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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bill would make trash-generated power renewable

OLYMPIA – Electricity from the West Plains garbage incinerator would be classified as a renewable energy, and be more valuable to an electric utility, under a bill proposed by Spokane Sen. Mike Baumgartner.

Spokane’s waste-to-energy plant should be designated as a renewable resource, Baumgartner told the Senate Energy Committee Thursday: “As long as people make garbage, it’s renewable.”

But does fit under Initiative 937, which voters approved in 2006 to boost the state's supply of renewable energy, Sen. Marilyn Chase, D-Shoreline, wondered. I-937 was designed to encourage new facilities and the plant opened in 1991. . . 

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. . . “I don’t dispute that it’s a wonderful facility, but it’s an existing facility,” she said.

Other established facilities have been given status as renewable energy by the Legislature, including a Kettle Falls facility that burns wood waste, Baumgartner said. Extending that status to the waste-to-energy plant is a major issue for the city of Spokane, which owns the incinerator and sells its electricity. The power would become more valuable to utilities that must increase the amount of renewable energy they have in 2016.

The Spokane City Council is considering a resolution supporting the change and Mayor David Condon was scheduled to testify in support of SB 6028. But his plane from Spokane to Seattle was diverted because of weather.

The committee heard from several representatives of environmental groups who called it a bad idea. Suellen Mele of Zero Waste Washington said some trash is made from plastic, which comes from petroleum, and that’s not renewable. It’s not always clean energy, either, she said, because the smoke and the ash can contain dioxins and other dangerous chemicals.

Committee Chairman Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, delayed action on the bill to try to work out language agreeable to both parties, which might give Spokane city officials a chance to testify at a future hearing.

The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.