A law enacted by the Washington State Legislature in 2021 creates a “cap and trade program” for the state’s largest polluters, with the goal of decreasing the number of emissions released into the atmosphere over time. The City of Spokane could end up paying millions of dollars to comply with the program when it joins in 2027, because of its garbage incinerator and the greenhouse gasses it emits.
The city said its Waste to Energy facility is the only one of its kind statewide, and argues it’s better for the environment than landfills–which were exempted from the cap-and-trade program by the Legislature last year. Officials with the city say if landfills are exempt from the program, the Waste to Energy facility should be too. “By being held to that standard and landfills being exempted, it de-incentivizes this type of practice, which is really good for the environment,” said city spokesperson Kirstin Davis.
Davis said that’s because the Waste to Energy facility takes all of the city’s trash and burns it–which creates enough electricity to power the plant, and 13,000 homes a day. The excess power generated gets sold to Avista Utilities. “We’re not producing landfills that are seeping into the ground, especially in a community where we rely on our aquifer for our drinking water,” Davis said.