by James Bruggers, @jbruggers –
In his first heat management report, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer called on residents and business owners to take steps to improve the livability of Louisville by reducing heat. Frankie Steele, Special to CJ
Business group recommends incentive-based and voluntary programs for environmental tree, heat initiatives.
Louisville’s first heat-management plan is flawed and should not be used as the basis for any new regulatory programs aimed at reducing temperatures, the city’s chamber of commerce said.
In eight pages of single-spaced commentary, Greater Louisville Inc. argues that the study by Georgia Tech professor Brian Stone Jr. lacks “clear explanation and supporting documentation” and to justify regulations on cooler roofing, including lighter colors or green roofing with vegetation, tree cover or reduction of waste energy.
The comments were provided by the city to The Courier-Journal late Thursday through a Kentucky Open Records law request. GLI also questioned the study’s underlying science, suggesting that Louisville may be better off focused on helping to keep people warm in the winter. For that, GLI cited a study that found that cold weather kills more people than hot weather.
GLI, representing 1,600 businesses, said it and its members take very seriously their commitments to the environment and public health and understand the importance of quality of life as a key component of economic development. It said the report was a good starting point for discussion of urban heat island concerns, but recommended voluntary or incentive programs rather than any new rules or ordinances.
“The study lacks a cost-benefit analysis … therefore, we believe, does not contain enough information and detail to be the basis for regulatory action,” said Alison Brotzge-Elder, communications manager for GLI.
“We continue to be actively engaged with the city on the (urban heat island) topic,” she said in her written statement. “We are moving forward together and brainstorming ideas about the next steps Louisville could take. Any potential impacts and benefits need to be fully measured.”
The report makes a variety of recommendations, including echoing a recommendation from a disbanded Louisville tree advisory committee: adopt a comprehensive tree ordinance
For its part, city officials on Friday said they stand by Stone’s report.
That report found that heat likely contributed to the deaths of about 86 area residents in the scorcher summer of 2012 – and concluded that taking steps to cool Louisville’s hot spots could save lives, money and improve living conditions for hundreds of thousands.
$100,000 in incentives
“We appreciate GLI’s point of view, including its agreement that quality of life and quality of place are key to economic development,” said Maria Koetter, the city’s sustainability director, in a written statement. “We … will review all the issues raised during the public comment period, including those from GLI, as we move forward to develop heat management strategies.”
GLI said it welcomed an incentive program in the current budget.
Jean Porter, a spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer, said the budget includes a $100,000 incentive program to help commercial buildings install white or green roofs through the city’s Cool502 initiative. That program is still under development, she said.
Stone said he did not have time on Friday to study the chamber’s criticisms.
“I had not yet seen these comments and so will need some time to review fully before commenting in detail,” he said in an email. “From a scan of the GLI comments, I do not see anything particularly new or problematic regarding our approach.”
He said he addressed most of the points GLI made in a public presentation he gave in May.
Environmental engineer Sarah Lynn Cunningham said she might agree with GLI on a few of its criticisms related to the presentation and citation of data in the report. But she also said the business group’s response could be expected.
“If you have seen one GLI response to proposed regulations, you’ve seen them all,” she said. That includes criticizing “the integrity of the work” then “they argue it would cost too much. In short, they might be willing to plant more trees, but they categorically don’t want to be forced to plant trees, much less be forced to work around existing trees, limit paving or use lighter materials.”
In May, the newspaper reported on GLI’s comments on how the city should handle a related issue – a documented loss of trees.
GLI agreed with a need to boost the city’s tree canopy and curb the losses spelled out in a tree canopy assessment, which found Louisville was losing about 54,000 trees a year, roughly 150 a day, to disease, storms, development and other factors.
But a GLI representative called for an approach based on education and financial incentives rather than any new rules.
Tree rules stalled
A proposed tree-protection ordinance for trees on public land and rights-of-ways has been with the mayor’s staff for 13 months now. City officials also have been deadlocked for four years over whether to tighten, loosen or maintain tree protection requirements for developers on private property.
In its criticisms of Stone’s work, GLI questions whether it was fair to focus on the scorching hot summer of 2012. It also questioned how Stone obtained surface temperatures through computer modeling. GLI also said the study failed to consider what effect cooling or greening scenarios would have on winter temperatures, including health effects and energy bills.
Stone is an expert on urban environmental planning and director of the Urban Climate Lab at Georgia Tech. He is author of the book, “The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live.” He previously found that Louisville’s urban heat island – the difference between city temperatures and surrounding rural areas – was among the fast growing in the country.
His heat management study for Louisville is among the first of its kind for a city. It found that some hot spots could be cooled by as much as 5 degrees, day and night, if city homes and businesses adopt strategies for cooler roofs, cooler streets and planting as many as 450,000 trees.
The study found sizeable differences in high and low temperatures across Louisville, citing roads, parking lots, dark roofing and lack of trees as among the reasons. Some of the city’s poorer neighborhoods are among the hottest.
Reach reporter James Bruggers at (502) 582-4645 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why tackle heat?
- Heat kills and not just by heat stroke. People with heart, lung and other ailments can suffer severely during heat waves.
- Heat increases maintenance and repair costs for roads and railroad tracks.
- Heat costs homes and businesses money for air conditioning.
- Heat hinders aircraft liftoff performance.
- Excessive heat can cause blackouts and put a strain on drinking water resources.
What can we do?
- Switch to cool roofing materials, especially in industrial and commercial zones. Cool roofs are often white and are highly reflective of solar radiation, and they can save energy and money.
- Explore cool paving options. Porous parking lots that absorb water are cooler that black asphalt. Look for new types of road surfaces that are more reflective as possible alternatives to asphalt.
- Plant trees and maintain trees, especially in residential areas where exposure to heat is greatest.
- Step up efforts to encourage homes and businesses to be more energy efficient.
- Combine strategies for the biggest reduction of heat.
- Consider a combination of regulatory and economic incentive programs to move the community to a cooler future.
Source: Louisville Heat Management Study