Top Northwest Sustainability Headlines

July 24, 2014

Safeco Field oil train_4

Oil train outside Safeco Field_4 by Ben Nakamura (Used with permission.)

1. American mom and pops want climate fixes

American small business owners. When it comes to politics, they’re portrayed as mythic heroes of the American economy, the salt-of-the-earth “mom and pops,” the real job creators, a constituency to be catered to, a force to be reckoned with. Like apple pie. And conventional wisdom would have it that this powerful, Republican-leaning slice of the electorate would fall in with the far-right when it comes to climate attitudes. But a June 2014 survey of small business owners across the US conducted by the American Sustainable Business Council this month found that the nation’s local, bedrock employers support action on climate change.

Sightline | Climate

2. What oil train safety plan means for OR and WA

The US Department of Transportation unveiled an oil train safety plan Wednesday that will require thousands of older, less-safe tank cars to be phased out or retrofitted within two years. New tank cars will also have to be built to more stringent standards, representing the Obama administration’s long-awaited response to the sharply increasing amount of oil traveling on the country’s rail system.

The Oregonian | Oil trains

3. Seattle City Council asks feds to ban unsafe oil tanker cars

Because they’d rather not risk the incineration of huge swaths of Seattle, all nine members of the Seattle City Council signed and sent a letter this week to the federal Department of Transportation in support of a joint Sierra Club and ForestEthics legal complaint. The complaint asks the feds to implement an immediate emergency order banning the transportation of Bakken crude oil in DOT-111 cars.

The Stranger | Oil trains

4. Portland’s grown up plans

A new interactive map on Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability website depicts the reality of more than 200,000 new residents as red boxes strewn across the city signifying potential mixed-used developments. The map is a companion piece to the city’s Draft Comprehensive Plan, released this week as the first wholesale update since 1980 to planners’ long-range vision for the Portland of 2035.

The Oregonian | Urban Growth

5. Young BC farmers find creative solutions to high land values

As recently as 25 years ago, the proportion of owner-operator farmers to renters was around 65 to 35, according to Statistics Canada. Today, it’s closer to 50-50, as more young farmers are forced to make do with whatever parcels of land they can find.

Vancouver Sun | Farming

6. Why Uber ride-sharing can’t enter Portland

So far, Portland officials have refused to budge to end what amounts to the taxi industry’s monopoly, even as they have developed a cordial relationship with home-sharing service Airbnb. The heavily influential Private for-Hire Transportation Board of Review, which includes representatives from the Portland’s taxi and town-car companies, appears dead set against relinquishing any of the city’s 460 taxi permits to Uber drivers.

The Oregonian | Transportation

7. Views: How Obama can use executive power to help immigrants

President Obama recently indicated he is ready to use his executive powers, historically used to interpret and implement US laws, to inject rationality and humanity into a broken immigration system that is neither responsive to families nor business realities. Here are some things the president can do without stretching existing law to the breaking point.

The Oregonian | Immigration

8. King County to start $15-per-hour minimum wage

The King County Council is preparing to give the county’s 12,000 employees and contracted workers a new minimum wage. County Executive Dow Constantine submitted a proposal to extend Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage to county workers and people working for King County through contractors.

Real Change | Wages

9. Why voters aren’t angrier about economic inequality

Why don’t governments in democratic societies do more to combat income inequality?  Research reveals little connection between the income gaps in any given country and its government’s effort to close it by taxing the rich to spend on the poor.

New York Times | Income Inequality

10. Two Americas on health care

The Affordable Care Act was intended to help standardize important parts of that system, by imposing some common rules across the entire country and by providing federal financing to help residents in all states afford insurance coverage. But a series of court rulings on the law could make the differences among the states bigger than ever.

New York Times | Healthcare

More News from July 24, 2014

Oil train derails in Seattle early Thursday, no injuries or spill

Three tanker cars in an oil train from North Dakota derailed at a rail yard in Seattle early Thursday, but Burlington Northern Santa Fe says none of the oil spilled.

The Oregonian | Oil trains

DOT proposes tougher oil-train safety rules

Spurred by a boom in oil-carrying trains and several recent tragic accidents, the Obama administration proposed stricter rules Wednesday for tank cars that transport flammable fuels.

USA Today | Oil trains

Proposed oil train safety rules: lower speeds, improved braking

The Transportation Department on Wednesday issued proposed rules to upgrade the safety of trains carrying crude oil, following half a dozen explosions that occurred in the last year after derailments in the United States and Canada. The proposal would reduce the permitted speed of trains carrying crude, improve braking systems, require better information about the flammability of crude and improve tanks cars, making them more resistant to leaks after accidents. It is also likely to force the retirement of tens of thousands of tank cars.

Los Angeles Times | Oil trains

New rules planned to reduce risks of oil train fires

Responding to a series of fiery train crashes, the government proposed rules Wednesday that would phase out tens of thousands of older tank cars that carry increasing quantities of crude oil and other highly flammable liquids through America’s towns and cities.

The Seattle Times | Oil trains

Global warming and monster wildfires

This week, the LA Times reported on the wildfire raging in Washington State, describing “tornadoes of fire” engulfing a small town. It’s a scary picture and a bleak reminder that global warming is amplifying certain kinds of destruction here, now, right in our backyard.

Sightline | Wildfires

Western wildfires burn through firefighting budgets

As 26 major wildfires currently rage across the American West, 18 of them in Oregon and Washington, they’re rapidly burning through firefighting budgets as well.As a result, experts warn, firefighting agencies such as the US Forest Service and the US Department of the Interior have to raid other fire-related programs, forest management and fire preparedness, for example, to battle the blazes.

Christian Science Monitor | Wildfires

Verification a sticking point in King County Metro’s low-income fare plan

King County Metro is scheduled to start a low-income fare of $1.50 by March 1, 2015, but it could be delayed while workers figure out how to implement it. The challenge comes in verifying whether people qualify for the low-income fare. The low-income fare will apply to people age 18 and over who earn less than 200 percent of the annual median income, roughly $23,000 for a single adult. The cost of the fare will remain the same until 2017.

Real Change | Transit

Seattle ballot measure on park district

Voters in Seattle will decide whether to establish a special taxing district to help fund the city’s parks.

KPLU | Taxes

Views: We’re only No. 18? WA not so great for kids

Washington state does OK by its children, but is that good enough? I don’t think so. We ranked 18th nationally in a report released Tuesday on the well-being of children in the 50 states, but we can do better than that.

The Seattle Times | Population

N. Portland grocery will change surrounding neighborhoods

As news spread Wednesday that New Seasons Market will open a store near St. Johns, residents weighed in with excitement and concern. Fans and critics of the grocer agreed on one point: The new store will change the neighborhoods that surround it.

The Oregonian | Urban Growth

The future of Portland’s Old Town Chinatown

The Portland City Council took baby steps toward approving a wide-ranging financial plan to woo new housing projects and redevelopment of old buildings in Old Town Chinatown on Wednesday before ultimately delaying a vote until next month.

The Oregonian | Development

Portland’s poller opposites: income tax vs. street fee

On Thursday, July 17, with a nascent recall campaign against him marshaling its forces, Novick released the results of a new $16,500 survey funded from his office budget. The pollsters at local firm Davis, Hibbitts, and Midghall (DHM) now say Portlanders like an income tax bump better than they ever liked the street fee—so long as it’s limited to those among us who are best paid.

Portland Mercury | Taxes

Two OR unions stop collecting dues following Supreme Court’s decision

Two of Oregon’s largest public employee unions have stopped collecting dues from thousands of home care workers who didn’t belong to the union but had been required to help pay the costs of union representation. Oregon branches of Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees both took the action following a decision last month by the US Supreme Court.

The Oregonian | Unions

GMO labeling measure qualifies for OR ballot

Oregon voters will get their chance to decide whether to require labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms. The state Elections Division determined Wednesday that an initiative measure has qualified for the Nov. 4 statewide ballot.

Sustainable Life | GMO

A state forest in OR could be sold to timber co.

An option being considered to make money off the Elliott State Forest is to sell all 93,000 acres of the forest, including old-growth tracts, on the south Oregon coast to private timber companies. The proceeds of such a sale would go into the state’s Common School Fund, which supports public education.

EarthFix | Forests

OR feels strain from increase of Medicaid enrollees

Low-income Oregon residents were supposed to be big winners after the state expanded Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul and created a new system to improve the care they received. However, an Associated Press review shows that an unexpected rush of enrollees has strained the capacity of the revamped network that was endorsed as a potential national model, locking out some patients, forcing others to wait months for medical appointments and prompting a spike in emergency room visits, which state officials had been actively seeking to avoid.

The Oregonian | Healthcare

Ruling on federal health care subsidies puts coverage at risk

The ruling in Halbig v. Burwell, in which a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that subsidies could be awarded only in states that set up their own insurance exchanges, raises the possibility that many of the 4.5 million people who were found eligible for subsidized insurance through the federal exchange would drop their new coverage.

New York Times | Healthcare

Views: Climate mitigation plan needed

Whatever the cause of changing climate, protecting our resources, economy and people should be a priority.

Vancouver Sun | Climate

States against EPA carbon pollution rule would gain

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma are among the most vocal Republican skeptics of the science that burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, but a new study to be released Thursday found that their states would be among the biggest economic winners under a regulation proposed by President Obama to fight climate change.

New York Times | Climate

Grizzly bears expanding their range on BC coast

A new study in the on-line publication, PLOS ONE, has documented grizzlies colonizing 10 central coast islands outside their current accepted range, which fits with local aboriginal knowledge suggesting the bears are expanding their range.

Vancouver Sun | Wildlife