Cascadia’s Car-Sharing Super Bowl

Which city wins the car-sharing trophy?
carsharing 1

You’ve probably heard that Seattle’s about to launch into a heated contest—one that pits city against city vying for honor, bragging rights, and civic pride.

We refer, of course, to the Car-Sharing Super Bowl!

OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. Still, on just about every playing field there’s a hint of healthy competition among the Pacific Northwest’s three biggest cities—Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. Car-sharing should be no exception: cities ought to be vying to see which one offers the best  …  read more »

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Weekend Reading 1/30/15

Norwegian teens in a Cambodian sweatshop; tree cover, reconsidered; and more.
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of ghosttide.com.

Serena

As a former Girl Scout—of the uber-lite variety… as in, whose only camping experience consisted of a night in a heated cabin with bathrooms—I am wholeheartedly inspired by this new scouting group, the Radical Brownies. If young women, and especially young women of color, aren’t going to learn important parts of American history from our public schools and if our culture is primarily going to give them the Disney-princess version of beauty, then it’s about time they get a different, richer space to learn and grow together.

Pam

I recently surfed my way into an interesting academic study on tree cover, impervious surfaces, and the residential segregation of racial and ethnic groups. The conclusion? In the US, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are 21-52 percent more likely than whites to live in urban heat islands, even after adjustments for home ownership, poverty, and ecological conditions that affect tree growth. Read more »

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Why New Improved Oil Trains Are Not Nearly Good Enough

A closer look at the many flaws of CPC-1232 tank cars.
LacMegantic

Lac-Mégantic tank car by NTSB (Public domain photo.)

Last February to much fanfare, the oil company Tesoro—a firm with big plans for oil trains in the Northwest—announced that it would voluntarily replace older tank cars with newer models. More recently, the Shell Refinery at Anacortes promised to use these same tank cars at its planned oil train site. In the In the parlance of industry, they meant that they would upgrade or replace the legacy DOT-111 tank cars to be compliant with the CPC-1232 standard.

The idea sounded promising at first blush, but a closer inspection reveals that Tesoro’s move was more about posturing than public safety. The upgraded standards the company is trumpeting are far from safe enough—a reality that was shortly made clear by a massive oil train fire in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia involving these same tank cars just two months after Tesoro’s announcement. As the flaming oil wreckage in the James River demonstrated, Tesoro’s proposal was little more than a cheapskate’s way of continuing business as usual despite powerful evidence that much more is needed. Read more »

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Northwest Oil Spills: the Raw Data and the Growing Risk

Planned projects in US and Canada would dramatically increase spills.

When most people think of an oil spill, they imagine something like the Exxon Valdez grounding. While it’s certainly possible that a mishap of that magnitude could occur in the Northwest, the truth is most oil spills are far more mundane. They are also much more frequent, and arguably more damaging, than you might think.

Take Puget Sound, for example. During the 38-month span from December 2009 to January 2013, there were 757 confirmed spills in the Sound—nearly 20 per month. Accidental bilge discharges, overfilling fuel tanks, and a rather surprising number of vessels sinking—four different pleasure boats sank and spilled oil in December 2011 alone—are common. Every now and again we might here about a peculiar one, like the 416 gallons spilled when crews loaded diesel into a leaky tank barge or the 36 crushed cars that fell into Commencement Bay, but most often they receive little media attention. Read more »

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Weekend Reading 1/23/15

Being poor is really expensive, Canada's racism problem, and more.

Seattle’s Downtown School Is Back in Play

School board now "enthusiastic" to bid on Federal Reserve Bank building.

Rain gardens could make runoff safe for salmon

Filtering polluted stormwater through soil makes it non-lethal for fish.

How the Oil Industry Will Try to Kill Carbon Pricing

Is the sky falling? No, gas prices are.

Northwest Ships: Near Misses and Almost-Spills

Two dozen times when we avoided catastrophe, narrowly.

Weekend Reading 1/16/15

Macklemore on Sesame Street, one dog's solo bus commute, and more.