Sacramento trash-to-energy plan raises red flags

Presented with a controversial and highly technical proposal to vaporize garbage into energy, Sacramento City Council members earlier this month wondered what other cities had found — and whether those lessons were being considered in Sacramento.

The plan's chief proponent, Councilwoman Lauren Hammond, said Friday that while she remains committed to working on a viable waste-to-energy plan for Sacramento, she believes the vetting process by the city's upper management was "done wrong."

"If we have to start all over, we start all over," Hammond said.

On Dec. 9, the council is scheduled to vote on whether to bind itself for decades to a company that vows to zap Sacramento's trash at the same price it would cost to bury it in a landfill.

Under the proposed deal, Sacramento-based U.S. Science & Technology and a consortium of energy and engineering companies would build a "plasma arc gasification" waste-to-energy plant at no cost to the city, then sell the energy for profit.

But a Bee review of two other municipalities that have considered the same technology — and evaluated proposals from companies involved in the Sacramento deal — raises several red flags.

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