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Utility companies presented their plans for a 220-mile natural gas pipeline through central Oregon Tuesday in Madras.
Northwest utilities were busy Tuesday. Portland General Electric settled a long-standing lawsuit over its coal plant. At the same time, the Bonneville Power Administration addressed its complicated relationship with wind power by making two announcements Tuesday.
In cities across the nation, water is getting more expensive. In Portland, rate increases at the city’s public utilities are behind a measure on the ballot, 26-156, to create a water and sewer district.
In the wake of a natural disaster like an earthquake, the natural gas, water and electricity in a home become potentially serious threats to health and well-being.
The city of Redmond will soon change the way renters wind up paying for city utilities. Redmond's city council unanimously approved a measure requiring water, sewer and garbage accounts to be in the names of property owners rather than the tenants.
How We Live is our series that explores how the places where people live reflect their beliefs and principles — what the physical space says about how they live their lives. We've visited a tiny house and a pocket neighborhood and this time, we went to the Jantzen Beach Moorage to talk with people who live in floating homes: Floating homes are often called "houseboats," by many people even though they are actually stationary. There are a handful of floating home communities along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Some of the structures date back to the early days of Oregon's statehood when floating bordellos catered to mill workers. Today, the homes are docked together and neighbors share utilities and, in some cases, ownership of the docks themselves. Not surprisingly, the lives of the moorage residents are ruled very much by the weather. As our guest Ron Schmidt says,
In the summertime, it gets to be a real party atmosphere. Everyone’s outdoors and boaters are going by. People come and visit. It’s very festive. Then come fall when the rains return, it gets to be a little more tranquil down here.
A phone call reporting a man experiencing severe chest pain woke Frank Billington in the middle of the night, and he was first on the scene in a matter of minutes. The patient was in a great deal of pain with a very irregular heartbeat. Frank did what he could to stabilize him before the paramedics arrived and whisked him away to the nearest hospital. The patient survived and later, the EMTs told Frank it was unusual for someone to pull through after such a serious heart attack. "I like to think I had something to do with that," Frank said humbly. Frank lives in a house owned by the local fire district, which means he basically runs a one-man fire station out of his family's home. He has a what's known as a mini pumper vehicle at his disposal. (It's basically a scaled down fire truck with medical supplies on board.) He's often the first on the scene of a fire or medical emergency, but this isn't his paid job. Frank is a shift superintendent at Clark Public Utilities. He's also a volunteer fire and medical responder in rural Washington, near Washougal.
After a summer of relative quiet on the climate change front, last week saw a windstorm of activity. Following the bill passed by the U.S. House earlier this year, the U.S. Senate has now introduced a climate change bill. On the same day, the Environmental Protection Agency released a detailed proposal to regulate carbon dioxide and a number of other green house gases. A big Circuit Court of Appeals decision on the east coast allowed public nuisance lawsuits to proceed against polluting utilities. And Nike just withdrew from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce board of directors because of the Chamber's position on climate change.
local | News | Think Out LoudFeb. 4, 2016 6:17 p.m.
We talk to legislative representatives on both sides of a bill that would eliminate the use of coal energy by Oregon's two biggest utilities by 2035. The Oregon Secretary of State discusses how the implementation of the state’s automatic voter registration law is going. And we speak with the backcountry guide who led a trip down a previously undocumented slot canyon for Oregon Field Guide.
A new study of drinking water in 35 US cities released recently by the advocacy organization, Environmental Working Group, claimed 31 cities have water with detectable levels of the carcinogen, chromium-6 (hexavalent chromium). That chemical got considerable public attention after the 2000 film, Erin Brockovich. Bend is one of the cities EWG claims as having water with detectable levels of chromium-6. Bend officials say the water the EWG sampled for its tests came from a private utility that supplies water to some Bend residents. Justin Finestone, communications manager for the city of Bend, questions EWG's approach. He says, "The EPA has a specific testing method for chromium and EWG didn't use that. People don't know these things and they panic." Soon after the report was released, the Environmental Protection Agency released this statement from Administrator Lisa Jackson. Jackson promised the agency is studying the issue. The EPA is in the middle of its own study looking at whether it needs to set a maximum level for hexavalent chromium in tap water. Currently, EPA requires all water systems to test for "total chromium" content, not just chromium-6. The EPA's website says its total chromium standard is 0.1 mg/L (100 parts per billion) and that their latest data show no U.S. utilities are in violation of the standard. Studies like this one can understandably raise public concern. But it's a fine line between communicating potential public health risks and causing panic. Regarding this EWG study, Dr. George Gray, a toxicologist at George Washington University, says he'd hope that "people stop and ask questions about studies like this: how big is the risk, how does it compare to others around me, is this one worth worrying about? Is it worth changing my behavior?"
Public policy wonks talk about incentives and disincentives as ways to alter people's behavior. There are the sticks, like the proposal to fine drivers who have one hand on the wheel and the other on a cell phone. (You may have heard our show about it.) And then there are the carrots: like tax rebates and credits and grants of all kinds that reward the kind of action the state wants to see more of. If there's one broad sector this state — and the rest of the union — is invested in investing in, it's green energy. But are the various state (and federal) incentives necessary? And are they working?
Earlier this month, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed landmark legislation pushing Oregon's two biggest utilities companies off of coal and into renewable energy. How's that actually going to happen? We talk to representatives from Portland General Electric and Pacific Power to find out.
A lot of the biggest Northwest environmental stories surrounded energy issues. Coal plants in Centralia, WA, and Boardman, OR both faced pressure to close their doors sooner than planned. Those closures come at the same time that Longview, WA and Bellingham, WA proposed coal export terminals to ship the resource to China. Idaho joined in on the national push toward "fracking" for natural gas. And the federal decision to postpone the Keystone XL oil pipeline has raised the question of whether we'll see more oil tankers in NW waters as companies look for other routes to carry oil to China. The national Solyndra controversy raised questions about the certainty of investments in the local renewable energy industry. The wind and hydroelectric industries tried to work out the kinks of how to deal with the times when too much energy gets generated by both sources. And the Japanese tsunami that led to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis and cleanup has raised quesitons everywhere about the safety of nuclear energy.