Farming to help the climate: Two bills in Olympia promote “regenerative agriculture”

Bills in the Washington Legislature would help scientists learn about storing carbon in agricultural soils, as well as letting farmers invest in GPS-guided tractors and climate-friendly cattle feed. While both bills have bi-partisan support and reflect recognition that farm soil can play a key role in slowing the rise of greenhouse gases, but some fear that it won’t benefit all farmers.

Would you like forks with that? Legislation aims to end disposable plasticware in WA

Legislation being considered in the Washington Legislature phase in a ban on plastic cutlery and other food-service products accompanying ready-to-eat food, effectively making the state’s takeout industry go compostable-only. Associated fees would fund the upgrade of state facilities to process the compostable utensils and containers. Environmentalists see the legislation as a step in the right direction, but grocery, restaurant and chemical industries feel that existing state taxes on food-service items should pay for the upgrades.

Make way for duplexes: Washington could join Oregon in banning single-family-only zoning

Two bills currently in the Washington Legislature aim to address the housing shortage in the state with legislation that would clear the way for duplexes and other multi-household homes. While the legislation could help reduce sprawl and commutes, as well as open up more pathways to home ownership, opponents worry that it would undercut property values and reshape neighborhoods.

Covering Your Climate: The Emerald Corridor — Impacts, fixes and rethinking everything

As the Pacific Northwest faces serious impacts from climate change, and moves to respond, the Society of Environmental Journalists provides a special in-depth report on how journalists can tell the unfolding story. The “Covering Your Climate: The Emerald Corridor” project, which launches this week with an extensive issue backgrounder, to be followed soon by tipsheets and a toolbox listing sources, documents and other material helpful to journalists of all beats covering climate issues.

Legislature eyes ways to control speculators buying Washington water rights

Several upcoming bills in the Washington Legislature aim to take on the state’s convoluted water rights system, which balances two conflicting positions – that water is a public resource stewarded by the state, and that water rights are private property. While legislators want to cut out water speculators who are looking to make a profit on water, farmers, builders and environmental stewardship organizations fear that regulations could impede community water banks.

Surge in abused, neglected kids housed at hotels ‘just another level of trauma’

Record numbers of foster children are sleeping in hotels and state offices as Washington State struggles to find beds for youth with mental health and behavioral challenges. Having previously sent some of the hardest-to-place foster youths to out-of-state homes, the state is now working to bring them back, but it’s facing a lack of qualified in-state facilities in part due to low payment rates by the state.

Senator: To help orcas and salmon, seawalls should be a last resort

Newly proposed legislation in the Washington Legislature would require waterfront homeowners along Puget Sound’s 2,500-mile shoreline to consider fish-friendly fixes when replacing concrete seawalls. Proponents believe it’s the best opportunity to soften the Sound’s shores and jumpstart populations of forage fish that feed juvenile Chinook salmon, the preferred food of endangered orcas. The building lobby and others aren’t convinced.

Foster parents struggle against retaliation by state caseworkers

In addition to the shortage of foster homes in Washington state, foster parents often cite retaliation by state case workers as a major issue. Widespread enough to be acknowledged by state child-welfare officials, these punitive measures can involve threats to remove foster children or reduce monthly state support payments. This is creating a culture of fear among foster parents and further exacerbate the foster care crisis in Washington state.