Tuesday, April 7, 2015

4/7 Radiation, Shell drill, oil train, fuel exports, WA budget, carbon tax, forage fish, toxics law, glacier melt

Turkey Vulture (Brian Zeiler/BirdNote)
If you like to listen: Turkey Vulture, A Poem  
Vultures are an avian clean-up crew, removing carrion from the landscape. When Turkey Vultures circle low, you can see their naked red heads and deeply slotted black primary feathers. With their wings canted in a dihedral "V," they tilt upwind from side to side. The Turkey Vulture's keen sense of smell enables it, even high aloft, to locate dead animals on the ground. (BirdNote)

Fukushima radiation measured on B.C. shore for 1st time
Trace amounts of radiation from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan have been detected on North American shores for the first time, but researchers say the amount of radiation is not a concern.  Radioactive forms of the element cesium that could only have come from Fukushima were detected in samples collected on Feb. 19 in Ucluelet, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, with the help of the Ucluelet Aquarium, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution reported today. (CBC)

Greenpeace boards Seattle-bound Shell drilling platform in mid-Pacific
A half-dozen Greenpeace activists have boarded Shell Oil’s Seattle-bound drilling platform as it crosses the eastern Pacific, but say they will make no effort to interfere with the navigation of the ship. The Shell drilling platform “Polar Pioneer.” Six Greenpeace activists, equipped with supplies, are now aboard the Seattle-bound rig.  They are protesting  Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic…. And, Greenpeace being Greenpeace, the “Polar Pioneer Six” intend to unfurl a large banner denouncing Shell’s proposed drilling. Joel Connelly reports. (SeattlePI.Com)

NTSB: Equip oil trains with fire protection within 5 years
The National Transportation Safety Board on Monday called for the nation’s fleet of railroad tank cars hauling crude oil and ethanol to be equipped with fire protection within five years, half the time some industry groups would prefer. The NTSB cited the performance of tank cars in four recent oil train derailments, two in the U.S. and two in Canada, where fire exposure weakened the bare steel tanks and increased the pressure inside the cars beyond what they were designed to sustain. Curtis Tate reports. (McClatchy)

Guest Opinion: Dirty fuel exports darken NW’s Earth Day
Some hailed President Barack Obama’s recent veto of the Keystone pipeline authorization legislation as an early Earth Day gift, spelling the project’s death knell. However, his decision was actually based on process, not policy. While Obama has articulated the science behind climate change better than any predecessor, his all-of-the-above energy strategy has opened the floodgates to unprecedented levels of domestic fossil fuel extraction with lax oversight. Fred Felleman opines. (Crosscut)

Washington Senate passes two-year state budget plan
The Senate on Monday passed a budget plan that relies, in part, on modifying a class size ballot measure and asking voters if they agree with the decision. The $38 billion, two-year budget passed the Republican-controlled chamber on a 26-23 vote. It doesn't include any new taxes, mostly relying on existing revenue, fund transfers and redirecting tax income from recreational marijuana. Rachel La Corte reports. (Associated Press) See also: Stand-Off In Olympia Before Budget Negotiations Even Begin  Austin Jenkins reports. (KUOW)

Climate Group Launches Initiative For A Carbon Tax In Washington
…. The circulation of petitions to put Initiative 732 on the 2016 ballot signals a new strategy that may come into play if Gov. Jay Inslee and fellow Democrats in the Legislature are unable to pass their own carbon cap-and-trade proposal. The Initiative would phase in a $25-per-ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions from certain fossil fuels and fossil fuel-generated electricity, starting in July, 2017. The proceeds would go into the general fund and be directed to offset reductions in the state sales tax and the business and occupation tax on manufacturing. Gas prices would eventually go up by 25 cents per gallon but rebates of up to $1,500 per year would be provided to 400,000 families in Washington to make the tax "revenue neutral." Ashley Ahearn reports. (KUOW)

Fishing amplifies forage fish collapses
A new study shows for the first time that fishing likely worsens population collapses in species of forage fish, including herring, anchovies and sardines. Some of the largest fisheries in the world target these species, and these “baitfish” are also a key source of food for larger marine animals, including salmon, tuna, seabirds and whales. Scientists have long known about wide fluctuations in the abundance of forage fish, including the occasional population collapse. But they had not figured out whether collapses were entirely natural or related to fishing. The study, published April 6 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, implicates fishing in the collapse of forage fish stocks and recommends risk-based management tools that would track a fishery’s numbers and suspend fishing when necessary. Michelle Ma reports. (UW Today)

Senate Committee Guts Inslee Plan to Clean Up Toxics in Fish
With the feds pressing Gov. Jay Inslee to better protect consumers from toxic chemicals in fish, a Senate committee gutted a potentially pivotal bill to allow the state to set up a new toxic-cleanup program. Inslee now opposes the legislation, saying it would leave him without tools he needs to head off federal intervention in Washington’s water-pollution-control system…. Originally, the governor’s legislation would have required the Department of Ecology to develop these so-called “chemical action plans,” including ideas for removing toxic substances from the environment. The agency could also order chemical manufacturers to consider safer alternatives and even ban chemicals when safer ones are available. But the Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Telecommunications on Tuesday voted to take away Ecology’s ability to ban chemicals and limited the number of toxic substances Ecology could study. Chris Dunagan reports. (Investigate West)

How Western Canada glaciers will melt away
Wonder what your favourite glacier to ski or hike will look like in 20 or 40 years? A new study makes detailed predictions about how the glaciers in B.C. and Alberta will melt and shrink between now and 2100. Glaciers are melting rapidly around the world, including in Canada, and human-caused climate change is now considered to be the main driver. Thousands of glaciers in B.C. and Alberta are expected to lose 60 to 80 per cent of their combined volume compared to 2005, depending on how much CO2 gets added to the atmosphere between now and the end of the century. Emily Chung reports. (CBC) See also: Skiing, salmon spawning may be casualties of glacial melt: report  Tamsyn Burgmann reports. (Globe and Mail)

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