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More Talks Ahead Before West Louisville Methane Project Decision

methane boza 2

The issue of whether a green energy company from Indiana will be able to build a methane plant in West Louisville still isn’t settled.

One thing is for certain: More discussion will be involved before a determination is made on the proposed project.

STAR BioEnergy wants to turn food waste from the Heaven Hill distillery into methane gas using biodigesters, but neighbors aren’t happy about it.

Following a lengthy debate Monday evening, which stretched into early Tuesday morning, the Louisville Board of Zoning Adjustment said it wants to give everyone more time — mostly because there have been some changes to the plan.

Steve Porter, an attorney representing the Coalition for a Sustainable West End, said the company changed its plans right before Monday’s hearing. And he argued neighbors should have been briefed.

Porter told zoning officials that STAR BioEnergy’s plan now includes an extra biodigeter tank on the proposed site. He also said the gas flare structure was moved, and that some other components — including a fog receiver tank — were shifted outside.

BOZA members also had questions about liability for the project, as well as the zoning designation. After hours of hearing speakers, the board decided it didn’t have enough information to make a designation.

“I would personally like more time to look at that. I would like some definition from staff on how they reviewed this thing,” said BOZA Chair David Proffitt.

Attorney Brian Zoeller, who represents STAR BioEnergy, told city zoning officials the changes were made in response to concerns from residents who live around the proposed site. Zoeller told board members the site will no longer accept waste that isn’t piped-in from the Heaven Hill distillery.

Residents were concerned that trucking food garbage into the California neighborhood would create an odor problem. Zoeller said these new changes also addressed that concern.

But the permit still asks for permission for about 10 trucks a day if needed.

STAR BioEnergy's chief operating officer, Mark Stoermann, said the biodigester plant will need flexibility for days when the distillery is not up and running. Because the plant will deal almost exclusively with the distillery, if approved for the property on 17th and Maple streets, it would take in a higher volume of waste, Zoeller said. He said that is why the company added an extra tank to the plan.

"Part of the compromise is not to process solid waste," Zoeller said. "There are benefits environmentally for the area. There are also community benefits."

Still, Porter said residents simply don’t want the project. More than 130 people were at the meeting, most expressing that they wouldn’t support the plant under any conditions.

There has been time to mull over the project, which has been on the table for months. Porter said it’s a good thing officials are taking more time to carefully consider the project, but he said that won’t make a difference for the residents.

“The amount of time that this has been out there, my clients have never heard anything that sounds like something that would be positive for the community,” he said.

Prior to the zoning hearing, Mayor Greg Fischer asked for a 60-day learning period to give city officials and residents time to study the proposal. Porter said he thinks a final decision is finally coming soon, though.

“Now we have a date set – Jan. 21— for their hearing, and I feel very certain that they will vote at that hearing,” he said.

Before the next zoning hearing, STAR BioEnergy has been told to hold another community meeting to discuss the recent changes to its plan.