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Methane Plant Moratorium Moves Forward

A push to put a ban on future proposals for methane gas plants in Louisville is moving through the Louisville Metro Council.

The measure gained approval from a council committee Tuesday evening. It must still gain final approval from the full council before being enacted.

The proposal would place a six month moratorium on the issuance of any permit for the construction of anaerobic digestion facilities, or methane gas plants. During that six month period, the city's nine-member planning commission would conduct a study to determine the most suitable location for methane gas plants.

These plants convert organic waste into methane gas. The technology is heralded as a clean source of renewable energy, but questions remain on whether methane plants should be located in close proximity to homes. The issue came to a head last year during a months-long fight after a company announced plans to place a methane plant in a densely populated residential area of Louisville's California neighborhood.

Opponents calledthe proposal unfair, saying West Louisville already has a high concentration of chemical and gas plants. During multiple community meetings, neighbors expressed concerns about issues ranging from odors to traffic from heavy vehicles.

Development plans were ultimately scrappedafter staunch resistance from residents.

A handful of Metro Council council Democrats are sponsoring the ordinance, including David James of District 6.

He said the planning commission's role would be to establish some procedure for the future potential development of such facilities.

“We should have some rules about that,” he said in an interview Monday with WFPL.

James said developing the plants in residential neighborhoods can lead to negative impacts on residents' quality of life, due to the potential for foul odors and environmental hazards.

James visited a similar plant in Ohio and said he could smell the stench from the facility.

“The thought of putting that horrendous smell 125 feet from somebody’s front door is unconscionable,” he said.

Mayor Greg Fischer is also showing support for the temporary ban. In a statement he said he supports the moratorium until a prime location for the plants can be determined.

"Biodigesters are a proven and safe technology used worldwide and having a clear understanding of the ground rules for constructing them in our city is a prudent move," he said.

Council member Marilyn Parker, Republican District 18, was among the two votes against the moratorium.

She said placing such a ban could deter future business investments.

"We're kind of putting up roadblocks out in the community," she said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.