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Zoning Officials To Decide Fate Of Proposed West Louisville Biodigester Plant

no methane plant
J. Tyler Franklin

On Monday evening, city zoning officials will decide whether to approve a green energy biodigester plant proposed for a West Louisville neighborhood. The project has caused a stir among residents concerned about bringing more pollution into the area.

Louisville’s Board of Zoning Adjustment, or BOZA, will weigh in on the project, slated for for 17th and Maple streets in the California neighborhood.

The project would house anaerobic digester tanks that turn organic food waste — in this case, most would be piped-in from the nearby Heaven Hill distillery —into methane gas.

West Louisville residents have been speaking out against the planned site since it was first proposed earlier this year. Many say they don’t want yet another chemical or gas plant in the area. They’ve said past facilities have been damaging the air quality in the area for decades.

Another proposed biodigester from the same company — STAR BioEnergy of Indiana — was proposed for the West Louisville FoodPort and later canceled under community pressure.

As WFPL’s Erica Peterson pointed out recently, concerns that the area near the proposed project is already surrounded by pollution hotspots are completely substantiated.

Days before the zoning hearing, Mayor Greg Fischer — an outspoken supporter of the project — announced he has a few conditions if BOZA decides to approve the biodigester. His conditions address some of the neighbors' concerns.

“After hearing further community input, the mayor has asked that the following binding elements be included in the BOZA staff report — and that if the board chooses to approve the project, they do so with these conditions or substantially similar conditions, which address concerns raised by area residents in recent days,” Fischer’s spokesman, Chris Poynter, said in a statement to reporters late Friday.

Here are the conditions:

  • "STAR BioEnergy will inspect its odor control equipment at least once a month and provide the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District and Louisville Metro Planning and Design Services with quarterly reports documenting that regular maintenance and inspection has occurred. If the equipment is not working properly, Star will have 10 calendar days to repair or replace the equipment, or be ordered to cease operations."
  • "Trucks delivering organic materials to the facility will not off-load until parked inside the receiving building, with all exterior doors are closed, and internal air handling systems are operating."
  • "There will be no outdoor storage of feedstock materials or filtering chemicals."

STAR BioEnergy has said the plant would not produce odors. The company has also promised to share some profits with the community if the plan is approved, which would address another set of concerns.

“STAR BioEnergy and Heaven Hill have already said they would comply with the above requirements,” Poynter also said in a statement. “If approval of the project is granted, including the elements will provide a process for enforcement and accountability.”

Many West Louisville activists and neighbors have said they don’t approve of these deals, however.

“We said no to backroom deals and all this money being poured in the same old way and the same direction, it’s going to lead nowhere,” said West Louisville resident Martina Nichols Kunnecke following news last month of a deal struck between community leaders and STAR BioEnergy that would provide $5 million to neighborhood leaders and projects.

The BOZA meeting begins at 6 p.m. on Monday.