Air Quality Ordinance

This morning, Council members have received a few emails from industry groups talking about the alleged horrible consequences if we pass CM Fabian Bedne’s proposed Air Quality Ordinance.  That ordinance is BL2016-234. The emails are much too dismissive about the legitimate safety and quality of life concerns expressed by many citizens in Joelton and Whites Creek, and in Antioch, about having new high volume gas compressor pumping stations in those parts of Nashville. I would encourage everyone to read Council Director Mike Jameson’s analysis of this ordinance – which starts on page 14 at this link.

Mr. Jameson provides a thoughtful and fair analysis. I won’t repeat it all here. But, in summary, there are two main parts to the proposed ordinance. One part (which would create a new permitting requirement for projects like a gas compressor station) is likely too broad and may need to be amended or deleted. (This doesn’t bother me because I understand that the Health Department already has the power under existing law to regulate or refuse to allow any new pollution source that would push Nashville over applicable air quality standards.)

The second part of the proposed ordinance (which would require gas compressor stations to comply with local zoning laws) is NOT damaging to anything. As Mr. Jameson points out, if we enact the second part, there is a well-established state/federal procedure that would allow the State’s Air Pollution Control Board to decide whether to include our new local law as part of Tennessee’s air pollution control standards. If the State Board says no, I suspect that our ordinance might then have no impact or enforceability.  But if the State Board says yes, then it would be the State of Tennessee and Metro both agreeing that gas compressors need to meet local zoning laws. Even then, the federal EPA would also have to give its approval.

Everyone should agree that Nashville has an interest in having gas compressor stations only where it fits our zoning code.  I am sure all of us would agree that we shouldn’t have a gas compressor station in the middle of downtown.  They just can’t go anywhere. Not only that, we already have an existing zoning law that says we want gas compressor stations only in areas that are zoned industrial. The proposed ordinance simply puts the ball in the court of the State Air Pollution Control Board for them to decide whether our existing zoning law will be included in our state air quality standards.

I guess the bottom line is that this ordinance (once amended to carve back the scope of the permitting part) is not a magic bullet to stop gas compressors, but it definitely is not some sort of existential threat to our economy.  It is simply Nashville giving the State Air Pollution Control Board an opportunity to include a “comply with local zoning laws” requirement in our state air quality regulations.  I am in favor of that.


(If you want more information about the concerns our neighbors have, you can look go to this page and click on the PDF by “Project 1. Field Study”.)

Bob Mendes

Bob Mendes represents all of Nashville as a Council-At-Large member of Nashville’s Metro Council. He is Chair of the Council’s Charter Revision Committee, a member of the Metropolitan Audit Committee, and a member of the Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, Rules & Confirmations Committee, and Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee. Bob also practices business law at Waypoint Law PLLC. Bob’s complete bio is here. You can follow Bob @mendesbob.