Louisville Metro Councilman David James (D-6) views a six-month ban on the construction of anaerobic digesters in Louisville as the first step toward preventing one from popping up in his district.

Councilman David James, D-6
Councilman David James, D-6

“There’s no scenario where I see that it’s going to be safe or add to the quality of life,” James said, speaking specifically about an on-hold digester project at 17th and Maple streets.

James, Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin (D-2) and Metro Councilwoman Mary Woolridge (D-3) have co-sponsored an ordinance that seeks to study the impacts of anaerobic digesters, more commonly referred to as methane plants.

If passed, the proposed ordinance would prevent anyone in Metro Government from issuing permits allowing the construction of a methane plant while Louisville Metro Planning and Design Services formulates specific rules and standards for the city to apply to that type of facility.

The study, according to the ordinance, would consider noise, odor, traffic and other environmental impacts of methane plants. Other entities such as the Air Pollution Control District might also assist in the study.

“I think we need to know exactly what we are dealing with and where exactly we can put them,” James said. “The technology itself is great technology, and I think we should be using it,” he added, with the caveat that methane plants should not operate in or near residential neighborhoods.

The ordinance is a result of Indiana-based alternative energy company STAR BioEnergy’s attempt to build a digester at 17th and Maple streets in west Louisville and in James’ district. The project was highly controversial, and STAR BioEnergy cancelled its immediate plans to build a digester at the site. However, the company has since purchased the property with the hope of building an aquaponics and solar facility.

“This building is off the market, and it will never be for sale again unless I build a digester or give it back to the community,” STAR BioEnergy president Steve Estes previously said.

Estes told Insider Louisville today that the new project at 17th and Maple streets will continue, but he is frustrated by the proposed ordinance. STAR BioEnergy has been looking into possible alternative sites for a digester in Louisville.

“If the technology is great, then why the moratorium on it and why waste the money on studies,” he said. “Why are we (STAR BioEnergy) going to spend another $1 million or $2 million developing projects if this moratorium is out there? That makes it problematic for me to sell to my investors and my partners that we are really welcome in Louisville.”

The money he referred to was dollars spent on engineers, consultants and designs for the 17th and Maple digester, and the proposed digester at the West Louisville FoodPort, which also was dropped.

It’s like Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin being called a “carpetbagger,” Estes said, describing how STAR BioEnergy has been treated.

“We keep doing what people ask us to do, and that’s not good enough,” he said, noting that STAR BioEnergy planned to invest millions in the city. If the ordinance is passed, “that is something we will deal with, and we will make decisions based upon that.”

[dc_ad size="9"] [dc_ad size="10"]
Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]