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Commentary: Say No To Biodigesters In Louisville Neighborhoods

no methane plant
J. Tyler Franklin
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A Metro Council committee on Wednesday approved strict regulations that would require biodigesters, which convert organic waste into methane gas, be located in areas zoned for industrial use and at least a half-mile from residential areas.

A diverse group of Louisvillians want to ban biodigesters, aka methane plants, within our city.

We are multiracial and from different zip codes. Progressives rallied against two previous attempts to foist this big, ugly, smelly and risky technology on the Russell and California neighborhoods. These adjectives are validated by science and are the reasons they are not proposed for affluent neighborhoods.

Star Energy and biodigesters rode into town as part of the West Louisville FoodPort, which was a development hatched for the people, not by the people.

The methane fights it spawned forever affected the community's acceptance of that project. Its legacy continues in this third methane round, as the interest in profits and the multiple income streams have taken hold of backers who cannot let go.

The regulations under consideration by Metro Council are prompted by complementary private partnerships using a narrative of community and sustainability. The profit potential is huge for Star Energy, distillers and investors. Not us.

In addition, the sense of safety and the quality of life for those of us living in the allowed zones is further diminished. It is not fair or compassionate. And methane plants are not cosmopolitan.

In Germany, where methane plants have proliferated, scientists and communities are questioning their investment.

There are land grabs for farms to feed the methane beast, which is impacting food production. Residents who were once sold on the technology are rising up against the odors, the safety breaches and incidents, and are feeling sacrificed in deals made between politicians and business.

It's no stretch to imagine hungry Kentucky farmers buying into the steady income of crops for methane and turning our farm-to-table campaign on its head.

Methane plants are in a Pandora's box to be opened with great care. We are at a historic moment for the Metro Council.

Kentucky has wisely walked away from nuclear power and its risks; we should continue that leadership and walk away from the risks of methane in our city -- or limit biodigesters to the landfill, while we aggressively pursue non-toxic, no-risk solar energy.

In this city, there's growing progress in spite of poor leadership: East of Ninth Street, residents are more comfortable coming west; boomers are being inspired by the leadership of the young; LGBT and straight alliances are strong; rural and urban folk are meeting at New Roots Fresh Stops; brave ministers are stepping up and the Festival of Faiths is a growing spiritual influence.

That should be the driver of this progress coming from the bottom up.

Bani Hines-Hudson is a Louisville educator who has spoken out against efforts to build biodigesters in West Louisville. 
WFPL publishes commentaries on Fridays. Read more.

Stephen George is President and CEO of Louisville Public Media. Email Stephen at sgeorge@lpm.org.