is expected to chunk off and fall into oceans, causing additional sea level rise.

zenobia_joy Photo / Flickr

Good news for those who love local oysters and clams: the state Department of Health says there’s been a steady improvement in water quality for nearly a decade, leading to fewer closures of shellfish beds in Puget Sound.

The key measure is of fecal coliform bacteria, which lives in human and animal waste. Runoff from farms and leaky sewage systems carries the bacteria and contaminates shellfish beds. People who eat the polluted shellfish can get sick.

Kris / Flickr

They may be sorely missed by many dog owners in Seattle, who use them for cleaning up after fido. But they pollute our waterways, get stuck in the gears at recycling plants, harm marine wildlife and never break down completely. 

We're talking about thin plastic shopping bags, which are becoming a thing of the past at cash registers in Seattle, effective July first.

The Pacific Northwest has made headlines for its efforts to become the first coal-free region in the United States. Washington’s last coal-fired power plant, in Centralia, is scheduled to be shut down by 2025.

Yet one of the region’s largest utilities still derives more than a third of its power from coal.

Lindsay Lowe / KPLU

Seattle’s Elliott Bay is the epicenter of a global energy fight.

The Shell Oil Company has two rigs docked here, the Kulluk and the Noble Discoverer. Also in Elliott Bay is the Greenpeace vessel, Esperanza.

As soon as the ice clears, Shell’s rigs will head out for the Arctic. They’ll be the first to conduct exploratory drilling there in more than two decades. Greenpeace plans to shadow them, using submarines.

The Associated Press

If you live in the Northwest, it's hard to escape the knowledge that the possibility of a major earthquake is real. 

Yet, far more than half of residents here are not prepared for such a disaster. Despite frequent campaigns encouraging homeowners to have at least a 3-day supply of emergency water, food and first aid on hand, authorities assume only 30-40 percent of us actually do.

Photo by Nicole Kistler / courtesy Kistler | Higbee Cahoot

It’s a first-of-its-kind in Seattle and perhaps even the country. Over the weekend, the city celebrated the opening of its first-ever rooftop community garden.  

Its design is garnering interest from around the region, as urban planners look for ways to integrate more open space and urban agriculture into increasingly dense neighborhoods.

toddraden Photo / Flickr

It was standing room only at the federal building in Seattle, where the Environmental Protection Agency held its first hearing Thursday on Alaska’s Bristol Bay fishery.

At issue is the potential effects of a proposed gold and copper mine there. The assessment looks at mining in general, though concern has arisen over a huge project known as the Pebble Mine.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

“It just doesn’t like to stop. It’s very tenacious.”

If you have property in the Pacific Northwest, there’s one plant you’ve most likely encountered … and battled – The Himalayan Blackberry.

It’s enemy No.1 in the Northwest. So, where did this plant come from and why did it become such a pervasive pain in the garden?

Read more on I Wonder Why...?

The Associated Press

For some it’s the next big source of high-wage jobs; for others, an environmental nightmare: At least 9 trains a day could soon rumble through Seattle, carrying coal to export terminals in Washington and Oregon.

Cities from Missoula, Mont., to Edmonds have passed resolutions that call the idea into question. Seattle is now poised to join them with one of its own.

Photo courtesy of Washington State Dept. of Ecology

Carbon emissions are threatening Washington’s shellfish industry. That’s the concern of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, which meets today in Seattle.

Courtesy Seattle Public Utilities

A more efficient way to fix one of Seattle’s most embarrassing environmental problems – that’s the promise of a proposed agreement on meeting federal standards for clean water.

The problem is untreated sewage that flows into our lakes and other waterways after big storms.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

Less than two years after the idea was pitched to the public, a new Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition opens today (Monday 11am) at Seattle Center.

It’s located at the foot of the Space Needle, where the kiddy rides and arcade games of the old Fun Forest once drew crowds.

Now, people are standing on tiptoes to peer in through the fence around the outdoor displays, which beckon with flashes of color.  

Photo courtesy of Jeff Smith / Save the Skykomish River

It’s designated as a State Scenic Waterway and recommended for federal protection. Yet the south fork of the Skykomish River has just been named one of the ten most endangered rivers in the country by the national environmental group, American Rivers.

It’s because of a controversial proposal to build a new dam.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

If the skyrocketing cost of a college degree seems intimidating, you might want to consider the skilled trades as an alternative – especially if you’re female.

That was the message at the Washington Women in Trades annual career fair at Seattle Center, where dozens of employers aimed to recruit young women, enticing them with the chance to try their hand as a carpenter, painter or steelworker.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

President Barack Obama was in Seattle yesterday on a fundraising swing. It was his first trip since the big announcement Wednesday that he now supports the right of same-sex couples to marry, a stance that was celebrated by supporters both inside and outside his speech at the Paramount theater downtown.

At 8th and Pine, a colorful band of demonstrators gathered for a rally near the barricades to say thank you to the President, even though they couldn’t afford the thousand-dollar ticket to see him speak.

Photo by Andrew Imanaka / flickr

The tendency for politicians to put off rate increases has meant decades of instability for customers of Seattle City Light. That’s according to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who has unveiled a new strategic plan, which would raise electricity rates a total of 28 percent over the next six years.

Businesses want stability

Though raising rates is unpopular, McGinn says the plan will create more predictability for customers – something that’s especially important for businesses.

Photo by Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

Washington State is the floating bridge capital of the world. We have four of the most famous ones, including the longest: State Route 520, which is about to be replaced.

What holds them all up? Giant floats made of concrete, called pontoons. The first and largest of them are being manufactured in Grays Harbor, near Aberdeen.

Curtis Gregory Perry Photo / Flickr

U.S. postage rates went up again at the start of this year. But the service is still in financial crisis.

And letter carriers say the latest legislative fix about to come before the U.S. Senate could devastate the mail service as we know it.

Courtesy Seattle Police Dept.

Small talk isn’t usually encouraged between police officers and the public.

But, the Seattle Police Department is trying to change that, with a program that encourages people to invite the cops in for “living room conversations. ”

For most people, seeing a police officer in uniform is intimidating. You don’t usually get up close and personal with a cop unless something bad is happening. Seattle Lieutenant Carmen Best says inviting police in for a living room conversation helps build trust.

courtesy Wa Dept of Ecology

Climate change is happening, and not preparing for it could cost the state $10 billion a year by 2020.

That’s according to the Department of Ecology, which has just released a response strategy to changing climate conditions.

normanack / Flickr

Food and yard waste make up more than a third of Seattle’s waste stream. Much of that used to go into the trash, but now it’s being composted.

Since 2009, the city has been providing weekly pick up of organic waste. Last year it dramatically increased the kinds of things allowed in municipal compost bins, to include meats and dairy products. Seattle residents composted 125,000 tons of food and yard waste last year. That represents a big shift over the past decade or so.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

It’s one of the most enduring legends of the Northwest – hundreds of people report sightings of Bigfoot every year. Native American stories also call it Sasquatch or “the Hairy Man.” The idea of a giant, ape-like creature that hides in the woods and might be related to humans has been around for centuries.

Why has this “myth” endured in the Northwest? Is it because Bigfoot is really here? Or, is it because it’s the kind of wild alter ego Northwesterners love to imagine for themselves?

Read more on I Wonder Why ... ?

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