One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or in this case, another man’s electricity. At the waste-to-energy plant in Spokane, 800 tons of trash is burned daily and converted to energy, enough to heat 13,000 homes. You may think that this is a good method of handling our trash – taking something we throw out and converting it into something we can use. But, the plant has been targeted by the new Department of Ecology’s Clean Air Rule and carbon tax advocates.
Despite its success as reducing waste, the landfill has landed on the state’s list of large carbon emitters. Waste-to-energy plants are far more common on the East Coast. In Washington, only 3.1 percent of our trash goes to an energy-producing plant; in New York, it’s 19.5 percent. The Spokane plant was built in 1991 to replace a leaking landfill and help protect the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, the only source of drinking water for more than 500,000 in the region.
In the Spokane area, which struggles with consistently higher unemployment than the Puget Sound region, the waste-to-energy plant also helps reduce the cost of trash service. The inclusion of a facility designed to eliminate waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions poses a problem. The cost of complying with the new carbon regulation or carbon tax will be passed on to customers, which adds to the regressive nature of these proposals. This isn’t the only instance where organizations employing environmentally friendly technologies are being targeted. In Moses Lake, REC Silicon, which produces the silicon materials necessary for solar plates, is also included on the state’s list of large emitters.
It makes sense to convert our trash into energy. Instead of making these technologies more expensive, they should be finding ways to expand their use.