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Regulators Seek Public Input on LG&E Plan to Cap Cane Run Coal Ash Pond

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Louisville Gas and Electric is still on track to open the company’s natural gas-fired power plant in Louisville in May, as it retires the current Cane Run coal power plant. The new power plant won’t produce coal ash, but 60 years worth of old ash will remain on site.

The state Division of Waste Management will hold a public meeting this week to hear public comments on LG&E’s proposed plan for the coal ash landfill and pond at Cane Run.

Kentucky Division of Waste Management Director Tony Hatton said LG&E is asking the division to modify their permit in three places:

•    The company wants to modify the dry coal ash landfill at Cane Run. Because the coal-fired plant is closing, LG&E won’t be filling the landfill to capacity, so it will have to change the grade on the mound.

•    The current permit for the landfill includes 55 acres that LG&E no longer needs. So the company has proposed eliminating those areas from the permit.

•    LG&E will also need to close the ash pond.

That last issue will likely be most of interest to the Louisville residents living near the plant.

“They’re going to dewater the ash pond and place some structural fill on top of it so they can get a sufficient grade,” Hatton said. “They’ll put a two-foot thick soil cover cap, grass on it, then they can promote drainage off the cap.”

Coal ash at Cane Run has been a source of concern for the neighborhood in Southwest Louisville. Residents have complained of air pollution, and LG&E has paid nearly $150,000 in fines to Metro Government for violations since 2011.

Sierra Club organizer Tom Pearce said his group has lots of questions about the proposal.

“We’re hoping they announce a plan that guarantees that the coal ash pond will no longer be a high-hazard pond and that there will no longer be fugitive dust in the community,” he said. “They say they’re closing down their coal ash operations, and we just want to make sure that they’ve dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s and that they don’t just have a plan that moves coal ash around but actually alleviates the suffering of the community.”

Hatton said the public meeting is an opportunity for state regulators to take the public’s pulse on LG&E Cane Run closure plan.

“It’s just an opportunity for the public to raise concerns, irrespective of whether they’re technical in nature or not,” he said. “Most of the time the concerns that we’re able to address are those that are related to our statutes and regulations and technical issues. We’re oftentimes not able to address some of the concerns that the public has, but we do our best in that regard.”

The public meeting will be at 7 p.m. on March 17 at Conway Middle School.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.