The Public Service Board has ruled that First Wind, which operates the 16-turbine industrial wind farm in Sheffield, is within its noise standards and is in compliance with the Certificate of Public Good.
The ruling was released on Wednesday in response to Sutton resident Paul Brouha's Motion for Relief, filed over noise concerns created by the turbines.
First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne said, "We appreciate the Board's careful review of the extensive sound testing data we provided and are pleased the Board recognized that the project is in compliance with the state's sound requirements."
Annette Smith, executive director of the Danby-based Vermonters For a Clean Environment, Inc., said the ruling highlights "the failures of the PSB to adequately regulate noise that neighbors of First Wind's Sheffield project are being exposed to."
"The noise monitoring plan is entirely under the control of First Wind, who chose the firm to design the plan and conduct the monitoring. This is a perfect example of 'the fox guarding the henhouse,' " Smith said Thursday. "The PSB's order further illustrates the near-impossibility of neighbors being able to participate in protecting their interests before the PSB."
Smith continued, stating, "As with every order we have seen from the PSB recently in wind dockets, the PSB supports the wind developers entirely and says 'no' to everything neighbors, towns, and other interveners request or offer as evidence. Why bother even going to the PSB? is the common refrain VCE hears from the public whose lives are being devastated by wind turbine noise."
In Brouha's Motion For Relief, he asked the PSB to "require Vermont Wind, LLC (owned by First Wind and formerly known as UPC Vermont Wind, LLC) to provide 'backup data' used to create the noise monitoring information contained in the quarterly noise monitoring reports."
Also this winter, Brouha asked the PSB to require Vermont Wind to conduct outside-to-inside noise monitoring at his residence and disclose the collected noise monitoring information.
The PSB Order notes, "In response, Vermont Wind states that it has provided the backup data requested by Mr. Brouha. Vermont Wind also maintains that the extrapolated project related sound levels at the Brouha residence are well within the limits in the Noise Monitoring Plan established in this Docket and that, therefore, no additional noise testing is required."
According to the PSB, the Department of Public Service has been told by Vermont Wind that they provided the backup data to Brouha. "The Department also states with respect to Mr. Brouha's request for noise monitoring at his residence, that 'it is unclear as to whether the request is appropriate.' "
The DPS later filed a letter noting that the Noise Monitoring Plan "does not provide a basis for the Board to order the outside-to-inside monitoring that Mr. Brouha seeks. However, the Department suggests that Vermont Wind consider voluntarily conducting this type of testing in the future."
The Order notes, "Mr. Brouha has not provided any basis for the Board to determine that Vermont Wind has failed to comply with the conditions of the Noise Monitoring Plan. Therefore, Mr. Brouha's motion is denied."
Brouha, reached Friday, said, "The order by the Public Service Board denying my request for outside-to-inside noise attenuation measurements with windows open, while disappointing, is not unexpected. The noise monitoring plan which the Board approved stated that such measurements should be taken during the first quarterly monitoring period (January 2012) 'weather permitting.' First Wind's noise monitoring expert therefore had discretion to decide that conditions were not conducive to open window testing."
Brouha added, "First Wind did not undertake windows-open testing at any of the four monitoring locations so there is no way of showing if the noise from the turbines was in compliance with the 30 dBA limit established by the Board."
"The Board's action (with the Department of Public Service in agreement) to completely excuse First Wind from having to take actual measurements just because it was cold outside, doesn't comport with the language or the spirit of the noise monitoring plan," said Brouha. "It does, however, document the continued cosy relationship between Vermont regulatory agencies and First Wind."