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August 13, 2008

A new smog-slayer in town

Mayor Abramson last Friday appointed Lauren Anderson executive director of the Air Pollution Control District, the agency that monitors air quality and develops emissions standards for the area. Anderson replaces longtime director Art Williams, who retired earlier this year. Among other things, Williams oversaw the implementation of the Strategic Toxic Air Reduction program, created to reduce smog and other toxic air soups.

Anderson has been APCD’s attorney since 2003. She was also an attorney for the state Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet.

“I know that we can continue to improve air quality while being responsive to the needs of the regulated community,” Anderson said in a statement. “My primary goal as director will be to ensure that we do our job well.”

Tom Fitzgerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, praised Anderson.

“Lauren has an appreciation and understanding of the importance of (the STAR) program, and of the challenges facing all the sources of air pollution in the community, in achieving our goal of healthy air,” he said. “KRC believes that the mayor chose well, and looks forward to working with the new director to improve Louisville’s air quality.”

As head of APCD, Anderson will have a delicate ballet to perform, regulating major polluters in some of the city’s less-advantaged neighborhoods (like the chemical plants in Rubbertown), while continuing toward compliance with state and EPA ozone-emission standards.

Eboni Cochran, director of the west Louisville citizen group Rubbertown Emergency ACTion, or REACT, said she’s disappointed the mayor didn’t choose more of an outsider. “It’s nobody new with a new perspective,” she said. “But we’ll just keep hopeful that she can be objective about things and make some changes that need to be made.”

Among those changes, Cochran said, is the implementation of standard operating procedures for investigations. APCD does not spell out its investigatory procedures, but spokesman Matt Stull stressed that the agency is not a first-responder to chemical spills or heavy air pollution, which is, in part, what REACT wants.

REACT is developing its own set of procedures, and Cochran said she hopes to meet with Anderson soon.