Research by Topic


The Real Story of Puget Sound’s Disappearing Herring

Pacific herring, SteveWyshy, Flickr.

Puget Sound’s Pacific herring are a small fish with a whale-sized slate of problems. Many of the local herring stocks are in decline and despite some localized efforts to save them, their numbers haven’t bounced back. In this research memo, Sightline looks past the abundant rumors to examine the best science on Puget Sound herring. Are they jeopardized by disease, pollution, increasing numbers of predators, climate change, shoreline development, or fishing? And what about a new export terminal proposed at Cherry Point, home to one of the Sound’s most distinctive and threatened herring populations?

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US Coal Exports and Uncertainty in Asian Markets

Photo by Daniel Dancer, used with permission.

With US demand for coal plummeting, coal companies are looking to Asia to shore up sagging sales at home. Since 2011, several groups have launched ambitious plans to mine low-grade coal from Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin and transport it by rail to ports in Oregon and Washington, where it will be shipped to overseas markets—particularly China. At full capacity, the proposed projects would send 140 million tons annually. The coal industry claims that Asia offers lucrative coal markets. Yet much of the available evidence is cautionary at best. Sightline’s memo, “US Coal Exports and Uncertainty in Asian Markets,” … Read more »

The Promise of Permeable Pavement

Center for Neighborhood Technology, flickr

Permeable pavement is one of the most promising green solutions that can help reduce and clean up polluted stormwater runoff. Like conventional pavement, it can be made of asphalt or concrete that’s either poured in place or sold as pavers, and it can be
used in a variety of settings, including on parking lots, low-traffic roadways, driveways, and sidewalks. Read more »

Toxic Couches

Toxic Couches Infographic

No study has ever proven that California’s 12-second rule for fire prevention makes furniture safer—but it does fill our homes with toxic flame retardants linked to a host of ailments. Just how serious is the problem? Sightline’s infographic makes the case. View graphic »

The Facts about Kinder Morgan

Coal shipper has a track record of pollution, lawbreaking, and cover-ups

Kinder-morgan capture

In January, 2012, Kinder Morgan—a giant energy conglomerate—announced plans to use an Oregon port on the Columbia River to export 30 million tons of coal annually to China and other Asian markets. Many people in the Northwest are concerned about the health risks, pollution, and economic risk that are entailed by the plans. A look at Kinder Morgan’s track record in communities where the company already exports coal reveals that these worries may be well-founded. Read more »

Coal Export FAQ

Coal Stack

Answers to some common questions about economics, health, and pollution with regard to coal exports in the Northwest, including: why care about coal exports and are coal terminals good neighbors? Read more »

Northwest Ocean Acidification

The hidden costs of fossil fuel pollution

Fishing Boat

Every day, oceans do us a huge favor by absorbing about a third of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities. But as we burn more fossil fuels and clear forests, our oceans absorb more and become more acidic. The result is water that’s potentially lethal to a large swath of creatures that play a huge role in aquatic ecosystems, the Northwest economy, and our dinner plates. Read more »

Coal Export

A History of Failure for Western Ports

Communities in Oregon and Washington are weighing the prospect of coal export facilities. Proponents of shipping American coal to Asia argue that coal will bring significant economic benefits to the region. In this research memo, we examine the risks of coal markets, review the history of coal exports on the West Coast, and evaluate the employment dimensions of coal terminals. Read more »

Curbing Stormwater Pollution

Cleaning Up the Northwest's Toxic Runoff

Water flowing from storm drain

Stormwater doesn’t match the traditional image of pollution. There are no factory smokestacks belching waste. Yet polluted stormwater packs a punch. Sightline’s report, Curbing Stormwater Pollution, looks at the challenges we face and the opportunities we have to clean up our waterways. Read more »

Curbing Stormwater in Puget Sound

The Case for Low-Impact Development

Storm Drain

Rain may not seem like a likely culprit for many of Puget Sound’s pollution woes. But on it’s journey from sky to stream it picks up a host of toxics from our roofs, roadways, and yards. The end result is a toxic cocktail that spills into our waterways. This report catalogs the challenges polluted stormwater poses for the Puget Sound region, and highlights local Low Impact Development projects that are helping solve the problem. Read more »