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Washington lawmaker tours Cowlitz County landfill methane gas capture project

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(The Center Square) – It turns out Republicans in Washington state are open to some policy approaches in dealing with climate change.

This legislative session saw Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, help secure $4.9 million in the supplemental capital budget for the Cowlitz County Public Utility District to develop a renewable landfill gas-to-electricity project in partnership with Cowlitz County Public Works Department.

The project will turn methane from the breakdown of organic waste at the landfill into renewable fuel.

Last week, Abbarno got a chance to tour the site.

“Methane recapture is part of diversifying our energy portfolio, and we need to start looking at this,” he said. “If the state of Washington is going to try and electrify everything, which I don’t think is feasible at this point, we need to start thinking outside the box and consider existing infrastructure and how we can harness energy that way.”

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency indicates the Cowlitz County landfill produced around 290,000 metric tons of methane from the breakdown of organic waste in both 2021 and 2022, making it one of the largest sources of methane gas in the Evergreen State.

“That landfill, even after it closes is going to be emitting methane that can be recaptured, so it’s going to last even longer than the landfill’s primary usage,” Abbarno said. “On this project, 4,500 to 5,000 homes can be powered from this, and then as it expands and depending on the amount of methane emissions, it could power up to 15,000 homes with greater expansion in the future.”

He went on to say, “I think there should be a longer off-ramp for natural gas. Unfortunately the governor and his party in the Legislature have decided they don’t want that and what it’s doing is creating economic stresses and a lot of economic insecurity for working families.”

That’s a reference to House Bill 1589 that lays out a framework for the transition to clean energy for the state’s largest utility, Puget Sound Energy.

HB 1589 was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Abbarno noted other environmental contradictions at this year’s legislative session.

“Spending $100 million dollars this year in EV (electric vehicle) charging infrastructure in a lot of communities, that’s just not feasible,” he said. “If we’re going to move into this non-fossil fuel decarbonization world, we should do it in a way that recognizes that it creates these economic stressors and economic insecurity in marginalized communities.”

All policy prescriptions involve trade-offs, Abbarno noted.

“Too many environmental policies end up sacrificing freedom and economic security, and the state of Washington has become famous in passing environmental policy that is very regressive and hurts the people who can least afford to pay for those policies,” he explained.

In addition to state funds, financing of the Cowlitz County landfill project will include federal Inflation Reduction Act tax credits and contributions from Cowlitz County and the Public Utility District.

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