Top Northwest Sustainability Headlines

March 6, 2015

1. 50 years after Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday,’ struggles endure

President Obama and former president George W. Bush will be at the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge. There are rumors that Oprah Winfrey will show up, and even that Lady Gaga will sing. They are coming to rekindle the spirit of a city where, 50 years earlier, nonviolent demonstrators endured billy clubs, cattle prods and clouds of tear gas as they protested for their right to vote. Selma’s “Bloody Sunday” spurred passage of the Voting Rights Act, one of the most important achievements of the civil rights era. On Tuesday morning, though, the celebrities hadn’t started to arrive. Selma wasn’t so much a place of imagination and triumph as a poor Alabama city  where more than 40 percent of the population lives in poverty and the unemployment rate is twice the state average.

Washington Post | Social justice

2. Oil train derails in Illinois along the Mississippi

A train carrying crude oil along the banks of the Mississippi River derailed Thursday in a rural area of northwestern Illinois south of the town of Galena, starting a fire and leading the authorities to recommend that nearby residents leave their homes.

New York Times | Oil train

3. NW oil terminal plan would mean jobs — and more trains

In southwestern Washington state, oil companies want to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country at the Port of Vancouver, on the banks of the Columbia River. Vancouver is the most direct rail route from the Bakken oil fields to the Pacific Ocean. But the proposal has raised tensions in this city between concerns over safety and the desire to create jobs.

NPR | Oil trains

4. OR activists: It’s time to allow rent control

Portland is a city that seems to be building apartment complexes all over town, yet the vacancy rate remains one of the lowest in the country and rents are rising faster than most other cities.

The Oregonian | Affordable housing

5. Landmark decision on forage fish days away

West coast fishery managers are poised to make a decision next week that could alter the future of fishing in federal waters off the Pacific Coast, as well as in Oregon’s state-regulated nearshore waters.

The Oregonian | Fishing

6. Lummis move to block Cherry Point coal port

Lummi Nation is pressing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to act quickly to halt a proposed coal terminal on historic tribal land at Cherry Point. The Lummis sent a letter to the Corps on Thursday, providing details about how Gateway Pacific Terminal would disrupt the tribe’s fishing practices.

Bellingham Herald | Tribes

7. Wyoming embraces socialism for coal

Wyoming legislators go all in for corporate welfare.

Sightline | Coal exports

8. BC drivers eased up on gas after carbon tax

Gas prices rise and fall constantly. Most of the time, drivers grin and bear it, gassing up regardless of fluctuating prices. But one factor in British Columbia seems to have caused drivers to change their relationship with the automobile: the province’s carbon tax.

Toronto Globe and Mail | Carbon Tax

9. The comedy and tragedy of the Port Mann Bridge

Yet another confident projection of endless traffic growth.

Sightline | Transportation

10. What a record-low snowpack means for summer

This year is on track to be one of the lowest snow years on record. Across Washington state, average snowpack is 71 percent below normal levels. In some places, including the Olympic Peninsula, snowpack is 90 percent below normal levels. Things are looking even worse in Oregon. Statewide, average snowpack is 76 percent below normal levels.

Oregon Public Broadcasting | Drought

More News from March 6, 2015

A closer look at Walmart’s green product label

A 150-foot roll of bubble wrap may not be your idea of an environmentally friendly product, but over at this 1-pound ball of plastic now boasts a special “Sustainability Leaders” badge. It’s one of more than 3,000 products tagged with this new green label. But a green-minded online shopper is likely to find Walmart’s new badge confusing, murky, and downright misleading.

Grist | sustainability

Ski resorts unite in Mountain Pact to protect winter

The nonprofit group Mountain Pact encourages mountain towns to unite politically. The goal: galvanize politicians to protect winter.

Outside | Climate Change

Is 75 percent chance of major Arctic oil spill OK?

The Department of the Interior reported recently that drilling in the remote Chukchi Sea in the Arctic would likely cause a major oil spill, which could kill polar bears and ringed seal pups, as well as threaten populations of loons, Pacific brant, murres, puffins, and bowhead whales. There would probably also be hundreds of additional smaller oil spills. Therefore, the department concluded, we ought to go forward with drilling.

Pacific Standard | Oil spill

Seismic upgrades of BC schools pushed back 10 years

Squabbling between the Vancouver School Board and the provincial government over earthquake repairs is causing major delays in the upgrade work and putting children at risk. A 2020 deadline announced a decade ago to upgrade all of the province’s schools at high-risk during a major earthquake has now been pushed back to 2030.

Vancouver Sun | Earthquakes

Views: Transit can be life-and-death issue

The NO vote that doesn’t garner much attention in the current rumpus over whether and how to fund mass public transit in Metro Vancouver is NO2 — nitrogen dioxide — source of that acrid reddish brown haze that hangs over the city on a hot, muggy summer day.

Vancouver Sun | Transit

Work starts on oil-soaked birds near Sunnyside

A gaggle of a couple dozen geese, many of them with breasts coated with shiny black oil, fed in a field south of Sunnyside this week. Some 1,500 to 2,000 gallons of used oil flowed into a ditch leading to the Sulphur Creek Wasteway after an above ground storage tank at a feedlot near Sunnyside failed. The oil flowed into the creek and then into the Yakima River, where a thin sheen has been seen as far downriver as Prosser.

Tri-City Herald | Wildlife

A final curtain call for Ringling Bros. elephant acts

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will phase out the show’s iconic elephants from its performances by 2018, telling The Associated Press exclusively that growing public concern about how the animals are treated led to the decision.

The Associated Press | Animal welfare