Library filed under Noise from Vermont
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Annette Smith, the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, attributed Shumlin’s veto to pressure from the renewable energy industry and said the governor’s objections could have been addressed in next year’s legislative session rather than after adjournment.
Shumlin says he appreciates lawmakers’ efforts to give towns an opportunity to have more say in the renewable energy siting process. “The bad news is from my perspective, we have some real concern that it might put the brakes on the ability to build renewables.
The Shumlin administration and legislative leaders are questioning aspects of a renewable energy siting bill passed in the waning hours of the 2016 legislative session. The concerns may prompt Gov. Peter Shumlin to veto the bill, according to Rep. Tony Klein, the chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee.
“In my interpretation, what Vermont’s Legislature has just done is they have declared that there exists an ‘imminent peril to public health, safety and welfare from wind turbine noise,’” Smith said, quoting from the statute. Moreover, the emergency rule sound standards must not exceed an average 45 decibels outside a home and average 30 decibels inside. Smith claims those limits are not currently being met by many wind projects, including Sheffield Wind, a 40-megawatt, 16-turbine project in Sheffield.
Windham’s ban on large wind turbines is “based on the unique topography and settlement patterns of our town, our 10 years of research and knowledge and the support of the majority of our residents and property owners,” according to the town plan. Yet Iberdrola’s proposal has spurred intense debate as proponents and opponents debate the potential environmental and financial impacts. The project is expected to be the subject of votes in both towns this year.
Host Brett Gaskill speaks with Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, on the current issues of industrial wind power in Vermont.
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Lawmakers agreed to send a controversial renewable energy siting bill to the governor’s desk, but opinions on what difference the bill makes — especially with regard to wind turbine noise — are mixed.
One remaining hurdle may involve different interpretations over whether specific language in the bill constitutes a moratorium on wind over the next year. As the bill is currently written, next year the Public Service Board will write specific rules on allowable sound decibels produced by wind turbines. The rules would be retroactive, going back to April 15 of this year.
The House bill, which passed 142-0 on Tuesday and was affirmed by a voice vote Wednesday, directs the Public Service Board to establish sound limits for wind projects through the state’s rule-making process. The sound limits would apply to any future wind projects. Wind opponents are optimistic the new sound limits will be lower than existing measures.
Bray said the bill sets the bar quite high for developers who seek to overturn siting decisions in regional and municipal plans. S.230 also directs the Public Service Board to develop standards for how much noise can come from wind energy generators. Finally, the bill would create a five-person Public Service Board working group to recommend changes that would make the PSB process easier for citizens to participate in.
In the summary judgment request, Anderson incorporates several years of public record in the Brouha case leading up to the DPS case being opened, after DPS’s own consultant determined that the wind facility’s noise standards may have been exceeded.
In granting Certificates of Public Good and their associated establishment and measurement of noise standards for wind turbines inside neighboring homes rather than at property lines, the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) has essentially awarded wind developers an uncompensated nuisance noise, health, and safety easement across private property even though that neighboring parcel has not been leased to the wind developer. In effect, future development rights on thousands of acres of private property have been stripped from Vermont’s rural citizens.
“To the benefit of the wind industry, and apparently to those agencies promoting large wind installations on our ridgelines here in Vermont, the issue of infrasound has thus far been successfully suppressed and ignored.” His talk will point out that methodological shortcomings plague many of the large-scale industry or government-sponsored studies that state agencies rely upon to establish protective sound levels.
Taken together with the thousands of case reports from around the world (I personally have seen three families here in the Northeast Kingdom that have been forced to abandon their homes due to adverse health effects from nearby wind turbines), stricter full-spectrum noise standards for these large wind projects are urgently needed.
Brouha is asking the PSB to require permanent, continuous sound monitoring at his home by a third party. The Public Service Board has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 8 to determine if additional clarification of the sound standards is needed, and whether the commercial wind project is in violation of its certificate of public good.
The department then filed documents Oct. 14 saying that the department “recommends that the board initiate an investigation in response” to Brouha’s concerns, and that the department is “unable to enforce the project noise conditions as currently written with sufficient certainty to make objective determinations of CPG compliance.”
On July 1, 2014, Acentech performed the same measurements at Mr. Brouha’s home as in the NPC Report. More than 15 months later, on October 14, 2015, the DPS filed with the PSB its long-awaited report from Acentech, with comments from DPS Special Counsel Aaron Kisicki (802)-828-3785, finding the NPC Report correctly establishes the interior noise levels at Mr. Brouha’s home are greater than 30 dBA (Leq)(1). According to Acentech’s report, it is reasonable to conclude the interior noise levels at Mr. Brouha’s home exceeded the CPG noise standard by as much as 14% of the time.
Debate continues to swirl around how well wind project developers monitor the sound their turbines produce. One pending investigation into possible noise violations focuses on towers atop a ridge in Sheffield.
Turbine infrasound can be detected inside homes as far away as six miles. We know also that very low levels of infrasound and LFN are registered by the nervous system and affect the body even though they cannot be heard. Researchers have implicated these infrasonic pulsations as the cause of some of the most commonly reported “sensations” experienced by many people living close to wind turbines. These sensations include chronic sleep disturbance, dizziness, tinnitus, heart palpitations, vibrations and pressure sensations in the head and chest etc. There is medical research which demonstrates that pulsating infrasound can be a direct cause of sleep disturbance. In clinical medicine, chronic sleep interruption and deprivation is acknowledged as a trigger of serious health problems.