Fossil Fuels

Railway Whistleblowers
7:43 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Workers Question Safety Culture Of Railroad Hauling Volatile Crude Oil

BNSF Railway, the second-largest freight network in the U.S., is at the center of the boom in crude by rail. The railroad touts its commitment to safety. Current and former workers question the safety culture on the ground.
Credit 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.

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Coal Regulators
8:03 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Regulators Discuss Future Of Coal In The West

This image of the coal-fired plant in Colstrip, Mont., was made in the 1980s by Montana native David T. Hanson. It was part of an exhibit at Modern Museum of Art in New York.
Credit 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.

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Diesel Ownership
7:34 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Northwest Diesel Ownership Among Tops Nationally, Still Lags Behind Europe

A truck carrying diesel fuel.
Credit FlickrLickr / Wikimedia Commons

Northwesterners love their diesel pickups. A new report by a diesel industry group shows Oregon and Idaho are in the top ten when it comes to highest rates of diesel vehicle ownership in the nation. But the overall rate pales in comparison to other parts of the world. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.

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Oregon Oil Trains
7:27 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Central Oregon Grapples With Rising Oil Train Safety Risks

Michael Lang of Friends of the Gorge says each of the oil tanker cars he saw along the Deschutes May 4 had the telltale number 1267 – denoting crude oil cargo.
Credit Friends of the Gorge

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden will meet with emergency officials in Central Oregon this week to talk about oil train safety. For EarthFix, Cassandra Profita reports.

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NWPR Books
10:50 am
Wed February 12, 2014

In The World's 'Sixth Extinction,' Are Humans The Asteroid?

Elizabeth Kolbert says the "taxicab yellow" Panamanian golden frog was nearly wiped out by a fungal disease. It's just one of the species affected by what scientists call the Sixth Extinction.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 12:30 pm

The dinosaurs were killed during the Fifth Extinction — which scientists suspect was caused by an asteroid. Now, we are living through an epoch that many scientists describe as the Sixth Extinction, and this time, human activity is the culprit. As one scientist put it: We're the asteroid.

Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of the new book The Sixth Extinction. It begins with a history of the "big five" extinctions of the past, and goes on to explain how human behavior is creating a sixth one — including our use of fossil fuels and the effects of climate change.

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Coal Export Terminals
7:24 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Poll Finds Northwest Residents’ Support For Coal Dropping

A new survey finds support for coal export terminals has dropped over the past year among Northwest residents. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

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Coal Export Terminals
6:27 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Climate Change Concerns Enter Into Coal Export Debate

Heavy equipment moving coal at a mine in Wyoming.
Credit Katie Campbell

There are now three coal export terminals under consideration in the Pacific Northwest.

The prospect of exporting coal from Wyoming and Montana to be sold on the Asian market has many raising questions about the local and regional environmental impacts of moving that coal through the Northwest.

Ashley Ahearn reports on how that issue is playing into the debate over coal exports in Washington and Oregon.

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Coal Mining Revenue
6:59 am
Wed June 12, 2013

Government Report: Coal Companies Are Pocketing Millions At Taxpayers’ Expense

Heavy equipment moving coal at a mine in Wyoming. A new federal report says taxpayers aren't getting the full value of coal mined on public land.
Credit Katie Campbell

The Federal government is missing out on tens of millions of dollars in revenue from companies that mine coal on public lands. That’s according to a new report released by the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Ashley Ahearn reports for EarthFix.

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Science Crowdfunding
6:40 am
Tue May 21, 2013

Crowdfunding Coal Science

Scientists hope to use crowdfunding to study the impact coal trains like this one could have on the Northwest.
Credit Katie Campbell

Crowdfunding and kickstarter campaigns have become popular online tools to raise money for fledgling businesses and independent projects. Scientists are starting to use these sites to fund research as well.

State and federal agencies have begun the environmental review process for the two largest coal export terminals on the West coast. Now there are some scientists who are asking the public to chip in for studies about the impacts of exporting coal. Ashley Ahearn reports for EarthFix.

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Biofuel Debate
7:38 am
Wed April 17, 2013

Carbon Controversy: Should the Northwest Grow Markets For Forest Biofuels?

A slash pile at a timber harvest site in the Tillimook State Forest. Advocates of woody biomass say slash like this can be used to replace fossil fuels.
Credit Marcus Kaufmann

More than a dozen Northwest schools and hospitals have replaced old diesel heating systems with boilers that burn wood pellets. Advocates say that this wood fuel -- called forest biomass -- is an affordable local source of energy. And it can help rural communities cut back on their fossil fuel use.

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