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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Benji Backer: Climate solutions should come from the ground up

Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Benji Backer

By Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Benji Backer

Earth Day is a wonderful reminder of the progress we’ve made to preserve our planet’s natural resources for the next generation. It’s also a time to celebrate how Eastern Washington is leading the way to advance the future of energy and climate solutions.

Last month, we – the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the president of the fastest-growing conservative environmental group in the country – hit the road to see for ourselves just how businesses, industry leaders and community members are taking action to secure a cleaner American energy future and deploy climate solutions that are getting results that assure reliable and affordable energy.

Our first stop was the Spokane Waste to Energy Plant. Since 1991, this self-sustaining facility has taken up to 800 tons of solid waste per day and converted it into 26 megawatt hours of energy, which is enough to power 13,000 homes. All while preventing landfills from filling up and polluting our air and groundwater.

Next, we traveled to Tumtum for a tour of the Long Lake Dam, which was built in 1915. For more than a century, this dam has operated with the potential to generate 80 megawatts of clean, reliable and renewable energy every day. This infrastructure has played a critical role in supporting power delivery to homes and businesses in Eastern Washington communities while helping to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change risks.

Later in Wellpinit, we met with representatives of the Spokane Tribe. The catastrophic Cayuse Mountain fire ravaged a large portion of the Spokane Indian Reservation in 2016. Since then, the land has shown next to no signs of life, and even the soil is devoid of the nutrients needed for new growth. The only thing that prevented further devastation was the tribe’s successful proactive management practices, which is the key to building healthy, carbon-capturing forests.

Each of these innovative solutions had one thing in common: They started from the ground up, and the next generation of technologies and strategies to address climate change risks will too.

As two conservatives concerned about the environment, we know the climate is changing and global industrial activity is a contributing factor. We also know that top-down government mandates are not the answer because they are often based on politics, not what is going to get results, and will further raise costs on the hardworking people of this country. We are going to get results from innovative solutions that are built from the ground up like the ones we saw on our tour around Eastern Washington.

We know that the challenges before us are great, but building solutions starts with building trust, especially amongst the next generation. We appreciate their passion for a better future, and we support their goals for a more prosperous and secure future. That is why the Energy and Commerce Committee led on H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, to embrace and expand America’s position as the No. 1 energy producer in the world while continuing our leadership to reduce emissions. It passed the House with a bipartisan vote. It’s just the beginning. We must ensure more federal policies support those who will invent the future of climate solutions. Small businesses trying to make a difference. Innovators who imagine what’s possible and go do it. Entrepreneurs chasing the next big idea that could change the world. We’re excited to do our part.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. She has represented Washington’s 5th Congressional District in Congress since 2004. Benji Backer, of Scottsdale, Arizona, is the president and founder of the American Conservation Coalition and a 2020 University of Washington graduate.