Louisville Air District’s Reorganization Continues, Amid Concerns from Environmental Groups

Louisville’s Air Pollution Control District is moving forward with its reorganization.

The APCD has been in some state of flux since August, when both state and federal audits found problems with the way the agency collects and analyzes air quality data. Since then, the APCD has been working to fix those issues and has also undertaken an extensive reorganization. That reorganization has meant that nearly all of the district’s employees have had to reapply for their jobs, and in some cases, job descriptions and requirements have been changed.

At a board meeting today, Director Keith Talley said he had finished interviewing more than 40 current employees for the re-worked non-union agency positions. He expects to make offers within the next few weeks, as well as complete negotiations with the union that represents 19 APCD employees.

Members of environmental groups have expressed concern over the past few weeks that the air district’s reorganization is placing less emphasis on enforcement, and worried that the shift would lead to declining air quality in Louisville. At the meeting, local Sierra Club co-chair Wallace McMullen stood to say he’s found the events of the past few months—negative audits, planned layoffs and reorganization—“distinctly upsetting.”

“So, members of the board, we ask of you, please do everything you can to keep this agency functioning well,” he said. “We all need clean, breathable air, and that means the community needs APCD to function well, particularly to do enforcement well.”

Talley said he’s confident that the reorganization will help the agency enforce the law and improve air quality.

“We will continue to do all of the things that we’ve done in the past, there was never any intention to change that, and in fact the only goal of this entire process was to do all of those things better,” he said. “And that’s what this reorganization is about.”

Board Chairman Dr. Robert Powell expressed hope that the district could move on quickly from the reorganization, which has been a distraction for many in the agency.

“I, for one, will be pleased with this reorganization is complete and we can get back to our everyday business of…cleaning the air,” he said.

Talley also announced that Regulatory Division Head Rachael Hamilton has been promoted to fill the agency’s vacant Assistant Director position. Hamilton has been with the APCD since 2009, but before that she worked for local law firm Frost Brown Todd. During her time at the law firm, she represented companies that lobbied for looser regulations when the city’s Strategic Toxic Air Program was developed. In a statement, Talley said that previous experience had helped contribute to Hamilton’s extensive understanding of the Clean Air Act, and she is well qualified to improve the Air Pollution Control District as Assistant Director.

“Rachael Hamilton has a strong background as a government regulator, including experience working in Kentucky, Florida, and Indiana to protect the air, water, and food supply. Let me also note that she understands the Clean Air Act as well as anyone here at the District. After getting her law degree from University of Louisville, she worked for a local law firm that represented companies that were stakeholders in the development of the STAR Program. But it is not uncommon in the legal profession for someone to seek experience that way. What is clear is that since coming to the APCD in 2009, Rachael has been instrumental in strengthening STAR and other clean-air regulations, as well as helping to make the District stronger and more effective in its clean-air mission.”

Hamilton will earn $80,002 as Assistant Director. Her old salary as Regulatory Division Head was $68,993.60.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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