Tag Archives: Environment

Seattle’s Heating Oil Tax: A Missed Opportunity for Environmental Justice

by Tushar Khurana

In September 2019, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed a law that would tax home heating oil sold within the city and could eventually require residents to upgrade or decommission their heating oil tanks by 2028. The legislation was introduced to meet the City’s climate goals by hastening the transition to cleaner electric home heating across the city. It was also lauded in a mayoral press release as a “bold and thoughtful approach” to environmental policy that “help[s] our most vulnerable residents move off heating oil.” Revenue from the tax is intended to fund rebates for homeowners and help provide 1,000 fully paid electric heat pump installations for low-income residents.

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Cascadia’s Climate Champions Learn They Can Win at the Local Level

by Peter Fairley

(This article was originally published on InvestigateWest and has been reprinted under an agreement.)

Acting on international calls to freeze fossil fuel infrastructure, citizen activists working with environmental justice groups and Indigenous nations are pushing local governments to rewrite the rules for building everything from airports and gas stations to industrial zones. 

“We were here before the airport was. They forget that,” says Rosario-Maria Medina, a community activist in the South Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown, just north of bustling Boeing Field. When Seattle’s first commercial airport opened in 1928, Georgetown had been a vibrant community for more than half a century.

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In the Duwamish Watershed, Communities Respond as Coho Salmon Face a New Threat

by Tushar Khurana

Every year, salmon journey from the open waters of the North Pacific, pass through estuaries along the coast, and swim upriver to spawn in the freshwater streams and creeks in which they were born. Yet across the western coast of North America, coho salmon are dying in large numbers as they return to urban watersheds. In West Seattle, a team of citizen scientists are surveying salmon to understand how many are affected.

Since 2015, small teams of volunteers have gone out every day in the fall to document returning salmon along a quarter mile stretch of Longfellow Creek.

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Youth Activists Demand Amazon Do More to Combat Climate Change

by Alex Garland

On Thursday, Nov. 11, more than 15 youth activists ranging in ages from 7 to 15 years old took their demands directly to Amazon as they held a “climate teach-in” and delivered a report card on Amazon’s pledge to reduce the pollution from shipping by 2040. The young activists from Climate Action Families Seattle (CAFS) gathered outside the Amazon Headquarters in the Day 1 building in front of the Amazon Spheres. As each activist came to the microphone, they took turns reporting on Amazon’s climate goals and current profits and how those conflict with the reality of climate change. 

These youth demanded that Amazon step up and show leadership around promises to end maritime shipping pollution. Their demands included that Amazon commit to the Ship It Zero plan, wherein Amazon would transition to 100% zero-emission ships by 2030. The cargo ships used by Amazon currently use bunker fuel, a high sulphur fuel that leads to increased CO2 emissions. The activists are asking Amazon to switch to marine fuel, which burns cleaner and costs more. 

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Shape Our Water: Pah-tu Pitt

by Ben Adlin

Shape Our Water is a community-centered project from Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and KVRU 105.7 FM, a hyperlocal low-power FM station in South Seattle, to plan the next 50 years of Seattle’s drainage and wastewater systems. Funded by SPU, the project spotlights members of local community-based organizations and asks them to share how water shapes their lives. Our latest conversation is with Pah-tu Pitt, a small-business owner of Native Kut, course instructor at the University of Washington, and member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

When smoke from wildfires turned skies in the Pacific Northwest an otherworldly orange last summer, many of the region’s longest residents knew that more than climate change was to blame. Pah-tu Pitt, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, recognized that the fires also symbolized a rejection of Indigenous wisdom of how to care for the land.

“We really saw, on a large scale, what removing traditional fire practices from landscapes can lead to,” Pitt told the Shape Our Water project. Prevailing forest management practices [particularly in dry landscapes] relied on the idea that minor fires should be extinguished before they could spread and grow, while Pitt’s tribe had long understood that the smaller fires actually cleared underbrush — reducing the likelihood of larger blazes.

“My tribe has been a leader in using fires to reduce fuels within the system, to make it so fires tend to not be so catastrophic,” Pitt explained. Pitt, who currently lives in Seattle, expressed a sense of disconnect when she reflected on the many ways tribal lands benefit from traditional fire practices and how devastating wildfires have now become to their ecology and regional air quality.

The observation underscored Pitt’s belief in the need for Western institutions to better respect and incorporate the knowledge embodied in traditional place-based practices. As an educator and small business owner who has a background in environmental science, she now works to amplify the voices and perspectives of underrepresented groups. 

“Just because you don’t see yourself reflected in the field doesn’t mean that your people didn’t do science,” she said. “White supremacy just plays such a large role in excluding and dismissing our ideas. I don’t think that there are sustainable futures without us being able to reclaim those spaces.”

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OPINION: With the Right Transportation Policies, We Can Pivot to a New Climate Reality

by Ingrid Elliott, Rich Stolz, Anna Zivarts

Less than three months ago, a heatwave like we’ve never seen before gripped the Pacific Northwest killing over 1,200 people in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Black, Brown, and poor people were hit first and worst — low-income neighborhoods recorded by far the highest temperatures — but everyone suffered in one of our region’s worst natural disasters.

Scientists called the heat dome “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” An August Seattle Times piece noted that extreme heat events in the Northwest become 14 times more likely with climate change. We made this reality. How can we pivot to a different one?  

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Weekend Long Reads: What’s the Cheapest Form of Energy?

by Kevin Schofield

This week’s “long read” is light on words and heavy on charts and graphs. It’s a comparison of the cost to generate electricity from a number of different sources, both clean and dirty.

The business and finance consultant company Lazard has compiled an analysis of the “levelized cost of energy” every year since 2007. By “levelized,” they mean that they factor in all of the costs: capital costs to build out electricity generation facilities, including the materials, manufacturing, construction, installation, permitting, and property; ongoing operational and maintenance costs; fuel costs for the types of generation that require fuel; and regulatory costs. They calculate the expected operational lifetime of a power generation facility and then divide the sum of the costs by the total expected power generation over a facility’s lifetime to arrive at a cost per megawatt-hour.

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Duwamish River Cleanup Rally Challenges EPA Proposed Changes

by Ronnie Estoque

Cars honked and community members chanted while crossing the South Park Bridge on Friday, Sept. 24. They were voicing concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed changes to the cleanup of the Duwamish River. In 2001, the Duwamish River was listed as a federal Superfund site, one of the country’s most toxic hazardous-waste sites.

“We’re asking for this river to get cleaned up the way we agreed to in 2014 … to change things now makes no sense at all,” James Rasmussen, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (DRCC) Superfund manager and member of the Duwamish Tribe, said. “That’s why we’re here today. We want to clean this river the best possible way we can.”

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King County Proposal Would Ban Natural Gas in New Multifamily and Commercial Buildings

by Ben Adlin

In an effort to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions, King County Executive Dow Constantine is proposing rules that would sharply limit the use of natural gas in new multifamily homes and commercial developments as well as encourage wider adoption of solar power.

“These updates will save money, they’ll create jobs, and they’ll have an impact on climate change,” Constantine said at a media event Wednesday, Sept. 22, at Yesler Terrace Park. 

Constantine declined to provide a timeline for the proposal other than to call it “wildly urgent.” The changes would need approval from the King County Council to take effect.

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The South End Guide to Reducing Our Carbon Footprint: Recycle and Reuse

by Mark Van Streefkerk

A majority of the waste in our landfills doesn’t need to be there. According to a 2019 King County Waste Characterization and Customer Survey Report, over half of what we throw away could be redirected. “Seventy percent of the material that is going to our landfill could be recycled, composted, or reduced,” explained Heather Trim, executive director of Zero Waste Washington. “The vast result of what’s going to our landfill doesn’t need to be going to our landfill.” 

In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report showing that the effects of climate change are “widespread, rapid, and intensifying,” and that “strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change.” Greenhouse gasses are responsible for raising the temperature of our planet. A warming planet is also partly responsible for increasing the severity of wildfires on the west coast in the past few decades. Extreme weather events like hurricanes or heat waves have also been linked to climate change, which also affects the most marginalized and socially vulnerable.   

Holding corporations and governments responsible to reduce greenhouse emissions is essential to limit the effects of climate change, and there are also changes we can make in our own lives that are relatively simple — and save money — to help offset our own carbon footprint. 

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