Environment

Louisville’s 100 percent clean energy resolution has died in committee and also lost its sponsor.

The resolution introduced last September calls for city operations to become 100 percent clean energy by 2030, and the entire community by 2035.

Metro Council President David James said he withdrew sponsorship of the resolution last week to avoid a perceived conflict of interest because his wife, Michelle James, is a subcontractor for Louisville Gas and Electric – which has a natural monopoly over energy in Louisville.

“My wife does some work for a subcontractor that does contract work for [Louisville Gas and Electric] and so in order to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest I just felt it was best I do that,” James said Monday.

However, the Parks and Sustainability Committee had only until the end of March to act on the resolution. Any legislation that lingers in a committee for six months after introduction, “dies,” according to Metro Council policies.

Resolution co-coordinator Mark Steiner said the roughly two dozen concerned citizens behind the resolution plan to re-introduce the legislation and find a new sponsor.

It’s a challenge to find a new sponsor, Steiner said. Not only that, but it seems like it will be an ongoing issue to have a metro council president that can’t address energy issues in the city.

“I would like to see us make sure that these conflicts don’t arise in the future because we can’t afford to take important voices like Representative James out of the conversation,” Steiner said.

Louisville has already committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

The resolution, in addition to calls for 100 percent clean energy, also asks for revisions in building codes to require energy efficiency and conservation in new construction. It also calls on the Metro Council to oppose new fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

Steiner said the more dramatic transition called for in the resolution is necessary.

“I think it’s hard for them to prioritize this in light of this budget crisis, and yet there is no greater priority,” he said.

The United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change says humans need to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Climate change is compounding the risks of droughts, heatwaves and heavy rains in Kentucky. It will likely reduce crop yields and forest productivity, increase flood risks and air pollution, according to a 2016 Environmental Protection Agency report.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.