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An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 15, 2018 in Paradise, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

By Timothy Rooks

The many wildfires roaring through America's West Coast don't just look scary, they are bad for people's health, bad for public and private lands, and bad for the economy.

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Smoke covers the skies over downtown Portland, Oregon, on Sept. 9, 2020. Portland had the worst air pollution among major cities around the world due to the 37 active wildfires that have burned more than 800,000 acres throughout the state. Diego Diaz / Icon Sportswire

The wildfires raging across the West Coast have made the air quality so bad in several U.S. cities that they rank among the worst in the world. In fact, the air quality in Portland, Oregon was so bad on Sunday that it went off the charts when it passed 500 on an air quality index. Anything in the 300 to 500 range is hazardous to health, according to Oregon Live.

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A firefighter douses flames as they push toward homes during the Creek Fire in the Cascadel Woods area of unincorporated Madera County, California on Sept. 7, 2020. Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images

What does the climate crisis look like? As wildfires continue to rage up and down the U.S. West Coast, we have some terrifying answers: orange skies; burnt-out buildings; a horse, seemingly abandoned, running past a stall as the hill above erupts in flames. These images help to ground an unfathomable reality.

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Fires seen in Oregon, southern Washington and northern California on Sept. 8, 2020 from NOAA's GOES17 satellite. NOAA Satellites - Public Affairs

Wildfires raged through Oregon and Washington Monday and Tuesday, prompting evacuations, blanketing Seattle in unhealthy levels of smoke and destroying nearly all of a small Washington farming town.

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Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell / USFS

Removing one gigantic dam can have a massive effect on restoring a river ecosystem.

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Oregon's Gov. Kate Brown (seen above) signed what she said was the most ambitious emissions target in the country. Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call / Getty Images

At the end of Oregon's legislative session, Republicans fled the state to kill a cap-and-trade bill designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, effectively killing 100 other pieces of legislation as the short legislative session expired. Now that the state house is in recess, the governor found a work around, signing a sweeping executive order to reduce carbon emissions to at least 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, as the AP reported.

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The Little Goose Dam on the Snake River near Starbuck, Washington. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

By Jodi Helmer

Each year, millions of tons of grain make their way along what was once one of our wildest river systems, the Columbia-Snake River. Four dams — the Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental and Ice Harbor — erected between 1955 and 1975, ease the way for massive barges bound for ports on the West Coast, and ultimately, markets in Asia. Soybeans, wood products, mineral bulks, and automobiles also travel the river by barge. But outnumbering all other cargo is the soft white wheat grown by farmers from 11 states.

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The Oregon Senate Chamber. Cacophony / CC BY 3.0

Six days after Republican Oregon Senators fled the state to avoid voting on a bill to address the climate crisis, the Senate president declared the bill dead.

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The Oregon State Capitol in Salem on April 7, 2011. Edmund Garman / CC BY 2.0

By Adrienne Alvord

This week Oregon stands on the cusp of approving historic cap-and-invest legislation, HB 2020, that experts have said will help grow the Oregon economy. After three years of legislative consideration, numerous studies, hearings, public meetings and debate, the Oregon House approved the legislation decisively (36-22) on June 18th, and the bill moved to the Senate Floor, where a vote was expected on June 20th.

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Oregon state capitol. Tashka / iStock / Getty Images

Oregon republicans fled their state rather than do anything to stop the climate crisis. The state republicans abrogated their duties as elected officials and ran away since they don't have the votes to stop a landmark bill that would make Oregon the second state to adopt a cap-and-trade program to curb greenhouse gas emissions, as Vice News reported.

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Fire burns in the North Santiam State Recreational Area on March 19. Oregon Department of Forestry

An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

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A protest against the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and Pacific Connector pipeline corresponding with the Department of State Lands hearing in Salem, Oregon. Rick Rappaport

By Simon Davis-Cohen

When the incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown defeated Republican Knute Buehler in a contentious race for Oregon's governorship, many in the state's climate movement let out a momentary sigh of relief. Brown had promised to "lead on climate" while Buehler had pledged his support for new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Now, residents are working to hold Governor Brown to task over what they see as the most pressing climate issue facing the state: the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal and its Pacific Connector Gas pipeline. Backed by the Canadian company Pembina Pipeline Corporation, the project would transport natural gas extracted via hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from Colorado to Oregon's coast, where it would be super-cooled into liquid form and loaded on ships to international markets.

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Port of Longview, Washington. Sam Beebe / Ecotrust, CC BY-SA 3.0

By Shawn Olson-Hazboun and Hilary Boudet

A year after Washington state denied key permits for a coal-export terminal in the port city of Longview, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would proceed with its review—essentially ignoring the state's decision.

This dispute pits federal authorities against local and state governments. It's also part of a larger and long-running battle over fossil fuel shipments to foreign countries that stretches up the entire American West Coast.

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