Monday, April 20, 2015

4/20 Sunsets, oil trains, oil spill, Shell drill, drought, low-carbon energy, mystery ship, BP oil, green murder

NW sky (Sigma Sreedharan Photography/KOMO)
Smoke from Siberian wildfires turns Northwestern sunsets a fiery red
The scenes have almost felt like they're out of Hollywood imagination -- brilliant red sunrises and sunsets the last couple of days around Western Washington.  Why so red? It's a byproduct of the massive wildfires currently burning in Siberia. The atmospheric winds are aligned this week to carry the smoke across the Pacific Ocean and into the Pacific Northwest. Here is a high-resolution satellite image from Saturday and note the haze over Washington and B.C. -- amazingly, quite a bit of it; this is on par or perhaps even more intense than the haze we usually get with Eastern Washington wildfires. Scatt Sistek reports. (KOMO)

Transportation officials issue oil train safety measures
An emergency order requiring trains hauling crude oil and other flammable liquids to slow down as they pass through urban areas and a series of other steps to improve the safety were announced Friday by the Department of Transportation. The Obama administration has been under intense pressure from members of Congress as well as state and local officials to ensure the safety of oil trains that traverse the country after leaving the Bakken region of North Dakota. To get to refineries on the East and West coasts and the Gulf of Mexico, oil shipments travel through more than 400 counties, including major metropolitan areas such as Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, Newark and dozens of other cities. Joan Lowy reports. (Associated Press)

In plain sight: How the Marathassa oil spill took hours to find
'We should have screamed like hell' A fuel spill in Vancouver's picturesque English Bay has raised serious questions about the federal government's ability to respond to a marine oil spill.  Justine Hunter reports. (Globe and Mail) See also: Major Vancouver beaches reopen following oil spill  (CBC)

Vancouver oil spill leads to petition delivered to MP James Moore
Environmentalists and First Nations groups gathered at Conservative MP James Moore's constituency office in Port Moody to deliver a petition in response to a recent oil spill in Vancouver. The petition calls for the government to: re-open the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, restore funding to the Marine Communications Centre in B.C., stop increased tanker traffic off the B.C. coast. (CBC) See also: Trans Mountain Pipeline plan could be a casualty of slow spill response  Mark Hume reports. (Globe and Mail)

Next step for Port Angeles' giant visitor: floating alone in harbor
It may be up to a week before the Polar Pioneer towering above the town in Port Angeles Harbor is offloaded from the semi-submersible heavy-lift ship MV Blue Marlin, which piggybacked the huge mobile oil rig from Asia. It will remain in the harbor for at least another week before it is towed to Seattle. Chris McDaniel reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Gov. Inslee expands drought emergency declaration
Citing projections that say this summer will have the least snowmelt in 64 years, Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday expanded the state's month-old drought emergency declaration to cover 44 percent of the state. Inslee's announcement more than doubles the number of Washington watershed areas officially considered to be suffering from drought. In March, the governor identified 11 watersheds as drought-afflicted — six west of the Cascades and five on the east side. Thirteen more river basins were added Friday to the drought list.  Derrick Nunnally reports. (Associated Press) See also: Rainfall and aquifers keep drought away from the Kitsap Peninsula  Chris Dunagan reports. (Watching Our Water Ways)

Low-carbon energy systems costlier than gas-fed plants
As Vancouver encourages the creation of new low-carbon district energy systems, users of those utilities can expect to pay more in order to help the city reach its goal of reducing city greenhouse gas emissions by a third by 2020. However, those district utilities, targeted for some of the city’s densest neighbourhoods, are also making Vancouver a North American leader in both the reduction of greenhouse gases and the expansion of waste heat recovery systems. Jeff Lee reports. (Vancouver Sun)

Mystery ship becoming part of Tacoma waterfront scenery
A 600-foot-long auto transport ship has become something of a Commencement Bay icon as it awaits Coast Guard-mandated repairs before leaving its anchorage just off Tacoma’s Point Ruston development. The blue-hulled City of Tokyo left its cargo of automobiles at the Port of Tacoma March 28 before proceeding to its anchorage just south of the Tacoma Yacht Club near Point Defiance Park. The 28-year-old auto carrier has become the temporary centerpiece of the water view from the high-end condominiums and apartments that occupy the shoreline at Point Ruston. John Gillie reports. (Tacoma News Tribune)

Science uncovering truths, piecing together puzzle of BP oil spill
Vernon Asper is a scientist who works in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, looking for oil. It's still out there, five years after the nation's worst oil spill - the Deepwater Horizon blowout in April 2010 that killed 11 rig workers and spewed what was estimated at the time to be 205 million gallons into the Gulf over three months. How much is there and where it is are legitimate questions, but five years out, answers still aren't there. It may have to be enough to know scientists are still looking and that some of it is accounted for - burned, skimmed, oxidized and eaten by bacteria. But it is in the deep waters. And learning how oil connects with sediment there is hugely important to finding where the oil is. Karen Nelson reports. (Sun Herald)

Green activist killings up by a fifth - Global Witness
Killings of environmental activists have risen by 20% in the last year, according to campaign group Global Witness. A report published by the organisation said there were 116 deaths worldwide in 2014, including 29 in Brazil, 25 in Colombia and 15 in the Philippines. Activists also faced abduction and other threats if they interfered in corporate or state interests, it added. Last year saw a spike in killings related to hydropower programs. (BBC)

Now, your tug weather--
WEST ENTRANCE U.S. WATERS STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA- 245 AM PDT MON APR 20 2015
TODAY
LIGHT WIND...BECOMING E TO 10 KT IN THE AFTERNOON. WIND WAVES 1 FT OR LESS. W SWELL 6 FT AT 13 SECONDS. PATCHY FOG IN THE
 AFTERNOON.
TONIGHT
W WIND 10 TO 20 KT. WIND WAVES 1 TO 3 FT. W SWELL 6 FT AT 12 SECONDS. PATCHY FOG. PATCHY DRIZZLE AFTER MIDNIGHT.
--
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