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Local News

Ward-Pugh Buys, Crashes Electric Lawnmower

The Billy Goat Hill Community Garden in the Clifton neighborhood has a new piece of environmentally-friendly equipment.

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, presented the non-profit with a battery powered lawn mower, dubbed the “electric goat,” today.

The mower has practical and symbolic value. First, it will help the group maintain its small garden, which mainly grows garden variety vegetables. Second, the councilwoman and Mayor Greg Fischer say they hope the initiative motivates others to start their own gardens and green programs.

Germantown resident Julie Bush says she definitely will.

“It has inspired me to share it with the Germantown-Schnitzelburg community where I am a resident. It is very attainable and it’s something I know that the community would embrace,” she says.

After the unveiling of the mower, Councilwoman Ward-Pugh took the piece of equipment on its maiden voyage.

Fischer waved a checkered flag to signal Ward-Pugh to start the mowing. Unfortunately, the demonstration ended abruptly when the councilwoman crashed into a raised garden bed.

Audio MP3

Nothing was damaged in the accident. Ward-Pugh purchased the mower with approximately $5,000 from her Neighborhood Development Fund.

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Environment Local News Politics

New EPA Law Would Regulate Pollution in Kentucky

The Louisville area has had six Air Quality Alerts because of high ozone levels so far this year.But the Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to unveil a new rule this week that could eventually reduce those ozone levels.

The Clean Air Transport Rule will affect states differently. Some will have to regulate both fine particle pollution and ozone, some will have to regulate one or the other, and some won’t be affected at all. Kentucky, as well as the entire Ohio River Valley, is among the 21 states that will have to reduce both types of pollution.

Area power plants will have to install pollution controls to comply with the rule, which probably won’t go into effect for several years.

The EPA issued the proposed rule a year ago, and the final rule is expected this week. The agency estimates this rule and other actions will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions 71 percent and nitrogen oxides 52 percent by 2014. They say these reductions will improve air quality and public health.

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Environment Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Unveils $3.5 Million in Waste Grants

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear awarded dozens of waste grants Tuesday to help expand recycling and household hazardous waste programs throughout the commonwealth.

The Energy and Environment Cabinet will give out $3.5 million through the Kentucky Pride Fund to 73 local governments across the state. The money comes from a $1.75 fee collected for each ton of municipal solid waste disposed of in state landfills.

State environmental scientist Tom Heil says counties have had difficulties starting recycling programs without the additional funding.

“Since solid waste management is a county responsibility what they’ll use that money for is to either establish or build up their recycling programs,” he says. “The state realized that counties could not establish recycling programs because of the high cost of the recycling equipment.”

The grant awards represent an increase of 21 recycling grants and 4 household waste grants awarded for the previous grant cycle. Heil says there is a growing interest in recycling at the county level, which makes the application process very competitive.

“We had to take a hard look at what is already happening in certain regions, who hasn’t applied for anything before or gotten anything before. What the real need was in certain areas of the state because we need to build a recycling infrastructure throughout the commonwealth,” he says.

The grants require a 25 percent local matching funds in the form of cash or “in kind” personnel, educational materials, educational activities and advertising to promote the program from the cities or counties receiving the awards.

Louisville Metro Government did not apply for a waste grant this year.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Conservationist Says Beshear Wrong About “War on Coal”

Responding to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s claim that the federal government is the reason for rising utility bills, the director of the Kentucky Resources Council says the governor should strive to lower electricity consumption instead of blaming regulators.

Last month, Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities’ announced a rate increase up to 19 percent. The governor said the hikes were due to the “federal government’s war on coal,” which has been the administration’s favorite talking point and defense of the state’s coal industry in recent months.

In an editorial sent to the Lexington Herald-Leader, conservationist Tom Fitzgerald tells Beshear to get his facts straight on the myriad of pollutants covered in the Clean Air Act and to push for greener energy sources and initiatives.

From the Herald-Leader:

The rising costs of coal-fired electricity in part reflect the internalization of costs that have been historically paid by the most vulnerable of Kentucky’s citizens in premature death, respiratory and pulmonary disease and other exposure-related health problems. For more information on the consequences of breathing these pollutants, visit www.epa.gov/air/airpollutants.html.

The Beshear administration should bear in mind that there is no right, under federal or state law, for a utility to use the public’s air to disperse and dispose of wastes from energy production — only a limited privilege to emit under standards designed to prevent respiratory and other illness and premature deaths. If the administration believes that the health science does not support the standards, it is free to challenge the underlying science.

In previous statements, Beshear has said his administration has invested in renewable energy and other conservation measures, but face unfair mandates from the federal government.

The governor’s office has not returned our request for comment.

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Local News Politics

Office of Sustainability Expected in Mayor’s Budget

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer will unveil his budget for the next fiscal year this week and it’s expected to include funds for an Office of Sustainability.

Mayor Fischer expressed a desire to establish the office during his campaign, but the topic became controversial when Fischer was accused of promising independent candidate Jackie Green influence over the department in exchange for withdrawing from the race.

Green says he was eventually asked for input on the office but he hasn’t talked with anyone about it in several months. He says his discussions were mostly with local developer Gil Holland, a Fischer supporter during the race.

“I’ve been giving to Gil a lot of thoughts and giving freely to others in the administration, thoughts that I have on sustainability issues,” says Green “what they are doing with those thoughts, I don’t know”.

Although he has given input on the matter, Green says he does not expect to be consulted if the office is created.

“I have maybe a larger megaphone than other people,” he says “so I am a part of it whether they want me to be or not, you know I can be inside the tent or I can be outside the tent.”

Policy advisor Brandon Coan says the sustainability officer would be the face of sustainability initiatives for the city and coordinate those efforts in the community.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Updated: Chandler Opposes Clean Water Act Expansion

Joining over a hundred members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky., has signed a letter against the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to expand their jurisdiction over U.S. waters.

Drafted by Congressman Bob Gibbs, R-Oh., the letter is in response to a “Clean Water Protection Guidance”, a draft by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers that seeks to clarify uncertainty over which waters are subject to federal regulations under the Clean Water Act.

Lawmakers have expressed varying levels of concern about the expansion, from saying it will circumvent the current regulatory process to calling it a “radical agenda” imposed by the “unelected bureaucrats” of  President Barack Obaman (h/t Barefoot & Progressive).

WFPL News has called Congressman Chandler’s office for comment.

UPDATE:

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Marks Earth Week in Kentucky

Declaring that few places compare to Kentucky’s natural beauty in the springtime, Gov. Steve Beshear proclaimed April 16-22, 2011 as Earth Week in the commonwealth.

This year’s theme is “Playground Earth: Get Outside, Kentucky!”. In response, the Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) plans to sponsor its first environmental photography contest for middle school students in an effort to get people outdoors.

“Research confirms that children who spend time outdoors are healthier and perform better in school,” Beshear said in a news release. “The commonwealth is blessed with natural settings that encourage exploration and provide opportunities for families to connect with nature and to get outside. I encourage Kentucky families to explore the outdoors, develop an appreciation for our state’s natural resources and become stewards of our environment.”

The governor’s sketchy environmental record, however, has been a source of ridicule among local bloggers and activists opposed to mountaintop mining in the state. The Earth Week announcement is likely to go under the news radar, but could  turn into another round of criticism that his administration is backing the coal industry in the face of the environmental concerns of Kentucky residents.

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Environment Local News

Former Massey Foreman Pleads Guilty in Case Stemming From Upper Big Branch

The first guilty plea has been entered in the federal criminal case that was launched after last year’s Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia.

Former Massey Energy foreman Thomas Harrah’s plea agreement includes the admission that he faked his foreman’s credentials while working at Upper Big Branch, then lied to federal agents about it.

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Local News

White-nose Syndrome Found in Kentucky Bats – Doesn’t Affect Humans

By Ron Smith, Kentucky Public Radio

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials have confirmed the first case of white-nose syndrome in bats in the commonwealth. Wildlife officials recently removed sixty of the infected animals from a cave in Trigg County.

White-nose syndrome is a fungus that affects six cave species. It’s estimated to have killed more than one million bats since 2006. State Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator Sunni Carr says officials are taking efforts to limit the spread of WNS.

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Environment Local News Politics

Beshear Visits Mountaintop Removal Sites

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear spent part of Thursday visiting mountaintop removal coal mining sites in Eastern Kentucky. Beshear’s trip was the fulfillment of a promise he made to a group of activists who staged a protest in his office in February. The protesters had asked Beshear to end his support for the practice of mountaintop removal. Beshear would not change his position, but said he would tour sites at the group’s request.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that in Harlan and Floyd counties, members of the group Kentuckians for the Commonwealth showed Beshear streams and homes damaged by surface mining. The Governor also listened to residents opposed to mountaintop removal and to specific surface mining permits that have been filed with the state.

Beshear said he would consider the comments of residents regarding approval of the permits but made no commitments.