Ashley Ahearn

Michael Werner / EarthFix

Crude oil shipments by rail increased by more than 80 percent, nationally, last year.

Most of it is coming from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That crude is more flammable than other types of oil, and has been shown to catch fire and explode when trains derail.

More than 15 trains of Bakken oil move through some parts of the Northwest each week, en route to refineries and terminals in Washington and Oregon.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway transports the majority of that oil.

The company regularly touts its commitment to safety.

But an EarthFix investigation reveals some troubling patterns in the way BNSF Railway deals with whistleblowers – particularly those who voice concerns about safety.

Ashley Ahearn reports for EarthFix. EarthFix’s Tony Schick contributed to the reporting for this story.

David T. Hanson / EarthFix

The Obama administration’s new rules to cut CO2 emissions sparked some interesting conversation in Seattle this week. At a conference held downtown, leaders in the energy sector gathered to talk about the future of coal in the West. Ashley Ahearn reports for EarthFix.

The Oso Landslide highlighted a challenge that is not new to the Northwest: how to keep population growth out of risky areas.

Snohomish County has to make room for up to 220,000 new people by the year 2035, according to state requirements. And like many other parts of the Northwest, there are a lot of places where landslides pose a threat to current, and future, homeowners.

In part two of our series from EarthFix, Ashley Ahearn takes a look at development pressure and landslide risk in Snohomish County.

Bonnie Brown

The Northwest is a region prone to landslides.

That, of course, is on many people’s minds as the town of Oso, Washington recovers from the tragic slide that happened there this past weekend.

There is a lot of scientific data and maps showing where landslides have occurred in the past.

The question is whether or not it’s getting used.

Sierra Sansaver

Authorities have confirmed that the landslide on the Stillaguamish River in Snohomish County has killed 8 people and destroyed up to 30 homes.

KUOW's Ashley Ahearn turned to Dave Montgomery to find out what caused the slide. Montgomery is a geologist at the University of Washington.

More oil is moving through Washington state from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That has many concerned about oil train safety. The oil has proven extremely flammable, causing several explosions in North America.

State legislators on both sides of the aisle introduced bills to address the concerns.

But the session ended last week without a compromise.

Cedric Sam/Flickr

China banned shellfish imports from most of the West Coast in December over concerns about contamination.

Ashley Ahearn / KUOW

Steelhead in Puget Sound have been listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act since 2007. Millions of dollars have been spent improving the habitat of this iconic fish, but the population isn’t increasing. In fact, a lot of the fish aren’t even making it out of Puget Sound and scientists can’t pinpoint why.

China has closed its doors to all shellfish imports from an area that stretches from northern California to Alaska. The state of Washington says it's losing as much as $600,000 a week.

Among the shellfish not being harvested is the geoduck, a long-necked clam that can fetch up to $150 per pound in China. It's a major export for the Pacific Northwest.

China and Hong Kong have closed their doors to all shellfish imports from an area that stretches from northern California to Alaska. The move is costing the shellfish industry in Washington State hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ashley Ahearn reports.

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