Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Magnolia seafood firm pays $430,000 pollution settlement

by August 12th, 2012

Headquartered at Fishermen’s Terminal in Interbay at the eastern edge of Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, across from historic Ballard, Icicle Seafoods is a King Salmon in the U.S. seafood industry. Icicle harvests and processes several species of fish and crab from Alaskan waters, runs fish farming operations in the Northwest and Chile, and more than 20 years ago developed ground-breaking new technologies for freezing fresh catch at sea. The Seattle Times has reported Icicle is now owned by a New York-based private investment fund, and had 2010 sales of $400 million. But last Friday in a signed consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice that was drawn up on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, Icicle agreed to pay a $430,000 settlement for a series of U.S. Clean Air Act violations from 2006 to 2008, for discharges of an ozone-depleting refrigerant called R-22 from its seagoing vessels and processing facilities.

2000-2009: SOVs still dominate region’s work commutes

by August 9th, 2012

A data profile currently feaured on the web site of the Puget Sound Regional Council shows that on weekday work commute trips in King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap Counties and on a percentage basis, there’s been only very scant progress from 2000 to 2009 in getting solo drivers to take transit, bike, or walk to work. Ride-sharing has actually dropped. Data from the PSRC, metro Seattle’s regional transportation planning organization, shows that between 2000 and 2009 the percentage of total workers age 16 or over commuting alone in a vehicle dropped 1.8 percentage points from 71.3 percent to 69.5, with a .7 percent margin of error. Use of public transit to get to work rose from 7.1 percent in 2000 to 8.6 percent in 2009, an increase of 1.5 percent with a .4 percent margin of error. The total pool of commuters 16 and older grew 9.4 percent, from 1,642,700 in 2000 to 1,812,600 in 2009.

Report: Asia prime turf for American wood pellets

by July 30th, 2012

The Asian wood pellet market is growing, and the the United States and Canada are poised to be a prime source for it, according to a second-quarter 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. “The West Coast is in a strong position to supply Asia with wood pellets, drawing on both timber supply and proximity to Asian markets,” the report said.

China, Japan and South Korea have large demands for wood pellets for home heating and for mixing with coal in power plants. The primary use for wood pellets in Asia is co-firing at coal-power plants. “Therefore, business development should include….coal power plants that have an interest in increasing their renewable energy output,” the report said. This demand meshes with the Obama administration’s goal of doubling exports from $1 trillion to $2 trillion by 2015 – enough to create a cabinet level post to pursue that target, the report said.

WA eyes new U.S. transpo bill funds, but with questions

by July 18th, 2012

The passage of a new two-year $100 billion-plus federal transportation funding bill by Congress June 29 is expected to bring roughly $652 million to Washington state in 2013 and $657 million in 2014, compared to roughly $652 million for 2012, according to federal Department of Transportation estimates. But the new law is an authorization bill – meaning Congress still has to actually appropriate the money later when each fiscal year rolls around. Most telling, that $1.309 billion in the next two years is a tiny drop in the bucket, compared to the $50 billion that a blue ribbon panel appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire said in January that the state needs to raise to maintain and strategically improve surface transportation infrastructure in the next ten years (Page 3, here ). That’s so, even compared to the “lowered expectations” scenario in the task force report, which urges raising at least $21 billion in the next decade for the state’s road and transit systems. A poster child for Washington’s transportation funding shortfall is the new State Route 520 bridge, now under construction. It is still about $2 billion short of the needed funding, which totals more than $4 billion.

Green tourism campaign eyes fewer cars to San Juans

by July 16th, 2012

It’s a Pacific Northwest ritual endured by visitors, newcomers and even old-timers who should know better. Book a trip to one of the idyllic San Juan Islands served by the Washington State Ferries’ stolid vehicle-bearing vessels. Then wait for hours in line at the mainland dock in Anacortes, and plot a better strategy for next time. Rinse, and repeat a few summers later. A consortium of San Juans government, tourism, and non-profit officials say there’s a better way, or at least some painless alternatives that warrant stronger promotion. So at a presentation to the Friday Harbor, Wash. Town Council July 19, leaders of the San Juan Islands Scenic Byways Partnership will discuss their plans to accent car-free travel to the popular vacation spots of San Juan Island and Orcas Island, aided by a new, two-year $171,000 alternative transportation grant from the America’s Byways office of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Atop Mount Constitution, Orcas Island/San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

The new grant to promote transportation alternatives comes at a timely juncture.

Gas station pollution fix-it work from Seattle to Bellingham

by June 28th, 2012

Last year, Washington state and a Dutch corporation signed a contract to take care of leaking underground gasoline storage tanks at 40 former and current gas stations in King, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties. The work is tentatively expected to be completed by 2018. Washington’s Department of Ecology yesterday released an interactive map of the 40 sites. It allows users to drill down into details for each site including extent and type of pollutants released into the environment, clean-up project status, project documents, and name and address of site. (See our screen captures and navigation tips, below). Overall, the state has roughly 2,700 leaking underground storage tanks of all kinds.

Arcadis – a 124-year-old international engineering, consulting and design corporation based in Amsterdam with an American headquarters in a Denver suburb – is in charge of removing the tanks and contaminated soil for the gas station sites, which are owned by at least four corporations. Arcadis declined to comment on the individual contracts, their costs and names of its clients, citing confidentiality clauses in its contracts. However, the interactive map shows most of the sites belong to ARCO, with few owned by BP, the AM/PM convenience store chain and ConocoPhillips. Bundling numerous gas stations into one project makes the work more efficient for the clients and Washington to deal with, said Arcadis spokeswoman Debra Havins and ecology department spokesman Larry Altose

Arcadis will perform the cleanup of those sites under a voluntary state program in which the Ecology Department provides some technical assistance. The individual deadlines are more like guidelines and not etched in stone, Altose said. Havin said Arcadis is aiming to finish all the projects by 2018.

The Department of Ecology’s project map site provides a gateway into further information on each site. See our navigation tips below.


In the upper left-hand corner of the map’s start page, click on a county, for instance, Snohomish. That will take you to a section of the map for that county, where you can click on individual purple squares.

When clicked upon, each purple square goes to a project landing page for the associated pollution clean-up site, such as Arco 5377.

There, you can:

1) click on the “Facility Site ID number” in the upper right hand corner of the page for an aerial map view and the name and address of the site.

2) On the right side of the landing page you can also click on “View Electronic Documents” for any environmental reports on the site, and/or;

3) Click on “ISIS Site Summary Report.” That takes you to a new page which provides name and address of the site, owner’s name, project status, and at bottom under “Affected Media and Contaminants,” the names and relative degree of penetration of the chemical pollutants released to earth, water and air from the site’s leaking underground gas tanks.

Public Data Ferret’s Data Visualization+Environment archive

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the Seattle-based 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Snoqualmie dam project OK was fair, appeals court says

by June 27th, 2012

Despite strong community opposition tied to related downstream flooding risks, Puget Sound Energy is now even more firmly in the clear to further widen the Snoqualmie River, lower a dam and keep operating its Snoqualmie Falls hydro-electric power plant, according to a ruling issued Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth District. The decision Tuesday affirms an earlier ruling in the Seattle-based U.S. District Court by Judge John Coughenour.

U.S. wildfire risk zones and current incidents: mapped

by June 26th, 2012

Washington state isn’t currently included in the areas predicted to be at greatest risk for wildfires this summer, according to The National Wildland Significant Fire Potential Outlook for July through September that is updated monthly online by the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) in Boise, Idaho. But ten other states are, all in the western U.S. The current report includes a map showing where the greatest risk of significant wildland fires exists this summer, shown below.

From National Wildland Significant Fire Potential Outlook, National Interagency Coordination Center, June, 2012

Significant wildland fire potential is highest in southeast Oregon, southwest Idaho, northern Nevada, coastal southwest California, a large swath of Arizona, western New Mexico, western Colorado, eastern Utah, southwestern Wyoming, and the northwest portion of the island of Hawaii. The NICC defines “significant fire potential” as the likelihood that a wildland fire will develop and will require firefighting personnel and resources from outside the immediate area.

A map of current active large wildfires is provided online and updated daily by the U.S. Forest Service. (HatTip to reader Clyde Phillips, of Caldwell, Idaho). Users can click on map points for detailed information on any fire shown. Today, the map shows 38 large wildland fie incidents.

The NICC report also includes a map issued last week showing where U.S. drought conditions are expected to persist or intensify, and where they’re projected to improve. A portion of Washington state falls into the first category. The map is shown below.

From National Wildland Significant Fire Potential Outlook, National Interagency Coordination Center, June 21, 2012

A summer climate outlook map from the office of the Washington State Climatologist shows the projected likelihood of temperatures rising above historical norms in dozens of different locales.

Editor’s note: The National Interagency Coordination Center is made up of the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Association of State Foresters.

Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the Seattle-based 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.