The very curious Jefferson County Public Schools endorsement of a West End methane plant

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Did Jefferson County Public Schools really issue an endorsement for an privately-owned methane plant/anaerobic digester?

Maybe not.

Maybe a JCPS buffoon made an executive decision to roll out a press release on Saturday morning, in time to appear in Sunday’s Courier-Journal, to inflict some damage to Louisville Metro Councilwoman Mary Woolridge’s Sunday afternoon protest.  It sounds like a sneaky little effort to pit children and their parents against something bigger than a methane plant, to scare them off, to keep them from speaking out to support their community and neighbors.  Now, the protesters had to face down a proposed methane plant that had a powerful supporter, Jefferson County Public Schools.

Too bad JCPS can’t align itself with a more noble cause.

JCPS needs to get its own house in order before stepping into a battle between an urban neighborhood resisting another industrial polluter and a group of investors hoping to profit from dysfunctional fawning over recycling and green energy.  By the way, Louisville already has anaerobic digesters.  Paid for by taxpayers to the tune of $60 million.  Four of them and they generate tons of methane for dryers that create dried biosolids.  If you live in the West End, you know what I’m talking about and you’re assaulted by the stench a lot.  You’ve been dealing with biodigesters long enough. 

West End families do not want this methane plant in their neighborhood but Heaven Hill Distillery, Jefferson County Public Schools and Mayor Fischer support the idea.

What’s really going on?

If you clicked on this courier-journal.com URL on Sunday, September 20th…

methane8… you saw this headline:

methane3 (screenshot taken 9/20/2015 at 9:24 p.m.)

Monday, September 21st, at 12:15 p.m. the same URL linked to this story:

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Below are portions of the original story that appeared on Sunday.  Note the support from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Heaven Hill Distillery.

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There are some interesting Facebook comments about this story:

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Mr. Steven Estes had this to say:

“Looking forward to continuing the education process with those that want to learn about the facts and benefits of these great projects.”

Know who that guy is?  He’s the CEO of the company that is supposed to build the methane plant.

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That company is called Nature’s Methane and it’s been in the news because three contractors have sued for non-payment on a very similar project in St. Louis.  Notice how the media sanitizes the language associated with this story by never using the words “industrial polluter”, “pollution” or even “methane plant.”  They’ll just say “biofuel” or “anaerobic digester.”  Supporters of this project are quick to point out that methane is an odorless gas.  Yes, that’s true.  But METHANE PRODUCTION is NOT ODORLESS.

Dairy farms all over America are using anaerobic biodigesters full of cow manure.  Guess what?  They really stink.  Know what else smells bad?  Distillery waste.  Anaerobic digestion of distillery waste, or any organic waste for that matter, has an unpleasant odor and, if not managed correctly, can result in a VERY PUTRID stench.

Methane is odorless, they’ll tell you.  Yeah, well, so is nuclear energy.

The residents of Lowell, Michigan, were also told that their anaerobic biodigester would be odorless.  Well, it isn’t.  Their biodigester has been (kind of) running since April 2015.  Read about the foul odors, the danger to workers and what a complete waste of money the project was here in a story called “Update on the Lowell Michigan biodigester.”  The headline below is how the project was pitched to Lowell residents.

SOUND FAMILIAR?

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This from a May 18, 2015 story in Business First, “West Louisville Food Port’s biofuel company in trouble over similar St. Louis project”:

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There’s more to this story than legal tangles with mechanics liens and alleged non-payment to contractors.  There’s also a charge of fraud against Steven Estes which is spelled out in the same article…

The suit was filed against several parties involved in the FarmWorks project. In the lawsuit, Percheron argues that the mechanics liens render the property valueless. In addition to more than $50,000 in relief for damages, Percheron asked in the suit that the court deem the liens invalid and rule that only Percheron owns interest in the property.

The company also alleged in the lawsuit that Steve Estes, owner of Star Distributed Energy and its subsidiaries, committed fraud by authorizing GEI Consultants to begin work on the FarmWorks property even though he did not have the authority to do so. Percheron backs GEI Consultants’ claim that Nature’s Methane owes the engineering firm more than $700,000.

Estes and his companies have denied all the allegations against them, according to court records. Estes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the lawsuit is “frivolous” and that the liens resulted from FarmWorks’ financial problems “that blew up around me.” Estes could not be reached for comment.

If that St. Louis story is true, a lot of people took a bath on that methane plant project yet we have Mayor Fischer, JCPS and The Courier-Journal tag-teaming publicity for this project instead of asking simple questions like, “Why didn’t those contractors get paid?”  Or this: “What really happened when the St. Louis food hub project crapped out?”

This is from a June 19, 2015 article in , Business First, “Metro councilwoman: We won’t let biofuel plant build in west Louisville”.  Interesting.

methanebuildThis is from a December 11, 2014 article in the Courier-Journal by Jere Downs, “State’s first methane power plant gets tax aid.”
Estimated cost of methane plant: $27.3 million.

methanestategrantThe Business First article from May, 2015 stated that the cost of the methane plant was $27.4 million, a $100,000 increase from December 2014.  A September 21, 2015 article in the Courier-Journal has the cost at $40 million, a 50% jump in cost since May.  Mistake or shakedown?  The costs keep escalating and construction hasn’t even started.  What’s going on here?

methanecost1Maybe it’s just another reporting error.  Like JCPS appearing in this story as JCSP.

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Let’s look at the JCPS press release issued from Guthrie/Mayes Public Relations:

From: Bonnie Hackbarth [mailto:Bonnie@guthriemayes.com] 
Sent: Saturday, September 19, 2015 11:06 AM
To: ——————————–
Subject: JCPS Statement re: Proposed Biodigester
 
Statement of JCPS regarding a proposed biodigester in Louisville:

“The safety of our students, faculty and staff is JCPS’ top priority. We maintain close relationships with safety teams at various facilities throughout our district footprint.


“JCPS safety and environmental officials have met with representatives of the Mayor’s office and with experts to receive full briefings regarding the proposed biodigester project. JCPS safety experts are familiar with biodigesters, and see them as one of many projects that can help make our city more green and sustainable while also creating energy to help power homes and businesses.


“We believe that the biodigester project in the California neighborhood can be good for our city and for JCPS, and that, if designed and maintained properly with all of the required safety features, does not risk the health of our students or the community.”


Bonnie Hackbarth

502-552—–

Fun facts about the lady who cranked out that press release:
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There’s more…
The location for the proposed methane plant is in the California neighborhood at 17th and Maple, a few blocks from Roosevelt-Perry Elementary School.  The JCPS board member that represents Roosevelt-Perry is Mrs. Diane Porter.  According to Mrs. Porter’s comment in the revised Courier-Journal story, nobody at JCPS asked for her opinion about its methane plant endorsement.  Mrs. Porter seems to be just fine with the children in her district paying the heaviest price to maintain JCPS’s forced busing scheme so I’m going to take a wild guess and say she’s going to stay out of this battle or maybe even support the methane plant.
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methaneperryFrom the Courier-Journal’s updated story:
Board vice chairwoman Diane Porter said Monday she also did not know about the endorsement and planned to talk to Superintendent Donna Hargens Monday afternoon to get additional information. Her district includes the California neighborhood where the plant would be located. She said she has been following the issue and has not taken a position on the plant, which would that would [sic] recycle distillery waste into energy.
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Mrs. Porter typically goes along to get along so don’t hold your breath if you expect her to show up at a protest.  Nonetheless, JCPS should have given Mrs. Porter the very basic courtesy of a heads-up.
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The average income of California residents is about $18,513 and 46.9 percent of residents live below the poverty level.  What was JCPS doing about that on Saturday morning?  Nothing, that’s what.  Yet, someone at JCPS told a $190/hour public relations lady to promote a privately-owned $40 million methane plant.  It’s a very odd situation and warrants some digging.
 Mayor Fischer supports this idea.

 Heaven Hill supports this idea.

 hhhhhh

I

wonder

what’s

going

on

here

?

?

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Screenshot from the C-J article:
methanefischerPublic information from Kentucky Registry of Election Finance:
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I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “But Seed Capital Kentucky is the original methane plant hustler.”
And you’re absolutely right.
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Follow

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.

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the

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money.

$$$

$$$

Public information the Kentucky Secretary of State website:
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Seed Capital Kentucky Director Mrs. Augusta Brown Holland, heiress to the Brown-Forman fortune, is married to Mr. John Gill Holland, Jr., whose development projects in NuLu and Portland have received millions of your tax dollars…
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Seed Capital Kentucky director Stephen Reily is married to Emily Bingham:
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$$

This methane plant isn’t about recycling.  This isn’t about keeping waste out of the local landfill.  This isn’t about green energy or green initiatives.  The only thing about this project that’s green is the cash that’s swirling around campaign contributions, tax incentives and projected revenue streams.

Now, pay attention.

For many years MSD’s Morris Forman Wastewater Treatment Plant has been operating four enormous anaerobic biodigesters that can process over one million gallons of wastewater a day.  They generate tons of methane (literally) and reduce MSD’s fuel costs. (That saves MSD money which saves money for you and me.) The methane is used to run huge dryers that dry biosolids which are like super-nutrient-rich fertilizer. Some municipal treatment plants sell dried biosolids – I’m not sure if MSD does that – but even the dried waste has value.

Finally, this: polluters like Heaven Hill pay enormous industrial polluter fees for wastewater treatment by MSD.

This proposed privately-owned methane plant can be summed up with one sentence: A bunch of well-connected people want to privatize a function that’s being performed by a public utility, Metropolitan Sewer District.

And if you think that’s a reach, just take a look at a current director of Seed Capital Kentucky.  His name is John-Mark Hack and, according to the information provided by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, he’s the director of governmental affairs at Kentucky American Water.  That’s the largest privatized water utility in the state.  Kentucky American Water provides water and wastewater services so it’s probably no accident that Seed Capital Kentucky has him on board while trying to hijack an MSD process that generates revenue through industrial fees and valuable methane production.

methanejerks4 We know about the other Seed Capital Kentucky directors.  Want to learn more about Mr. Hack?  Just click on the screenshot to read a Lexington-Herald story about Mr. Hack allegedly misleading voters when he ran for state office.

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If this methane plant gets built, it will be the second revenue stream that Mayor Fischer has supported for his check-writing friends at Seed Capital Kentucky.  Did you miss that story?  Kentucky taxpayers are on the hook for that one, too.  I’ll tell you all of the details about that, too.

For now, take a look at the Courier-Journal reporter’s tweets from last night’s community meeting with Nature’s Methane CEO Steven Estes.  No need to get meaningful quotes from concerned California citizens.  Just reduce them to the status of hecklers at a low-rent comedy club while Estes is painted as a kindly gentleman who is just trying to work with the community.  (By the way, “Morris Brown” should have been “Morris-Forman”, MSD’s treatment plant on Algonquin Parkway.)

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  To be continued…

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