What Happened When a Hazardous Substance Train Derailed on a Puget Sound Beach

True story from 2011 raises questions about railroad's ability to manage oil trains.

If you’ve ever wondered how an oil train derailment might go down on the shores of Puget Sound, it might look a bit like the winter night derailment in 2011 that spilled sodium hydroxide on a beach at Chambers Bay south of Tacoma. It was hardly the kind of disaster that has resulted from oil trains derailing, but it still makes for a rather instructive lesson in how these things happen.

Sodium hydroxide, more commonly known as lye, is  …  read more »


Weekend Reading 11/21/14

How our taxes subsidize traffic congestion; and more.
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of ghosttide.com.


A new report from Frontier Group and TransitCenter makes a provocative (and almost certainly true) point: federal tax policy subsidizes traffic congestion. The IRS lets employers offer their employees a tax-free parking subsidy of up to $250 per month—which, by the report’s estimate, boosts national rush-hour traffic by roughly 820,000 vehicles per day. Worse, the tax subsidy for parking focuses the benefits on upper-income Americans—the very people who need the subsidies the least.


Emily Badger has an  …  read more »

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The Hero’s Journey: Pro tips from Star Wars

How to win (or lose) the "Story Wars" (Part III).
Your job: Mentor (not hero)

Variations on a basic, familiar story have been told over and over across centuries and cultures, knitting communities together through shared values and beliefs. Joseph Campbell, scholar of religion and mythology, gave us a name for it: the hero’s journey.

The hero’s journey does indeed manifest in all kinds of stories—from creation myths and folk legends to children’s books and blockbuster movies. These are the stories we tell to shape and reinforce how we understand ourselves and our world. These stories can call us to action too, rallying people around a common purpose when things aren’t right. As Campbell put it, when you hear such a story, you respond “Aha! this is my story. This is something I always wanted to say but wasn’t able to say.” Read more »

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A Mom Rediscovers Her Bike

And begins to get what neighborhood greenways could be.
My bike, complete with a working kickstand, 24 fully functioning gears, and a trail-a-bike hitch.

My bike, complete with a working kickstand, 24 fully functioning gears, and a trail-a-bike hitch. Image by Jennifer Langston

I haven’t used a bike to get across town in six years. I know because that’s how long it’s been since I had a baby.

It wasn’t entirely the baby’s fault—options and resources for family biking in the Northwest have exploded. But having less time, a rotting garage door (now fixed!) and an inconvenient daycare in automobile-choked Amazonia were barriers to using my bike more often.

I’m somewhere on the spectrum between the “enthused and confident” and “interested  …  read more »


The Washington Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce Report is Out

Blue ribbon panel says: let’s price carbon!

All the World’s Carbon Pricing Systems in One Animated Map

Plus, answers to decisionmakers' top eight questions about them.

Event: Will a Carbon Tax Fly in Oregon?

Kristin Eberhard and the Corvallis League of Women Voters talk carbon cash.

Weekend Reading 11/14/14

The junk mail-killing app; from the same program that brought you Solyndra, a $5B win for taxpayers; and more.

The Money Behind Northwest Coal Exports

Ambre Energy's financial backer makes money by finding a bigger sucker.

Indiana Jones and the Clean Power Rule

Getting creative with carbon limits (Part 2).