Louisville will block off parts of Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue from Broadway to the Douglass Loop on one Sunday in October to encourage walking and biking.It’s called CycLOUvia, after a weekly event in Bogota, Colombia called Ciclovia. In Bogota, miles of streets are closed to vehicular traffic and opened to pedestrians, bicyclists and skaters every week. When Gil Penalosa, the city’s former parks commissioner, visited Louisville in March, he spoke about the ways the event benefited the city.“And we actually get over one million people every single Sunday of the year, which is something that is very interesting,” he said. “And similar programs have been set up. Because this is something that works in cities of 50,000 people of 5 million people or 10 million people, it works equally well.”This isn’t a new idea in the United States—places like Los Angeles, Portland and New York have been doing it for years. Sometimes it’s called some variation on “Ciclovia,” and sometimes it’s called “Open Streets.” In Kentucky, a similar event has happened in Lexington.Metro Government is calling on citizens to help fund the first CycLOUvia. A campaign that went up today on the popular crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter says its goal is to raise $3,000 to pay for signage, bagging parking meters and “creating exciting nodes of activity.” The actual cost of the event will be more than $15,000.Spokeswoman Rebecca Fleischaker says Metro Government has designated $10,000 to the event from federal money that goes to decreasing congestion and improving air quality, and Councilman Tom Owen has contributed $2,500. Fleischaker says she's confident the Kickstarter campaign--launched by Broken Sidewalk blogger Branden Klayko--will raise the additional $3,000.CycLOUvia is October 14 from 2 to 6pm.
A new report out from Boston-based Synapse Energy Economics raises a question that doesn't seem to come up enough when talking about energy: what about water?The report was commissioned for the Civil Society Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that often focuses on energy and climate change. It looks at coal, nuclear, biomass, solar, wind and natural gas and analyzes the hidden costs of each type of energy--like the ways each affects water, climate change, air pollution and subsidaries.It concludes that in a time when water is becoming scarcer (just look to the droughts of this summer, and the perpetual problems in the Western United States), we're using a lot of water for energy. Biomass is the biggest water hog, using up to 100,000 gallons of water for 1 megawatt hour of electricity. Coal uses up to 50,000 gallons for the same energy production, and nuclear 60,000 gallons.From the release:In addition to fouling streams and drinking water through mining and coal-ash dump sites, coal-fired power relies heavily on closed-loop cooling systems which withdraw between 500 and 600 gallons of water per MWh and lose most of this via evaporation. Withdrawals for open-looped cooled coal-fired power plants are between 20,000-50,000 gallons per MWh. Most of the water is returned, but at a higher temperature and lower quality.The least water-intensive forms of energy are wind and solar, which use very small amounts of water.
A lawsuit filed by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet against a coal company for water pollution is close to being settled.The cabinet filed suit against two coal companies after evidence surfaced that suggested the companies hadn’t accurately reported water pollution violations. The case is between the coal companies and the commonwealth, but Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepard also allowed several environmental groups—including Appalachian Voices and the Waterkeeper Alliance—to intervene.A status report filed by the cabinet earlier this week suggests that a settlement is close with International Coal Group. The report includes two sizable penalties going to supplemental environmental projects. $335,000 will go towards eliminating straight pipes in eastern Kentucky, and $240,000 will go to monitor water pollution caused by coal mining operations.Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bruce Scott says the cabinet, the companies and the environmental groups all came to an agreement.“Everybody was very pleased with that proposal the cabinet made, and all parties agreed again that it was a good idea to have the money go into the area where there were impacts,” Scott said.Scott says the dollar amounts of the settlement probably wouldn’t have changed if the groups weren’t involved. But the interveners have also reached an additional arrangement with the company to have a third party audit the company’s data collection.“It does help, I don’t think there’s any question about that, in terms of additional oversight, but it is something that we didn’t necessarily think was necessary, but we weren’t opposed to doing it in the spirit of trying to settle all these issues,” Scott said.He says a final settlement could be submitted to the court for approval by the end of the month. A settlement with Frasure Creek is further off, because the company is having financial problems and Scott says the first priority is making sure the company meets its obligations to reclaim former mine sites in Kentucky.A spokesman for Appalachian Voices says the group won’t comment until the settlement is finalized.
A new survey suggests demand for local food in Louisville exceeds the current supply.The preliminary results of a study commissioned by local nonprofit and food advocate Seed Capital Kentucky show that Jefferson County residents are already knowingly buying local food—and would buy even more if given the chance.The study was conducted by New York-based consultant Karen Karp and her company, Karp Resources. She sampled 1.4 percent of the households in the county across all demographics. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they already bought local food, and nearly all (99 percent) did most of their food shopping in supermarkets. If local food was consistently available, affordable and of high-quality, the respondents indicated they would direct 200 percent more of their spending toward it.But there’s still a lot to be done to get food from farms to consumers. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says he plans to utilize several public-private partnerships.“It takes all kinds of partners here. It starts with the demands, obviously, being identified. Then the farmers, then the processors, then the logistics in between,” he said. “The good news is that we’re leading the country in a lot of this area already and you can see we have the talent to make it happen. This report here today just provides the excitement for everybody to keep going.”Department of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer says the results are encouraging.“We’re going to do everything we can at the Department of Agriculture to work with Metro Government, to work with the local restaurants and wholesalers and retailers to make sure there are enough farmers to supply this increased demand of food,” he said.Comer says there are enough farmers in Kentucky to meet the growing demand, but agrees with Fischer that logistics still pose a challengeComer is on the state’s Agriculture Development Board, which is responsible for distributing half of the state’s tobacco settlement money. He says he wants to see some of that money go to transform Kentucky from a tobacco-growing state into a state that focuses on producing fruits, vegetables and meat.But despite the increased interest in local food, more than 17 percent of Jefferson County residents are still classified as “food insecure,” which means they don’t have access to plentiful and nutritious food.
Louisville Water Company officials say they’d like to build an international water innovation center in Louisville. The idea was presented today as part of a pre-Idea Festival conference focusing on water.Louisville Water Company CEO Greg Heitzman says the idea makes sense in a place like Louisville.“Essentially what it will do is bring water to the people,” he said. “So what we’re going to be doing is taking what we do inside of our water company box and opening that up to the public.”Heitzman envisions the Water Innovation Center as a spot where people of all ages and educational pursuits can come together, study water and develop water treatment technologies.He says the proposed site—the historic water tower on Zorn Avenue—would build on the city’s rich history and connection to water.“What I envision is we would have programs for preschool to elementary to middle to high school, college, and then post-doc research,” Heitzman said. “So it would be a venue by which you could study the entire science of water and how we advance the science of water to be able to make this world safer and be able to extend the life of humans throughout the world.”The center is still a concept. There’s no discernible funding source—though Heitzman says he thinks some grants would be available—and there’s no timeline yet. But there are two designs for the project, created by University of Kentucky architecture students. Both incorporate the river and water into the plans, and include ample recreational, educational and exhibition spaces.
A consultant says Louisville should restore the Falls of the Ohio to its natural state, which would spur tourism. The presentation was part of today’s pre-Idea Festival conference about water.The Falls of the Ohio are technically still there, but most of the falls have been covered by flooding from the McAlpine dam. Steven Greseth says the dam should be relocated, and the historic falls should be restored.Greseth says restoring the falls would give Kentucky and Indiana residents a tie to their history to be proud of, and could also boost tourism in the area.“The Falls of the Ohio, I went through all the water falls on earth and it’s arguably the 11th largest. It has the 7th greatest waterfall flow,” he said. “So what does that matter? Well, the National Park Service polled their visitors when they go to Yosemite. And they said, ‘what do you like the most when you go to Yosemite?’ They said, ‘we like to see where the water flow is the greatest.”Greseth says this could lead to new heritage tourism opportunities for the Louisville area.“Saint Louis, they’ve got the gateway to the west. The Falls of the Ohio, in my opinion, is the threshold of America,” he said. “Because when the settlers got here and they got across the Falls of the Ohio, America awaited. There were other ways to go, but for the people who came up the buffalo trace and down the Ohio River, it was a big deal.”Greseth is also advocating the restoration and marketing of the buffalo trace—the path formed by migrating bison that later became a pioneer trail.
According to Louisville Emergency Management, there's been a "very small" ammonia leak at a Stir the Pot, a Butchertown food manufacturing plant. A Code Red alert was sent out to the plant's neighbors, but the Louisville Fire Department says there's no danger to the public. Plant employees were evacuated.Stir the Pot is located at 1057 E. Washington Street.
The Indian media has been all over the recent scandal over the country’s coal allotments—the system where the state’s resources are divvied up among companies. And the various articles are of obvious interest to Kentucky, where a private company recently inked a $7 billion deal to send up to 9 million tons of Appalachian coal to India every year for the next twenty-five years.I’ve reported on issues with Representative Keith Hall, who helped broker the deal, as well as some major economic questions that the contract raises. And for the past several weeks, there’s been great reporting out of India about the issues the country's coal industry are facing.India’s equivalent of the FBI is investigating five companies in a scandal being called “Coalgate.” And of those five companies, three are owned by Manoj Jayaswal, who is also the chairman of Abhijeet.As the Lexington Herald-Leader editorial board put it this morning:Well, it turns out — and you're not going to believe this — the Indian company is at the heart of a huge corruption scandal.One of the most telling accounts of corruption was published a week ago in Daily News and Analysis, an English-language paper in Mumbai. The article introduces readers to Jayaswal.A 10-seater Bombardier jet, a flat in Mumbai that costs Rs75 crore, daughter’s wedding bash in Phuket, real estate in Nagpur running into crores… Manoj Jayaswal, chairman of the controversial Abhijeet Group, sure lives life king-size.(That jet cost about the equivalent of $14 million, and Indians use the word “crore” to refer to large amounts of money…roughly their equivalent of “millions.”)The article goes on to talk about how Jayaswal and Abhijeet are leveraging serious money and taking out loans, but has little to show for the expenses.The Abhijeet Group’s website talks of setting up pithead-based thermal power stations of 5,000MW in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Bengal and Bihar, and 10 million tonne/annum in integrated steel plants. It’s set to become India’s largest manganese alloy producer by setting up an export-based 180 MVA facility at Visakhapatnam. It is also setting up a 50MW solar plant.But barring the 271mw Mihan plant, none of its projects is anywhere near on stream so far. While Rs11,000 crore has already been disbursed…The Hindustan Times had a comment from Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear on the India coal scandal, and its possible bearing on the big Appalachian coal deal. He didn't have much to say."I am sure the companies that are selling coal (in Kentucky) will watch the facts develop and then will take decisions accordingly," Steve L Beshear, governor of Kentucky state in the US, told Hindustan Times on the sidelines of a CII function. Beshear was in India to promote economic development between Kentucky and India.
In some states, the 2012 presidential election is turning into a race of who can support coal more.That's not really in Kentucky, or in West Virginia, where voters will reliably lean Republican in national elections. But as McClatchy Newspapers reports, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are focusing on nearby Ohio.Obama, like his challenger, nevertheless has talked up coal during the campaign. He highlighted a vision for the future during his Democratic National Convention speech in which the nation continues to invest in "clean coal" technologies meant to reduce the carbon dioxide impact of burning coal and keep the industry going.The Obama campaign has run radio ads in Ohio hammering on that theme and portraying Romney as the one who's really anti-coal. The ads are about Romney's 2003 effort, as the governor of Massachusetts, against an unpopular coal plant in his state.This is kind of awkward for both candidates; both Romney and Vice President Joe Biden have said in the past some variation on the theme that "coal kills people" and environmentalists have been a reliable voting block for Obama. But is all this pro-coal campaigning just a cheap political ploy to win voters, or could a President Romney or Obama actually revive the coal industry? The article points out that cheap and abundant natural gas has dealt more of a death knell to coal than environmental regulations.Romney has attacked coal regulations but he'd have limited power to roll them back if he's elected, said Kyle Danish, a lawyer who specializes in energy at the Van Ness Feldman law firm in Washington. The biggest EPA air-quality rule that affects coal plants is a limit on mercury and air-toxics emissions, he said. It stems from requirements of the Clean Air Act, a law that only Congress can change.Romney might be able to delay the deadlines for compliance or make some changes if the courts toss out the Obama rule, Danish said, but the Clean Air Act has boundaries that wouldn't let him be too lenient. Romney also has made it clear that he's against using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and he could try to slow or block rules on that from being finalized. But the courts have said so far that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide, and there are limits on what Romney could do without Congress agreeing to make changes to the law.Danish says a Romney administration could have more influence on issues like mountaintop removal mining, though.
A federal grant that directs more than $4 million to the Transit Authority of River City will help Louisville come into compliance with air quality standards.The grant from the Federal Transportation Administration will allow TARC to replace some of the aging Toonerville Trolleys which drive along Fourth Street and Market Street with new all-electric buses. Some of the current trolleys are more than 14 years old—they’re the dirtiest vehicles in TARC’s system, and their emissions are one of the reason’s Louisville public transit system isn’t in compliance with federal clean air regulations.The Transportation Administration gave out more than $59 million to 27 projects in this grant cycle. Louisville wasn’t the only Kentucky recipient: Lexington’s public transit system was awarded $34,000 to install a thermal management system to reduce emissions.
The actual Idea Festival starts on Wednesday. But on Tuesday, there’s a day of lectures and discussions all relating to water.Speakers will run the gamut, from Greg Heitzman of Louisville Water to Gregory Luhan, architecture professor and associate dean of research at the University of Kentucky College of Design.Mark Hogg of WaterStep is one of the organizers of IF Water. Hogg’s non-profit sets up water purification systems in developing countries and disaster areas.“The purpose of IF Water is to begin to pull together our city in a way that it can celebrate its identity with so many people, so many organizations and such a great history of water,” he said.He says he wants this event to evolve into an annual water symposium that’s not just talking heads.“But it’s interactional with a lot of different people, it’s cross-cultural, it’s practical, that there’s actually some practical hands-on pieces and parts you can do,” he said.Hogg says IF Water will hopefully help to position Louisville as a major center of water technology and development.The symposium begins at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow. For more information or to register, click here.
Louisville Gas and Electric has had another equipment malfunction at its Cane Run plant, which released clouds of coal ash yesterday evening.The sludge processing plant is the machine that takes the coal ash and mixes it with other materials to turn it into a concrete-like substance, so it can be put into the landfill. A video shot by Greg Walker, who lives across the street, shows clouds of ash rising above the plant—and over the dust screen the company installed in April.This is the same piece of equipment that malfunctioned repeatedly a year ago. LG&E paid nearly $20,000 to the Air Pollution Control District earlier this year for violations that included the machine’s previous malfunction.LG&E spokeswoman Chris Whelan says the company has taken several steps to reduce airborne ash, but the nature of a power plant means sometimes things will go wrong.“We’re doing everything we can to minimize the impact on our neighbors,” she said. “We know that this is a sense of frustration out there. But it’s mechanical equipment, it’s a power plant and things are going to continue to break. And like I said, we’re doing everything we can to maintain that equipment so we don’t have any issues.”Whelan says the ash was actively being released for seven minutes, before the plant was shut down. She says it’s still offline, and she doesn’t know when it will be fixed.The plant’s neighbors say the coal ash in the air is making life intolerable.“It's like living in a battlefield, it's what I think Hell must be like,” Cane Run neighbor Kathy Little wrote in an email. “There is no enjoyment of life, we can't go outside. So we stay in the house with our windows and doors shut as our air conditioning units pull the ash into our houses. My car stays a filthy mess but the worst thing is my kid and everyone else's kids are breathing this stuff and it hasn't gotten any better. Need some HELP.”The company has plans to retire the coal-fired power plant and replace it with natural gas by 2016.Here's the video of the plant from last night, uploaded to YouTube by Joe Sonka of LEO Weekly.To view other coal ash videos uploaded by the plant's neighbors, click here.
A regional waste management company has partnered with Louisville Metro Government to help increase the city’s tree canopy over the next decade.Ecotech will work with Louisville’s Tree Advisory Commission, which was formed by Mayor Greg Fischer last year to help maintain and add to the city’s tree canopy.Fischer helped plant the first three trees Friday and over the next 10 years, Ecotech has committed to donating 1,000 trees through its 10,000 Trees Partnership.Reports show Louisville is warming faster than other cities, which has been blamed--in part--on the lack of tree canopy. According to a 2011 study by the University of Louisville, the city’s tree canopy is 27 percent.The study’s authors recommend the city increase that number to 40 percent.