The Energy Blog – by Andy Silber

This should never happen

On April 12th a lagoon holding cow manure failed, causing a spill of millions of gallons of waste into the Snohomish River. In the annals of industrial accidents this is pretty low on the horrific scale. But the tragedy is that the lagoon that failed should not have been there in the first place. Our attention is grabbed by failure and size, not by the slow, steady release of pollution that these lagoons routinely emit. As the manure breaks down methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, slowly rises, along with other noxious gases. In addition E Coli and other pathogens collect and are spread in fields when the manure is used as fertilizer.

This might be acceptable if it was a difficult problem to solve. But the opposite is true. Anaerobic digesters for dairy cow waste is a fully-realized commercial technology. In the digester the manure is eaten by bacteria in an oxygen-free environment and methane is created.  The gas is captured and can be used to power a generator, while the waste heat can be used to warm a barn or greenhouse or other farm uses. The manure in the digester is heated to a higher temperature than it would be in a lagoon, which kills off most of the pathogens like E coli. The benefits are many:

  • Improved air quality
  • Reduced greenhouse-gas emissions
  • Renewable electricity
  • Co-generation of heat for the dairy
  • Removed or greatly reduced risk of spills
  • High-quality bedding for the dairy cows
  • High quality fertilizer for the fields growing the feed for the dairy cows

A small percentage of dairy farms do have digesters, but most don’t. If they are so great, why doesn’t every dairy farm have one? This is a classic example of a market failure:

  • The farmer doesn’t pay for the reduced air quality, so he has no economic incentive to improve it.
  • The farmer doesn’t pay for the greenhouse-gas emissions, so he has no economic incentive to reduce them.
  • These projects are capital intensive and fall outside the expertise of the farmer, so the farmer doesn’t bother.

Though these projects do generate electricity and useful heat, the value of those products alone don’t generate enough revenue to make these projects happen. By selling renewable energy credits (RECs) and carbon offsets some projects do happen, but most dairy farms still use open lagoons to hold their waste. Since dairy farming is already a financially risky proposition, legislatures are loath to require digesters and the farmers are unwilling to invest in these projects themselves.

Even broad policy measures like Washington State’s I-937 and other renewable energy portfolio standards aren’t very effective in encouraging digesters. Utilities aren’t very interested in these projects because they are small (typically less than 1 MWatt or equivalent to less than one utility scale wind turbine) and more expensive than electricity generated at a large wind farm.  Also, these renewable standards still don’t capture all the value these projects have. Grants like those from the Department of Agriculture and the Recovery Act (Federal Stimulus) do help these projects happen, but not very quickly. A requirement for the largest dairy farms and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations to install digesters would go a long way to bringing this technology into the mainstream, but I don’t expect to see that happen any time soon.

Transition Seattle Discussion @ Garfield Community Center

The initiating group of Transition Seattle enthusiastically invites you to attend Transitioning to a Resilient Seattle, a city-wide Open Space Event to consider the questions:

  • What would a resilient Seattle look like in 2030?
  • How do we get there?

Join us at Garfield Community Center, 2323 E. Cherry St., adjacent to Garfield High, on May 1, from  9:30 am until 4:00 pm.  A light lunch provided.

Together we can unleash our collective wisdom required to create the future we need. Please RSVP via


King County Natural Resources Seminar on Stormwater

King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Water and Land Resources Division is hosting another in their series of SciFYI science seminars.  This one’s on Stormwater and all that entails including monitoring and plans for rivers and streams and floodplain monitoring.  This seminar takes place at the King County King Street Center at 201 South Jackson Street, in the 8th floor conference room from 8:00 am through Noon.

The format includes two sessions followed by a panel discussion:

  • Session I: Stormwater Monitoring – Moderator: Doug Navetski
    • 8:10-8:30am Puget Sound Stormwater Monitoring Work Group Update, Jim Simmonds
    • 8:30-8:50am Preliminary Results of NPDES Stormwater Permit Monitoring, Dean Wilson
    • 8:50-9:10am A Fecal Pollution and Correction Program in Kitsap County, Mindy Fohn
    • 9:10-9:30am Theo Foss Waterway Source Control Strategy, Dana de Leon
    • 9:30-9:50am Storm Drain and Combined Sewer Overflow Source Evaluations in the Duwamish Waterway Drainage Basin, Debra Williston and Beth Schmoyer
  • Break (9:50-10:00am)
  • Session II: WLRD Monitoring – Moderator: Jo Wilhelm
    • 10:00-10:20am Monitoring Salmon Recovery in WRIA 8, Scott Stolnack
    • 10:20-10:40am Status of King County Streams, Deb Lester
    • 10:40-11:00am Framework and Status of Regulatory Effectiveness Monitoring, Gino Lucchetti
    • 11:00-11:20am Development of a Monitoring Framework for the River and Floodplain Management Section, Sarah McCarthy
    • 11:20-11:40am An Overview of the CIP Monitoring and Maintenance Program’s Approach to Monitoring – Past and Present, Dan Eastman
  • Panel Discussion – Moderator: Josh Latterell
    • 11:40am-12:00pm Speakers et al

For more information:

Alaskan Way Viaduct Briefings Set for Pioneer Square, West Seattle, Ballard

WSDOT, SDOT, KCDOT and the Port of Seattle want to hear from you – attend a public hearing or send them your comments.

Join WSDOT/SDOT/KCDOT/Port of Seattle for a corridor hearing and series of open houses this month. They want your input about the proposed change to the route of SR 99 in downtown Seattle from the Alaskan Way Viaduct along the waterfront. They have studied five different routes for the proposed bored tunnel, and will continue to study the latest proposed bored tunnel alignment along with the elevated structure and cut-and-cover tunnel as part of the environmental review process.

At the corridor hearing on April 22, program staff will give a brief presentation about the proposed changes to the SR 99 alignment. The public will be encouraged to provide written comments or oral comments to a court reporter. Presentations will not be given at the April 27 and 28 open houses, but you will be able to review the hearing exhibits, meet with program staff, and learn about other program details.

The corridor hearing and open houses will be held at the following locations:

  • Corridor hearing and open house – Pioneer Square 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Thursday, April 22 at the Silver Cloud Inn-Stadium – 1046 First Ave. S.
  • Open house – West Seattle 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Tuesday, April 27 at Madison Middle School, Commons – 3429 45th Ave. SW
  • Open house – Ballard – 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Wednesday, April 28 at Ballard High School, Commons – 1418 NW 65th St.

If you are unable to attend the hearing or open houses, you may also submit comments by mail or e-mail. Comments for the corridor hearing must be submitted by May 13, 2010, to help ensure they are considered.  Written comments regarding the proposed changes to the SR 99 alignment should be sent to:

  • Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program, C/O Ryan Bianchi, 999 Third Ave., Suite 2424, Seattle, WA 98104
  • Comments may also be e-mailed to

CityFruit Offers Tree Pest Protection Classes

Protecting Fruit Trees from Pests

May is the time to protect your apples, pears and Asian pears from apple maggot fly and codling moth. City Fruit offers a comprehensive pest protection class on three different dates:

Learn various strategies for reducing damage to your fruit from apple maggot fly and codling moth. These include choosing more resistant cultivars, maintaining tree hygiene, using barriers (fruit shields or ‘footies’), installing traps, promoting beneficial insects and using organic sprays. This workshop explains each insect’s life cycle and discusses the various methods for reducing fruit damage. Fruit shields, or ‘footies’, can be purchased at the workshop.

To register: Go to or the City Fruit Web Site at You can also send a check, with the name of the class and your contact information to City Fruit, PO Box 28577, Seattle 98118. Classes are $15 for City Fruit members, $20 for non-members. If you can’t afford a class but really want to learn, email us at

The Phinney Neighborhood Association serves as City Fruit’s fiscal sponsor and is the co-sponsor of these events.

‘Radically Local Life’ Author To Speak in Everett, Seattle

People for Puget Sound is starting a speaker series in Seattle and Everett. They recently received a PPG grant to do public engagement for sediment clean up at the Port of Everett for the next two years. A public speaker series is to be part of their education and outreach strategy.

“Living locally” is a hot topic these days! Come to the Policy Café to join the sustainable living discussion.  Join People for Puget Sound on Thursday, April 29, from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm for a beer with Kurt Hoelting, author of “Circumference of Home: One Man’s Yearlong Quest for a Radically Local Life,” followed by an activist briefing from the advocacy experts at People For Puget Sound.

Policy Café – A Radically Local Life, at the Scuttlebutt Brewery, 1524 West Marine View Drive, Everett.  Dinner service and drinks will be available from Scuttlebutt brewery throughout the evening! Cost us $5.00 (plus $.99 to Brown Paper Tickets).  Check out the book synopsis and reserve your spot at

Kurt will also be presenting another reading at Seattle’s Town Hall on Friday, April 30, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  Tickets are also available at


NWTC Offers 4-Day Contaminant Chemistry Series

Contaminant Chemistry, Transport, Fate and Remediation in Soil and Groundwater

The Northwest Environmental Training Center, located in Georgetown at 650 South Orcas Street, Suite 220 is offering this four-day course beginning April 26 and continuing each day thorugh April 30.  Classes start at 8:00 am and run through 5:00 pm.

The series is a review of chemistry principles essential for understanding contaminant transport, fate and remediation.

  • Fundamental Contaminant Chemistry
    • CHEM-403A : Day 1 – April 26, 2010
    • A review of chemistry principles essential for understanding contaminant transport, fate and remediation.
    • This course provides participants with an overview/refresher of key chemistry concepts associated with environmental contamination. It also provides a foundation for understanding contaminant behavior. This material is intended for environmental professionals and project managers who are not chemists, but require a fundamental understanding of chemistry principles for their work. This course includes a review of chemical naming rules and how to use chemical names to predict molecular geometry and environmental behavior.
  • Contaminant Chemistry and Transport in Soil, Surface Water, and Groundwater
    • CHEM-403B : Days 2 and 3 – April 27-28, 2010
    • Understanding petroleum, chlorinated hydrocarbons, and metals behavior in soil and groundwater.
    • This course provides participants with an overview of key concepts essential for understanding soil and groundwater contamination and the selection of appropriate remediation approaches. This material is intended for environmental professionals who require a solid understanding of contaminant behavior, monitoring parameters, and how both relate to site remediation.
  • Monitored Natural Attenuation
    • GHYD-410 : Day 4 and 5 – April 29-30, 2010
    • Of petroleum and chlorinated hydrocarbons in soil and groundwater.
    • This course provides participants with an overview of the science and best practices for implementing monitored natural attenuation. The course sections focus specifically on monitored natural attenuation of petroleum hydrocarbons, fuel oxygenates, and chlorinated hydrocarbons in soil and groundwater. Software tools for natural attenuation analysis and methods for enhancing natural attenuation will also be discussed.

Tuition ranges from $295 to $595 per course.  Printable PDF brochure for the entire series is available at

These courses may be taken separately or as a series. An additional discount applies when registering for two or more courses.  Register for two or more classes and save! Receive an additional $100 discount for attending two courses, and $200 for attending all three.

For more information contact the Northwest Environmental Training Center at

Public Meeting Set for Westcrest Reservoir Park

Seattle Parks and Recreation invites the community to participate in the planning for the future park on the West Seattle Reservoir lid. Parks will hold a public meeting on April 24, 2010 from 10 a.m. to noon at Southwest Community Center, 2801 SW Thistle St., Seattle.

Parks invites the community to attend and provide feedback on the schematic designs that reflect the input that designer Site Workshop and Seattle Parks received at the previous meetings for this project.

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is replacing its open reservoirs with underground structures that will improve the quality and security of our water supply and provide new public open space on the reservoir lids. The West Seattle Reservoir is located at 9000 8th Ave. SW. Lid construction is underway at this site and park construction is scheduled to start in early 2011.

The Parks and Green Spaces Levy provides $3 million for planning, design and construction of this new park. Seattle voters passed the Parks and Green Spaces in November 2008. The $146 million Levy provides acquisition funding for new neighborhood parks and green spaces and development funding for projects such as improved playfields, reservoir lid parks, renovated playgrounds, community gardens, and safety upgrades at city owned cultural facilities.

The reservoir site is also the recipient of $150,000 in funding from the 1% ARTS program. The Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation and Seattle Public Utilities, is seeking an artist for a public art project for West Seattle Reservoir at Westcrest Park. The artist selected will work closely with the park design team and develop an artist-designed environment or installation for either the reservoir site.

For additional information about the project please  contact Susanne Friedman, Parks Planner at 206-684-0902 or


Conversation on Re-Imagining Cities

John Boylan’s Next Conversation will be “Re-imagining Cities,” and occurs on Tuesday, April 20, from 7 to 9 pm.  Admission is free. Tell your friends.  This roundtable conversation series happens at Vermillion, a wine bar and art gallery at 1508 11th Ave. E, Seattle. For more information on the series, call John Boylan at 206-601-9848.  John Boylin has been holding these interactive conversations for years – speakers give their thoughts then the collected set of guests and speakers engage in a “conversation” on the topic (or related) at hand.

This month we’ll be looking at cities and the way we think of them, how we dream them, how we redesign them, how we rebuild them. What are some of the models we use for rethinking our cities? And what sort of thinking and dreaming is more like to lead to action, is more likely to lead to better cities?

The Guests

  • Sarah Bergmann, artist, illustrator, garden activist
  • Ray Gastil, city planner, urban designer
  • Kurt Kiefer, artist, curator, arts consultant
  • Alex Steffen, writer, editor, activist, lecturer

The Story

We start with a simple question: What are the ways in which we re-imagine a city? In Seattle, there has been a lot of talk about remaking our town, at many levels. Most of that talk lately seems to revolve around the need to move people: the mayor’s talk of more mass transit, the push for a new waterfront tunnel and a new 520 bridge, the affect of Sound Transit’s new stations on Capitol Hill and the University District.

But can we rethink our city outside of that focus on big transit projects? Simply, how do we rethink what a city can be? Often it starts with a simple “what if?” question that leads to a huge project: “What if we had a monorail, or a big new park in the Cascade neighborhood?” Or sometimes it’s more fantastic, as in, “What if civilization were to fall apart? Would Seattle become a series of villages? And what would they look like?” But is “what if?” the best way to re-imagine a city? What else is there? And most important, what sort of imaginings can actually lead to a re-imagined city?

For this conversation I’ve invited four guests who loosely represent four ways of re-imagining cities. For me Sarah Bergmann represents a viral and activist approach: think through a small project, execute it, and then work on ways to grow it and spread it across a city. Transformation grows from a small kernel. Ray Gastil is a city planner and urban designer, and brings to the conversation a background in architecture, formal city planning, and a rigor of urban design. I asked Kurt Kiefer to join the discussion as well, in part because of a thought experiment he ran not long ago. He took an artist’s eye to the idea of what would happen if global warming were to turn Queen Anne hill into an island. How would the hill change? Would the new island be able to sustain itself? Finally, Alex Steffen rounds out the list. As a writer, editor, and international lecturer, Alex has been doing a lot of observing and thinking about how cities work and how they need to change. At a set of lectures at Town Hall in February, he called for Seattle to reach citywide carbon neutrality by 2030.


Sustainable West Seattle Monthly Community Forum

The Sustainable West Seattle April Community Forum will be about Zero Waste.

And It’s Tonight at the Senior Center – Alaska Junction around corner from California & Oregon.

Please join us this Monday, April 19th, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at  The Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon Street (around the corner from California & Oregon) for a discussion about creative ways we can all reduce our waste streams and lighten our footprint on the planet.

Representatives from West Seattle’s Alchemy Goods and ReUsies will be joining Heather Trim from Zero Waste Seattle to walk us through what the concept of Zero Waste is and how we can begin to participate. Continue reading “Sustainable West Seattle Monthly Community Forum”