Develop Louisville’s Office of Planning & Design Services released draft zoning regulations for anaerobic digesters on July 18, and after reviewing these proposals, I believe it is necessary to step-back and bring clarity to confusion as it relates to community and renewable and reusable energy. The proper regulation of these projects is larger than any one developer, neighborhood or city, and care must be taken in setting the right standards not only for the City, but the Commonwealth, the region and the United States.
Fear has been a driving force behind the public, media and governmental treatment of anaerobic digesters. However, this fear is unfounded as over a thousand digesters operate daily in the United States without incident, including those in our City limits that would have been precluded by this proposal. I’m not suggesting regulation is unnecessary, rather good leadership applies the appropriate amount of counter measures in response to real, not perceived threat.
The fear-based approach to regulation appears to be continuing. By creating a mandatory 1/4 mile setback (more than four times the required setback for a solid waste transfer station), the proposal goes too far. No other potential development is subject to such a restrictive requirement in our Land Development Code – not a foundry, chicken slaughter house, or coal and gas storage plant. There has been no data presented or shared that the 1/4 mile setback is necessary to protect the safety of the community, and the preliminary research I have conducted did not reveal such large setbacks. The regulation would prohibit increased biodigestion at MSD-owned land next to Morris Forman or new processing at the Derek Guthrie facility as well as almost the entire area south of the landfill previously identified by Tom Fitzgerald, who spoke against a downtown digester, as a suitable development site for digesters.
When a non-agricultural based digester is precluded from over 95 percent of the entire City, a message is sent not only to the renewable energy community at large, but other potential new investment in the City as well – Louisville is not open (minded) for business. This is not the message we need to be sending when the City is embarking on its resiliency city campaign, trying to achieve significant waste diversion from the landfill, mitigating the urban heat island and addressing air quality issues. Let’s get the hard data on the table and the examples from other communities and decide what’s best for Louisville based on the facts - not just our feelings.