A Senate Bill Would Reclassify an Oregon Garbage Incinerator as a Renewable Energy Plant

The incinerator is the state’s 20th largest source of carbon emissions.

(Antoine Taveneaux)

Bill of the Week: Senate Bill 451

Chief Sponsor: Sen. Lee Beyer (D-Springfield)

What Problem It Seeks to Solve: Oregon's aggressive promotion of new sources of renewable energy (mostly wind and solar) created a mechanism for renewable energy producers to sell what are called "renewable energy credits" to offset some of the cost of producing green electricity. More producers want a taste of those credits.

What the Bill Would Do: The bill would reclassify a Covanta waste-to-energy incinerator in Brooks that burns 550 tons of garbage a day—enough to power 9,000 homes—as a renewable energy plant.

Who Supports It: Covanta, a New Jersey-based waste management company, and the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 30 workers at the incinerator. It's worth noting Beyer is one of the Senate's senior members and the plant is in the district of Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem). That might explain why the bill has already had a public hearing and work session.

Who Opposes It: Oregon's leading environmental groups and numerous citizens. Critics noted the incinerator is the state's 20th largest source of carbon emissions, contradicting the purpose of renewable energy: to reduce carbon emissions. "It is hard to conceive," testified Rhett Lawrence of the Sierra Club, "how the burning of household garbage—including plastics and other even more potentially toxic substances—can be considered a renewable energy source."

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