Environment | KNKX


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

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It may still be wet and muddy out there, and snow may even be on the ground in some places, but it’s also the time of year when wildland firefighters start to gear up for hot, dry weather and wildfires.

Northwest Senators had a lot of questions for U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry during a Senate committee hearing Tuesday morning. They grilled him on the safety of steel in a massive treatment plant under construction at the Hanford nuclear site.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Local tribes are calling on the memory of legendary civil rights activist Billy Frank Jr. to rev up the fight for salmon recovery. They met in Tulalip Monday for what they dubbed a “first-annual” Pacific Salmon Summit, named in his honor.

Courtesy of the National Park Service

A proposed federal management plan aims to eliminate the growing population of mountain goats in and near Olympic National Park by relocating as many as possible to areas in the North Cascades.

If approved, captures would start this summer. Public meetings about the plan take place all week in towns near the areas that would receive the animals, starting Tuesday evening in Sedro Wooley.

The U.S. Department of Energy is demanding thousands of pages of documentation from one of its top contractors at Hanford. They want to know exactly what grade of steel is being used in a massive radioactive waste treatment plant at the decommissioned nuclear site. 

If all goes according to plan, there could soon be salmon above the Grand Coulee Dam again. That’s according to Cody Desautel, director of Natural Resources for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville. 

courtesy of Puget Sound Energy

A major upgrade to the electric grid along the eastern shores of Lake Washington is facing public opposition.

Puget Sound Energy has plans to build a new substation and improve about 18 miles of existing transmission lines from Redmond to Renton. Cost estimates for the project range from $150-300 million.

The Pacific Northwest’s beloved orcas will not survive unless humans do more to ensure adequate food and cleaner, quieter waters. That was one of the messages at a crowded signing ceremony in Seattle convened by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Environmental groups had high hopes going into the special legislative session that ended Thursday in Olympia. But even with Democratic majorities in both chambers of the legislature, passage of critical climate policies did not happen.


A massive, indigenous-led protest is scheduled to start 10 a.m. Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia, against the planned expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. More than 7,000 people have signed up, with several groups on this side of the border lending support.

Prompt communication between workers and management at the Plutonium Finishing Plant did not occur,  so radioactive waste continued to spread at Hanford. That’s according to a new report out Thursday.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

2018 is the year of the bird. The Audubon Society is celebrating the centennial of what it calls the most important federal bird protection law ever passed. But the group says local climate policies are just as important, including one still in play in Washington state.

Elected officials in Washington state say they’ll fight the Trump administration’s proposal to expand offshore oil and gas drilling.

The plan could open up waters off the coasts of Washington and Oregon.

If you're thinking about buying an electric car in Washington state, you might want to act fast. That's because the state Legislature is on the verge of letting a hefty sales tax break expire. In Oregon, an electric car rebate faces a challenge in court next week.

The Washington Legislature approved a phase out of Atlantic salmon farming in state waters on Friday and sent the measure to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it.

Brian Witte / AP Photo

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is hosting a public meeting Monday afternoon in Olympia on its plan to open 90 percent of the country's offshore waters to oil and gas drilling. It's one of several around the country but the only one in Washington state.

But several environmental groups say it’s not really a hearing because officials are only taking written comments.

Ted S. Warren, File / AP Photo

Legislation that would have made polluters pay by putting a tax on carbon emissions does not have enough votes to pass the Washington state legislature. That’s according to Governor Jay Inslee and the bill’s prime sponsor, speaking late Thursday.

But, less than a day later, backers of a carbon fee had already filed an initiative to the people in its place.

Courtesy of the Thurston Conservation District

An election at a Thurston County land stewardship board is getting more attention than usual.

Saturday's election for an open seat on the Thurston Conservation District's board comes as the body faces a state investigation into allegations of dysfunction. 

Have you ever wondered how big your personal contribution is to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change?

Hundreds of residents of Seattle and Edmonds are finding out by taking part in local competitions to see who can reduce their emissions the most over the next two months.  The game is called “Taming Bigfoot.”

Every year, wildlife officials keep track of how many salmon return to their spawning grounds. This year, they expect low returns of salmon in Washington state—and that could change the fishing outlook.

Researchers at Gene Coulon Park in Renton, Wash.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

It’s been nearly 20 years since the federal government listed Puget Sound Chinook salmon as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The fish inhabit one of the most urbanized watersheds in the region. Local governments have just updated a 10-year recovery plan. One of the new priorities they’re addressing is a possible link between fish mortality and artificial light.  


Cooke Aquaculture is applauding members of a state House committee after they took no action on a bill that would have phased out net-pen farming of non-native salmon in Washington waters.

As many as 11 workers may have ingested or inhaled radioactive contamination at the Plutonium Finishing Plant demolition site at Hanford in southeast Washington state. Ten workers are confirmed to have tested positive and one needs more testing to confirm the results.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Dozens of activists from around the region traveled to Renton Wednesday for a public hearing on Puget Sound Energy’s latest 20-year energy blueprint. The protesters say the utility needs to do more to get off of fossil fuels sooner.

While you may be able to easily change your coat when the snow melts, it’s not so simple for animals whose fur turns white in winter for camouflage. A new study finds they'll need to rapidly evolve to match a climate with less snow.

Hanford workers have called a “stop work” at the Plutonium Finishing Plant demolition site because of worries about radioactive contamination inside government vehicles.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Superfund sites are a high priority for the Environmental Protection Agency under Administrator Scott Pruitt. He has put 21 of them on a Redevelopment Focus List, to accelerate cleanup. Two of those are in Washington and one is in the Puget Sound region, in Renton.  

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Bundle up and brace for what could be the coldest weather western Washington has seen in a long while, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass.

A blast of Arctic air is headed our way, creating what will be a major cold wave over the next several days. Mass says it’s going to get really wintry around here.

Elaine Thompson / File / AP Photo

King County Executive Dow Constantine is encouraging people who want to protect Puget Sound to buy British Columbia wines.

It’s the latest volley in a minor trade war between B.C. and its neighboring province of Alberta. Earlier this month, Alberta announced a boycott on British Columbia wines, with premiere Rachel Notley directing regulators to block roughly $50 million a year in wine imports.

John Kerry Visits Olympia To Support Inslee's Carbon Tax Proposal

Feb 14, 2018

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been pushing hard to pass a carbon tax proposal. Though it’s been unpopular with some businesses and Republicans, on Tuesday he brought out an important ally.