February 7, 2006

Sen. Seum’s smokestack lightning

When it comes to improving Jefferson County’s air quality, state Sen. Dan Seum is public enemy No. 1. An inveterate opponent of government measures to regulate toxic emissions of everything from cars to factories, Seum’s most notorious strike was his bill that resulted in the closure of the VET program in October 2003. After all, $11 a year is an obscene price to pay to ensure your vehicle isn’t a rolling smokestack.

Now he’s riding SB39 into the Senate, which would relinquish, to the state, Metro Louisville’s ability to administer measures concerning its own air by making it so the city’s emissions standards cannot be more stringent than the state’s.

It would invalidate the Strategic Toxic Air Reduction program, which focuses on the health risks posed by toxic air emissions, and requires polluting companies to ensure they’re not spewing enough to be a serious health risk.

The bill would also dissolve the Air Pollution Control District, Metro Louisville’s air quality regulatory agency, by nullifying its regulatory abilities.

Seum’s stated logic behind the bill: Tough air quality standards dissuade new businesses from coming to Louisville.

SB39 enters the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee tomorrow. Members of the Greater Louisville Sierra Club will be there with a resolution in hand, endorsed by 23 organizations including environmental justice, health, medical and political bodies, that outlines major opposition.

“This is just an obstructionist bill,” said Mark Atwell of the Sierra Club after a press conference yesterday introducing the resolution. “It doesn’t give us any solution.”

Several city officials have expressed opposition to the dissolution of APCD and the invalidation of STAR, although they wished to remain anonymous.

It remains to be seen what kind of support Seum’s bill has among the Senate’s Jefferson County delegation. Julie Denton, Elizabeth Tori, Ernie Harris and Tim Shaughnessy have yet to make their positions public, according to the Sierra Club; Denise Harper Angel and Gerald Neal are opposed.