John Ryan


Climate change is a gradual process, driven by invisible pollution. It can be hard to wrap your brain around. Atmospheric scientists at the University of Washington have made it possible to listen to the planet changing.

Associated Press / AP Images

Wind and heavy rain could make this weekend tough for Northwest residents. The storm could be rough for the Puget Sound's underwater residents as well. Big storms mean big water pollution.

John Ryan

Democrat Adam Smith is running to keep his seat in Congress. He represents a district stretching from Redmond to Tacoma. But most of his campaign cash hasn't come from Washington state. It's come from the Washington, D.C., area.

How to solve traffic problems on I-5? What about banning humans from driving on it? And replacing them with robots?

Ann Norton / Wikimedia Commons

 Nearly a hundred million dollars has gone into this year's elections in Washington state so far.

The race for governor has been the most expensive. But big money is pouring into obscure races too.

A candidate for the post of Lieutenant Governor has raised a record sum for that position.

Nearly half his cash has come from outside Washington state.

The race for Lieutenant Governor is usually kind of a snooze. The incumbent, Brad Owen, has had a lock on the obscure job for the past 20 years.

But Owen announced his retirement this year.

Flickr user 401(K) 2012 / FLICKR Creative Commons

If you look at your voters' pamphlet and see page after page of candidates trying to win your vote, you might think democracy is strong in Washington state. But look at the money behind the candidates, and you'll see there's much less competition than meets the eye. 

John Ryan / KUOW

Oil company Tesoro has agreed to spend about four-hundred-million dollars to reduce air pollution from its refineries in Anacortes and other locations around the western United States.
That's under an agreement the Justice Department announced on Monday.

COASST/Cliff Brown / KUOW

Seabirds have been washing up dead on beaches in Washington and British Columbia this summer. Something is taking a toll on a funny-sounding, peculiar-looking seabird.

D Coetzee / Flickr

Walls are going up around Puget Sound, and the sound is paying for it. In King County, property owners have walled off most of the shoreline with concrete bulkheads and other heavy infrastructure. A new study suggests the practice known as shoreline armoring is more harmful to Puget Sound than previously thought.

John Ryan / KUOW

A Skagit County oil refinery wants to ship a raw material for plastic overseas, and some environmental groups say that's a bad idea.

Philip Cohen / Flickr

The Washington Department of Corrections learned in 2012 that the software it was using to calculate prisoners' time off for good behavior was letting some prisoners out too soon. A possible fix to that computer error was delayed 16 separate times, Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke said on Tuesday.

U.S. Coast Guard

A Shell Oil icebreaker heading for Port Angeles gained a passenger in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday. A French sailor dove onto the icebreaker in 20-foot seas yesterday after his sailboat lost its rudder. He made the desperate jump--with his cat--about 350 miles southeast of Alaska's Dutch Harbor. 

Coast Guard video of the rescue shows the 30-foot sailboat bobbing like a cork next to the 270-foot Tor Viking II. The Frenchman clings like a koala to the rigging at the bow of his boat.

John Ryan / KUCB

Shell Oil's Polar Pioneer rig left Alaska's Dutch Harbor for Port Angeles, Washington, on Wednesday. The energy giant's other Arctic rig, the Noble Discoverer, left Alaska for Everett on Monday. 

John Ryan / KUCB

Shell's Arctic oil rigs have left the Arctic. The two rigs pulled into Unalaska's Dutch Harbor on Sunday, more than a thousand miles south of the company's drilling site in the Chukchi Sea. They're now headed for Washington state.

John Ryan / KUCB

A federal judge has found Greenpeace in contempt for blocking the path of an Arctic drilling vessel trying to make its way from Portland, Oregon, to Alaska.

John Ryan / KUOW

Shell Oil rejects Washington state officials' position that parking an Arctic oil rig at the Port of Seattle violates the state constitution.

John Ryan / KUOW

The demand for shelter in Seattle is outstripping the supply, especially for those who need it most. Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan on Wednesday to put up three new tent cities for Seattle's growing homeless population. His task force on homelessness had recommended adding seven new locations. Even as Murray made his announcement, homeless people were being evicted from their camps on public property in Seattle.

Michael Coghlan / Flickr

Washington became a more dangerous place to work last year. The Department of Labor and Industries says more people died on the job in 2014 than in any of the past three years.

Associated Press

Oil tankers bring about 15 million gallons of oil every day into Washington state. Starting January 1, those ships are required to have double hulls to reduce the risk of an oil spill. The change has been in the works for decades.

Washington State Patrol

The work of an independent commission in response to the Oso landslide in March said more money is needed to prepare for landslides when they do strike.

The commission has 17 recommendations to improve public safety in a state that is dotted with landslide prone slopes. They ranged from improving emergency response to educating the public about landslides.

The report did not assess blame for the deaths in Oso.

brewbooks / Flickr

Shortly after this year's deadly Oso landslide, investigative reporters revealed that loggers had clear-cut in a no-logging zone directly above the hillside that collapsed.

That logging, back in 2004, removed trees in an area scientists had said could worsen the risk of landslides.

A report out Tuesday from the Department of Natural Resources leaves unanswered the question of why logging took place on what should have been forbidden ground.

brewbooks / Flickr

Washington state essentially prohibits logging on unstable slopes - since removing trees can worsen erosion and landslides. But it's not always obvious which slopes are unstable.

State officials Wednesday adopted a more cautious approach around slopes like the one that collapsed onto the town of Oso in March. That deep-seated landslide killed 43 people.

John Ryan / Northwest News Network

A Republican coalition has a narrow margin of control in the Washington state Senate. Democrats hope to change that. Millions of dollars are pouring into key races around the state. Just who’s trying to buy your vote?

The 45th legislative district cuts an arc through Kirkland, Woodinville and Sammamish on Seattle’s east side. More money has flooded into this district trying to influence who gets elected state senator here, than anywhere else in Washington. More than two million dollars at last count.


The Oso landslide devastated one stretch of one valley in Snohomish County. But Washington state is dotted with landslide-prone slopes. An investigation by KUOW and EarthFix has found that many local governments do much less than Snohomish County to keep people from building on dangerous ground. 

John Ryan / KUOW

Homelessness is on the rise in Seattle. In the city’s University District, a new homeless camp has popped up on a busy sidewalk. Members of the camp say 20 people are living in the small cluster of tents.

It’s too small to call a tent city, so I’ll call it a tent-village. It’s on the sidewalk in front of the U District post office. Tent-village resident Stephen Crow is a leader of a group calling itself The Ave Foundation. He says he’s been homeless since he was 12. He’s now 36.

John Ryan / KUOW

No one will face criminal charges in connection with a refinery explosion that killed seven Tesoro workers in Anacortes. The Justice Department is closing its four-year-long criminal investigation. KUOW’s John Ryan reports.

John Ryan / KUOW

It was Washington state’s worst industrial accident in nearly 50 years.

“Skagit 911. What’s your emergency?” “I’m trying to find out what's going on at the refinery.” “You know, we don’t know at this point, sir.” “Well, all I can tell you is I live two and a half miles from it, and the explosion was hard enough to rock my house, and there’s one hell of a fire going there.”

That explosion in 2010 at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes killed seven workers.

Four years later, no one has been held publicly accountable for the seven deaths. As John Ryan reported, state efforts to penalize Tesoro have stalled. To improve worker safety, the federal government is wielding a tool it rarely uses: criminal prosecution of one of the nation’s largest corporations.

Here’s John Ryan with part two of our investigation.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

It's been four years since a deadly explosion at an oil refinery shook the town of Anacortes, Washington. The question of who's responsible for seven workers' deaths still hasn't been answered fully. Refinery owner Tesoro agreed to pay millions to families of the dead, but the company is fighting accusations that it willfully put its workers in harm’s way. With multiple legal proceedings continuing to swirl around the accident, it remains unclear whether anyone will be held accountable for the human cost of Tesoro gasoline. John Ryan brings us part one of this KUOW investigation.

A tunnel machine is set to resume digging beneath the streets of Seattle in June. This machine isn't named Bertha.

John Ryan

Fundraising for this November's elections is kicking into high gear. That means candidates are cozying up to people with money. Sometimes, elected officials even get friendly with the companies they regulate.