Environment

A bill that would fundamentally change the way Louisville Metro manages solid waste is set for passage in the Kentucky House of Representatives this week. City officials worry the bill is meant to roll back Louisville’s environmental progress — like banning plastic leaf bags, for example — but the bill’s proponents argue the measure is a much-needed overhaul of the county’s waste management district.

If House Bill 246 becomes law, it would mean Jefferson County’s waste management district wouldn’t have the power to require suburban cities to do anything more than comply with state and federal laws. This would effectively nullify the plastic bag ban in certain areas of Jefferson County.

The bill would get rid of the plastic bag ban — and all other waste department regulations — on August 31, 2017, unless reauthorized by the new board.

It would also abolish Jefferson County’s waste management district, which is commonly referred to as the 109 Board. The board is made up of five representatives, all appointed by the mayor, and oversees waste in the district.

Under the provisions of the bill, the new 109 Board would have seven members, representing various areas of the county. They would still be appointed by the mayor, but Metro Council would have to approve the appointments.

A similar bill was introduced last year, but didn’t pass either legislative body.

At a waste management meeting in Jeffersontown Monday night, attorney Schuyler Olt said the measure isn’t targeting the bag ban. Olt is the city attorney for four small cities: Jeffersontown, Seneca Gardens, Strathmoor Village and Parkway Village.

“I know that in all of my four cities I think that if we tried to get rid of paper bags and try to go back to the old way, we’d probably get lynched,” he said. “Because it’s become a part of what we do.”

Rather, Olt said the bill is about transparency. He said it’s nearly impossible to determine what the 109 Board is doing, and often meetings are cancelled because there’s no quorum.

“I don’t understand why the 109 Board has so long operated in the dark to where you can’t easily find out even who is on that board. And given the amount of power that it has, it’s not a good situation,” he said. “I think for what the 109 Board is charged to do, which is obviously very important to our well-being, our public health, we just have to have a more transparent, more involved, more engaged solid waste management board.”

Louisville Metro Government chief of public services Doug Hamilton spoke against the bill at the meeting. Afterward, he conceded the small cities may have a few valid points.

“I think they have a point on some things that may need improvement with the 109 Board as it currently operates, especially if it’s one that they consistently don’t have a quorum,” he said. “Now whether or not that’s so extreme that we need to come up with the 246 version, I don’t believe so.”

The bill is also supported by waste haulers, who were represented at the meeting.

House Bill 246 is posted for passage in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL. She is also Enterprise Editor.