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Louisville pollution regulator’s power diminished in bill passed by Ky. House

Emissions from the coal stacks at LG&E's Mill Creek Generating Station.
Ryan Van Velzer
Emissions from the coal stacks at LG&E's Mill Creek Generating Station.

The local air quality regulator in Louisville would have some of its powers to issue fines to polluting industries curbed under a bill that passed the state House Tuesday.

State House representatives passed an amended version of a Republican bill that limits the fines industry has to pay when they voluntarily disclose violations to the Louisville Air Control District (APCD).

Under the amended version of House Bill 136, APCD would be banned from issuing fines to companies that voluntarily disclose violations so long as there isn’t a pattern of misconduct within the last five years.

Democratic Reps. Al Gentry and Rachel Roarx of Louisville were among the lawmakers who supported the amended legislation. Roarx said on the House floor Tuesday she has concerns that the bill removes oversight from air quality regulators, but voted in favor of the bill following the inclusion of her amendment.

“I voted yes today because a compromise was reached to mitigate the impacts with those who have patterns of violation,” Roarx said.

Lawmakers approved the bill in a 80-12 vote. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Republican Rep. Jared Bauman, of Louisville, sponsored the bill. He said it would allow companies that self-report pollution or other infractions and make the necessary corrections to avoid civil penalties similar to current state law.

A LinkedIn profile bearing Bauman’s name and likeness says that he has worked at the Lubrizol Corporation for more than a decade. A financial disclosure dated from last year also states that Bauman works for Lubrizol.

Lubrizol is a specialty chemical company with a location in Louisville’s industrial corridor known as Rubbertown. It is subject to APCD jurisdiction and could benefit from the bill that Bauman is sponsoring. Bauman said in committee that he asked the legislative ethics commission about the bill and they told him it is in compliance with the ethics policy.

Democratic Rep. Chad Aull of Lexington voted against the measure saying it rewards bad behavior and puts community health at risk.

“This law would disincentivize industries from taking steps to eliminate violations, seeing as how they won’t face a penalty,” Aull said.

Aull asked Bauman on the House floor if he had met with any community residents or interest groups directly impacted by the bill.

“No, sir,” Bauman said.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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