energy

Federal regulators say the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant is now back on course after an 11-year safety miscalculation. The new designation means the Columbia Generating Station in southeast Washington gets a more relaxed inspection and oversight status.

Between 2000 and 2011, workers at the nuclear plant used faulty estimates for how much radiation could escape during a crisis. That mistake and others were found in an inspection just last year.

You may have seen wind turbines springing up all over the Pacific Northwest in the past decade. So far this year, the region’s wind industry has faced a different story. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

If you use solar panels or wind turbines to generate your own power, you can sell the electricity you don’t use back to your utility. But one Northwest power company wants to stop sending checks to customers who are big energy producers. EarthFix reporter Aaron Kunz explains.

Michael Werner

After breaking ground a year and a half ago, Seattle’s Bullitt Center is nearing completion and tenants have begun to move into what is being billed as the greenest office building in the world. The grand opening is set for Monday, which is Earth Day.

Joe David is standing beneath a sprawling ceiling made entirely of 2x6 wooden beams lying on edge like rows of popsicle sticks. And it’s all being held up by thick timber columns.

The Port of Grays Harbor near Aberdeen has announced an agreement to lease property for a crude oil unloading and storage facility. The oil would arrive by train and then be loaded on to barges bound for refineries on the West coast. Ashley Ahearn reports for EarthFix.

A decades-long treaty between the United States and Canada will soon be up for renewal. It governs power management and flood control in the Columbia River Basin. Next year is the first time in 50 years either country can end or revise the treaty.

President Obama’s pick for energy secretary can expect a lot of questions about the Hanford Nuclear Reservation at a confirmation hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden chairs the committee considering physicist Ernest Moniz to head the sprawling federal agency.

An eastern Oregon biofuel plant has announced it’s laying off workers. The news comes three weeks after it began producing ethanol.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and Washington Governor Jay Inslee continue to push for a tougher federal review of proposed coal export terminals in the Northwest. Monday the governors sent a letter to the President’s top environmental advisors, asking them to consider the impact of coal exports on the climate. Amelia Templeton of Earthfix reports.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Charging your electric vehicle could help balance the grid and save you money. Northwest researchers have developed a smart charger to do just that.

EarthFix

An Australian coal company has asked for more time to answer questions from the State of Oregon about its plans for a coal port in Boardman.

Voices Of Coal: Rail Town Mayor

Mar 8, 2013

This week we’re bringing you our special EarthFix series, "Voices of Coal."

Each day we'll hear from someone with a personal stake in the Northwest's debate over coal export terminals.

Office of the Governor

  Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says it may take two to four years to begin removing liquids from leaking tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Malheur County Geothermal Plant Exceeding Expectations

Mar 5, 2013

Operators of a geothermal power plant in Malheur County say that facility is producing more electricity than originally anticipated.

Shell Cancels Arctic Oil Drilling

Feb 28, 2013
Photo by Sara Francis / US Coast Guard

Shell Oil has put Arctic drilling on hold. The company announced Wednesday that it will not attempt to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean this year. The announcement comes after a year of accidents and setbacks for Shell’s Arctic drilling efforts. KUOW’s John Ryan reports from Seattle.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Problems at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation will be a key issue in the confirmation hearings for the next Secretary of Energy. That’s what Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said after he toured the southeast Washington site Tuesday.

Wyden chairs the Senate committee that will consider President Obama’s pick to replace Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The Oregon Democrat toured Hanford’s tank farms, where millions of gallons of radioactive waste is stored. Two of those tanks have possible leaks.

Callum Black / Wikimedia Commons

 A Seattle think tank is questioning the financial stability of a company that wants to build two coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest.

Wyden Leads Sharp Debate Over Natural Gas Export

Feb 13, 2013

Should the U.S. export its abundant supply of shale gas? Oregon Senator Ron Wyden tackled that question in a hearing today. It’s his first since he took over chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Amelia Templeton of EarthFix reports.

U.S. Department of the Interior website

 The Secretary of Interior has formed a task force to determine if coal companies are underpaying royalties for coal mined on public land and sold in Asia. And it has confirmed it is investigating one coal company for potential criminal wrongdoing.

Idaho Nuclear Task Force Issues Final Report

Feb 7, 2013
Photo by Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

The Idaho nuclear task force presented its final report to lawmakers Wednesday afternoon. It’s raising concerns from environmentalists who say it leaves the door open to transporting radioactive material into the state.

Earthfix reporter Aaron Kunz has more.

Energy.gov

  U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced in a letter Friday he will step down from his position at the end of this month.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The Northwest is on the verge of becoming a gateway for crude oil. Three different developers have plans to use docks on Grays Harbor, Washington to transfer crude oil from trains to ships. Other projects are getting off the ground in Tacoma, Vancouver, BC and on the lower Columbia River. There was a huge turnout Wednesday night at an introductory public workshop in Aberdeen, Washington. Correspondent Tom Banse reports the response indicates crude-by-rail may be the region’s next big environmental controversy.

A proposal to generate power from Puget Sound tides moved one step closer to approval with the release of a new government review. Ashley Ahearn reports for EarthFix.

Oregon Adds Wave And Offshore Wind Zones To Its Sea Plan

Jan 28, 2013

Oregon adopted new zoning rules for its territorial sea yesterday. The rules set aside about 2 percent of the Oregon coast for wave and offshore wind energy. Amelia Templeton from our EarthFix team reports the decision was not welcomed by some Dungeness crab fisherman.

Research Helps Design Fish-Friendlier Turbines

Jan 17, 2013
Photo courtesy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

When salmon swim through dam turbines, the changes in pressure can be catastrophic to their bodies. Researchers are trying to figure out how improve fish survival rates. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is paying attention. Reporting for EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was recently named Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. And one of his first moves was asking the administration to investigate the royalties it receives for coal mined on public land. Amelia Templeton of EarthFix explains.

Travis Marsh / U.S. Coast Guard

A shipwrecked oil rig that was bound for Seattle has been floated off the rocks and towed to a safe harbor in the Gulf of Alaska. A fleet of nine ships accompanied Shell Oil’s Kulluk drill rig on the 45-mile tow.

Explosions Rock UO Campus Monday Morning

Jan 7, 2013
Visitor7 / Wikimedia Commons

On the first morning back from winter break the University of Oregon campus community experienced a series of explosions. The booms and resulting smoke were traced to an underground tunnel which houses the electrical power system.

Keeping up with transportation infrastructure isn’t cheap. The Washington State Transportation Commission estimates that in the next 20 years around $200 billion needs to be put towards the maintenance of roads, ferries and more.

If you read the fine print of the tax bill Congress passed this week, it includes a shout-out to algae, cyanobacteria and duckweed. For the first time, algae biofuels are eligible for a dollar a gallon tax credit.

Pages