Environment

A Louisville Metro Council committee has advanced a resolution urging the city’s Air Pollution Control District to deny a request from a Rubbertown company for a waiver from toxic air standards.

The non-binding resolution is sponsored by more than half of the council members. It urges the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District (APCD) to deny the request by American Synthetic Rubber Company, in order to “ensure that the health and safety of Louisville Metro’s citizens continue to be the top priority of APCD.”

In the brief discussion over the resolution, Councilwoman Mary Woolridge said the STAR program has made a noticeable difference in the air over her West Louisville district and in Rubbertown.

“There are over 200 companies required to meet this clean air goal across Jefferson County. This is the only company, American Synthetic Rubber, that’s asking for this modification,” she said. “What would we do if the other 200 companies across Jefferson County asked for this modification? We would be in serious trouble.”

The issue involves the Strategic Toxic Air Reduction program, or STAR, which regulates toxic air emissions in the county. All companies that have toxic releases have to meet certain health-based goals for the community.

Under the current regulation, the company’s Rubbertown facility can’t release more toxic chemicals than would cause 7.5 cancer cases in a population of 1 million after exposure to the emissions for 70 years. The facility isn’t asking for that to change.

But American Synthetic Rubber (ASRC) is seeking a waiver when it comes to specific emissions of the chemical 1,3 butadiene, which is a carcinogen. For 1,3 butadiene coming from the company’s flare, ASRC wants regulators to allow a risk goal of 1.93 cancer cases among a million people, rather than the one in a million standard they’re currently required to meet.

The company also wants a waiver for 1,3 butadiene that comes from fugitive emissions…an increase from 10 cancer cases in a million to 63.36 on the industrial site, and an increase from 1 in a million to 3.04 cases in a million off-site.

American Synthetic Rubber has said it doesn’t have the technology required to meet the more stringent standards. Under the regulation, the company is required to employ the “best available technology” to reduce emissions as much as possible.

At the meeting of Metro Council’s Public Works, Parks, Sustainability and Transportation Committee, Councilwoman Jessica Green said she had attended all of the public hearings about the issue.

“My eight-year-old son, after one of the hearings said to me ‘Mama, why don’t they want us to be able to breathe? I just want to be able to breathe,’” Green said. “I hope that the district will listen to the cries of the community. We all just want to be able to breathe.”

APCD Executive Director Keith Talley spoke briefly to Metro Council members at Tuesday’s meeting. In a Courier-Journal opinion piece earlier this year, he stressed the seriousness with which the agency takes any request to modify the regulations.

“APCD is not allowing a ‘backdoor’ around these very protective and stringent rules. We take our job of protecting our environment and citizens’ health very seriously, and our review of the ASRC request will be scrutinized carefully with that mission in mind.”

The Air Pollution Control District has held several meetings to get public comment on the request. Talley says the District will make a final decision on American Synthetic Rubber’s request after reviewing all the public comments.

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Assignment Editor.