Northwest Briefly: Scientists look into biochar as a new energy source

  • Sun Feb 28th, 2010 10:34pm
  • News

RICHLAND — Scientists in Eastern Washington are researching a material that could be a new fuel source, a way to improve soil and to capture carbon that otherwise would be released into the atmosphere.

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the federal Department of Agriculture’s research station in Prosser and Washington State University are studying biochar, a charcoal like material. Biochar is produced when biomass such as wood, plant and animal waste is burned in low oxygen conditions so it doesn’t combust.

The USDA estimates biochar has the potential to replace about 25 percent of the annual oil consumption in this country and seems especially promising as a soil amendment and to lock up greenhouse gases.

Olympia: No prosecution for drug overdose in new law

People who seek help for someone suffering a drug overdose would not face prosecution under a measure approved by the Legislature.

The measure passed the House on a 57-39 vote Sunday. It overwhelmingly passed the Senate earlier this month, and now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The measure also exempts the person suffering the overdose from prosecution if the evidence is gained only because medical assistance was called.

Legislature OKs honorary degrees for WWII internees

The Legislature has passed a measure that allows honorary degrees to be granted to students who were ordered into internment camps during World War II.

The measure was approved unanimously by the House Sunday and now goes to the governor. The Senate passed the measure earlier this month.

The degrees may be conferred by state universities or colleges upon people who were students at those institutions in 1942 but did not graduate because they were ordered into a camp. An honorary degree may also be requested by a representative of a deceased person who meets these conditions.

Most internees were of Japanese descent.

Pullman: WSU students displaced by apartment fire

No injuries were reported after a fire forced students from a Washington State University apartment complex.

The fire at the 12-unit Chief Joseph Village complex broke out shortly before 5 a.m. Saturday. Fire officials said it caused about $500,000 in damage and displaced more than a dozen students.

Pullman Fire Department investigator Rich Dragoo said that the fire appears to have started accidentally in the kitchen stove area of one of the units.

Kent: Man accused of raping patient, 71

King County prosecutors say a man has been jailed after an alleged sexual assault on a 71-year-old woman at the Kent nursing home where he worked.

Prosecutors said Douglas McGregor, 35, worked at the Weatherly Inn at Lake Meridian, an assisted living facility for Alzheimer’s patients. Kent police alleged another employee found McGregor standing next to the woman last week with his genitals exposed. KOMO-TV reported that detectives said McGregor told them the woman had broken the button on his pants, exposing him.

Officials at the home immediately called police. McGregor has been booked into the King County Jail for investigation of second-degree rape and is being held on $250,000 bail.

Oregon: Car salesman shot in midst of test drive

Medford police said a car salesman was shot while taking a man on a test drive.

Officers said Robert Joe Johnson, 32, a salesman at Lithia Toyota, was wounded in the abdomen during an alleged carjacking Saturday. Police Chief Randy Schoen said Johnson was giving the man a test drive of a Ford Mustang when they pulled into a parking lot to switch drivers. He said the man drew a pistol and shot Johnson before speeding away.

Witnesses called police and while some officers aided Johnson, others chased the Mustang, which eventually crashed in a field. The Mail Tribune in Medford said a 49-year-old Eagle Point man was taken into custody.

Gunplay at party ends in man’s death

Silverton police say a 22-year-old man died from a shotgun wound after he and some friends were playing with firearms at a party.

Sgt. Jerry Blaylock said Mark Berry died immediately from the shotgun blast early Saturday. He said it appears the shooting was accidental, and that Berry and the others apparently thought the weapon was unloaded.

Logging company gets late bill for highway damage

Almost six years after one of their trailers blew a tire and dumped logs onto a highway, logging company owners Gary and Mary Betts got a letter from the state Department of Justice demanding $3,342.43 for cleanup and damages services provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The Bettses say their insurance company will pay the bill but they question why it took so long for the state to send a bill — and why it’s demanding to be paid in just 30 days.

A Department of Justice spokesman said the bill was recently uncovered and that the Betts’ company and insurance carrier should bear some responsibility for not contacting the Department of Transportation after the incident.

Million-dollar fire hits plywood mill

Eugene fire officials say a fast-moving blaze caused about $1 million in damage to a plywood mill.

District Fire Chief Randy DeWitt said the Saturday afternoon fire at Emerald Forest Products took three hours to control and drew 90 percent of the city’s firefighters. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

DeWitt said a huge amount of lumber and plywood fed the fire, which broke out in one of five buildings at the mill. He said fire crews were able to protect the other four buildings and limit the damage at the structure that burned.

From Herald news services