Last night, around 80 southwest Louisville residents met at the Southwest Government Center on Dixie HIghway to discuss what actions they can take to protect their communities from coal ash.
Cane Run Road resident Kathy Little and Sierra Club organizer Thomas Pearce updated the crowd on what is currently happening at LG&E’s Cane Run and Mill Creek power plants, and took comments and questions from local residents about what actions they want the Metro Air Pollution Control District to take. Metro Council members Attica Woodson Scott, Rick Blackwell and Bob Henderson attended the meeting, as did state Rep. Joni Jenkins.
Councilwoman Scott spoke to the crowd with the aid of a prop that she acquired from a Cane Run resident when she and Little were knocking on doors recently to tell people about the meeting.
“We knocked on the door of one gentleman who showed us this umbrella that used to be red and white,” Scott said. “It’s kinda red, not quite white anymore. And this is after having the umbrella outside for less than a year. This is what it looks like now (see picture above).
“Tom is exactly right. We can’t have our kids outside playing with this.”
After someone in the crowd — who complained about coal ash staining his house — shouted out why Louisville’s safety program could allow that to happen, Scott replied, “You know why? Because we’ve had over two decades of bad government. But those days are over.”
Cane Run resident Greg Walker told the crowd about his efforts to monitor the sludge processing plant directly across the road from his house, taking pictures of it when dust clouds blow up and sending them to APCD. He told residents that they should do what they can to report incidents and stay in contact with APCD as much as possible so they know what’s going on.
Multiple citizens spoke up to say their struggles with pollution show that companies like LG&E need to make a faster transition to cleaner energy. Last year, LG&E announced that they would transition the Cane Run plant to natural gas by 2016, but no similar plans have been announced for their Mill Creek and Trimble County plants. While residents are happy that the Cane Run plant will eventually switch, they don’t want to see more of the same problems over the next four years. And for now, there are no plans by LG&E to transport the mile-long, 100-foot mountain of coal ash to another location.
“We need to be diligent, and we really need to begin fighting together for this,” said Little. “Because the worst thing in the world that we can do right now is back away and do absolutely nothing.”
Rep. Jenkins told the crowd that they needed to contact representatives and House leadership in Frankfort to get a hearing for House Bill 404, legislation she is sponsoring that would allow the state to put stronger regulations on coal ash, as well as House Bill 167, which would diversify energy production in Kentucky to include more renewable sources. She admitted that HB 404 faces a tough obstacle getting a hearing in the House, as Rep. Jim Gooch (a global warming-denying agent of King Coal — I said that, not her) chairs the Natural Resources Committee and isn’t keen on giving the bill a hearing.
When asked if APCD has enough enforcement authority over LG&E, Councilman Rick Blackwell told LEO Weekly that testing and monitoring might need to be improved so that residents don’t have to rely on taking pictures themselves after the fact.
“I don’t know that they’ll ever have enough leverage to fine them into compliance,” Blackwell says. “I’m not sure what it is, but we definitely need to have a community solution to it. We need to look at a community solution for getting rid of coal ash, instead of it just being our end of town.”
Rep. Jenkins tells LEO that APCD is currently in the best position to help residents, because the APCD is already in place, while Frankfort and the EPA continue to drag their feet on regulating coal ash.
Scott says that she spoke with Walker about the possibility of APCD setting up a 24-hour camera to monitor the Cane Run landfill.
“Well that would be kind of radical and revolutionary if we did that,” Scott says. “That’s how it should be, yes. Because what we’re asking residents to do is use their own personal resources to address what is a public issue.”
LG&E and APCD were not invited to the meeting, as organizers described the meeting as an effort to communicate and share thoughts amongst themselves to decide what to ask of APCD. But tonight in the same building, APCD director Lauren Anderson will be speaking at the “District 12 Dialogue” and taking questions from the audience.
APCD and LG&E are still negotiating a settlement for the two notice of violations issued last year for the Cane Run plant, for which LG&E was fined over $30,000. APCD hopes that they can convince LG&E to take a corrective course of action to prevent further instances of fly ash leaving their property.