Environment and Energy

pitchforkRise of the Pitchforkers.
The Pitchfork Rebellion has its roots in a mudslide. Following a clear cut, the sliding earth along Oregon's winding Highway 36 wiped out the road, cuting rural residents off from the nearest town, six times in a single year. But other problems related to the surrounding timber industry soon emerged: women stricken with roller-coaster hormones and crushing fatigue, rumors of miscarraige, disease and chemical burns from the air. Triangle Lake is now the site of the first public health inquiry into the harmful effects of aerial pesticide spraying on timberland, involving the EPA, ATSDR and CDC. Reporting in Triangle Lake was supported with a grant from the inaugural Fund for Environmental Journalism.  

- Rise of the Pitchforkers. Feb. 27, 2012, Slate.com.


IMG_0834Money Blows in to a Patch of Oregon known for Its Unrelenting Winds. Sherman County, Ore. used to be known only for relentless winds. But after county leaders positioned the area for wind energy development - and a number of private landowners signed on - hard-blowing gusts in this area south of the Columbia River Gorge spell more then just weather: they spell money. While some rural communities have grappled with renewable energy's place in the landscape, Sherman County has avoided such disputes. It's population of mostly wheat growers are busy diversifying their bottom line. The county is too. After nine years of taxes, fees and assessments, the community of 1,735 has pulled in $17 million in new revenue, on top of private gains for leasing farmers.

- Money Blows in to a Patch of Oregon known for Its Unrelenting Winds. May 30, 2011, New York Times.


IMG_0822Massive Snowmelt Pits Wind Turbines Against Water Power. A bizarre situation in the Pacific Northwest caused by fast-melting snowpack and heavy spring rains prompted the Bonneville Power Administration to scuttle wind power off transmission lines while water surged through its massive hydropower system. Blaming endangered species act and other factors for an inability to spill water past dams, Bonneville instead curtailed 97,557 megawatt hours of wind, pitting salmon advocates against wind energy companies and costing the wind energy industry millions. The incident led to three separate legal challenges and was later resolved by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission, which found Bonneville shifted policy to benefit its own hydropower business, an illegal move under the Federal Power Act.

- Massive Snowmelt Pits Wind Turbines Against Water Power. June 14, 2011, TheAtlantic.com.


Cruise lines dodge states’ tougher rules by dumping in Canadian waters. Cruise ships thought to be abiding by tough new pollution regulations in Washington and Alaska were really just gaming the system, dumping waste in the Canadian waters in between the two states. That was the finding in this project crafted by InvestigateWest to help launch Spot.Us in Seattle, the crowd-funded journalism site supported by the Knight Foundation, after its successful start in San Francisco. The story set out to answer a question – How green are cruise ship tourism dollars? – amid rapid expansion of the cruise industry in the Pacific Northwest. But what it found was stunning: cruise ships weren’t abiding any environmental rules at all. The project raised more than $1,800 through Spot.Us, got readers excited about the website’s Seattle launch, and turned out to be one of InvestigateWest’s largest and most successful collaborations at the time, distributing to 12 partners including newspapers, radio, television and online media.

- Cruise lines dodge states’ tougher rules by dumping in Canadian waters. Aug. 15, 2010, InvestigateWest and partners.


beneath-the-surfaceBeneath the Surface. A giant sewer pipe located in Oswego Lake needed fixing. But the city of Lake Oswego seemed to have dodged sewer repairs for years, racking up fines for sewer leaks instead. Recreational boaters and owners of the state’s premiere real estate couldn’t understand why a fix wouldn’t come. This story uncovered how, while designing sewer repairs, the city found that the secretive corporation that controls the lake had polluted its bottom with copper sulfate to control algae. Because draining the lake for construction would provoke environmental review, the two entities quietly redesigned the project to avoid scrutiny by regulators, a process that cost millions and took years.

- Beneath the Surface. Nov. 16, 2006, Lake Oswego Review.