Article

Lowell: State wants GMP fine to fund more monitoring

Shirley Nelson of Lowell, wants the maximum penalty possible of $140,000, saying GMP intentionally allowed the noise to happen - and continue. Nelson also wants full-time noise monitoring by an independent sound monitoring specialist. ...Nelson provided the board her diaries about when higher noise levels occurred and the impact on herself and her family.

LOWELL -- The state wants Green Mountain Power to pay $5,000 to $50,000 in penalties for noise violations at the Lowell wind project last winter, enough to cover more extensive noise monitoring.

But a wind opponent who lives near some of the turbines, Shirley Nelson of Lowell, wants the maximum penalty possible of $140,000, saying GMP intentionally allowed the noise to happen - and continue. Nelson also wants full-time noise monitoring by an independent sound monitoring specialist.

GMP states that the wind turbine noise remained below set limits 99.6 percent during monitoring last winter. The higher noise coincided with periods of snow build up on the turbine blades, stated Joshua Castonguay, in charge of renewable energy generation for GMP.

GMP did not initially anticipate how snow building up would affect noise during operations, he stated.

Noise levels over a set limit allowed by state utility regulators were recorded at least five times last winter during required monitoring of the 21 Kingdom Community Wind turbines.

The regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board has called a hearing for Aug. 8 in Montpelier to give GMP a chance to show... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

LOWELL -- The state wants Green Mountain Power to pay $5,000 to $50,000 in penalties for noise violations at the Lowell wind project last winter, enough to cover more extensive noise monitoring.

But a wind opponent who lives near some of the turbines, Shirley Nelson of Lowell, wants the maximum penalty possible of $140,000, saying GMP intentionally allowed the noise to happen - and continue. Nelson also wants full-time noise monitoring by an independent sound monitoring specialist.

GMP states that the wind turbine noise remained below set limits 99.6 percent during monitoring last winter. The higher noise coincided with periods of snow build up on the turbine blades, stated Joshua Castonguay, in charge of renewable energy generation for GMP.

GMP did not initially anticipate how snow building up would affect noise during operations, he stated.

Noise levels over a set limit allowed by state utility regulators were recorded at least five times last winter during required monitoring of the 21 Kingdom Community Wind turbines.

The regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board has called a hearing for Aug. 8 in Montpelier to give GMP a chance to show why it should not be fined. The hearing will help the board determine what penalty if any GMP should face for the noise violations.

The Vermont Department of Public Service, which is the state's consumer advocate when it comes to utilities, has filed testimony in advance of the hearing. The department is also collecting information from neighbors about the claims that some noise within allowable limits is causing harm to human health. Those complaints are not part of the hearing.

The department's expert, Allan St. Peter, stated in his testimony that a reasonable penalty range is between $1,000 and $10,000 per each of the five violations. But he reserved the right to revise that recommendation after reviewing testimony from others as part of the hearing.

"The Department felt that identification and correction of the noise violations was more critical than imposition of penalties, and GMP did work to do so, and its most recent quarterly testing showed no violations," stated St. Peter.
"If there is a penalty assessed, the department would like to see those funds put toward a meaningful improvement in the monitoring of noise at the site," St. Peter stated.

"Perhaps continuous monitoring and automated telepathy (alerts) would be a useful response to the nature of the potential ongoing issues and recognizing the remote location of the site."

The PSB concluded in May that GMP violated the board's noise limits of 45 decibels outside a home five times, once on Jan. 12 and four times on March 2, when not all turbines were operating. The noise recorded was between 45.1 and 46.3 decibels.

Also, there were problems experienced on Dec. 6 and 7, 2012, soon after the turbines began operating, according to testimony from the state.

Visual inspection and impact on power output was the initial way for GMP to know if snow building up on turbine blades would cause noise, Castonguay stated in his prefiled testimony.

GMP added a weather monitoring station and video surveillance equipment worth $100,000, he stated. That will provide much more accurate and timely alerts next winter, he added.

Once GMP realized that snow was causing the noise violations, GMP responded promptly, he stated.

Castonguay said that it was disappointing that there were several times when noise limited were exceeded, but it was the first winter of operation and GMP's goal is to have 100 percent compliance.

Vermont statutes state that the maximum penalty that GMP could face is $140,000, according to St. Peter's testimony.
The fine amount should be determined the extent that the violation harmed the public health, safety or welfare, the environment, the reliability of utility service or other interests of utility customers, he stated.

The fine also should depend on whether GMP knew or should have known that the violation existed and whether the violation was intentional, how long it lasted and other issues, St. Peter stated.

It also depends on the economic resources of GMP.

St. Peter said that it's hard to determine how much harm is caused when noise is one decibel or less above the established limit, and noted that the board has recently stated that a change in sound levels of one decibel or less would not have a significant impact.

However, he noted that the violations occurred when the turbines were operating at low speeds and generating less electricity than capable.

"It seems likely that violations are more likely to occur at higher production levels and with more turbines operating," St. Peter stated.

He noted that monitoring is done a few weeks out of the year. "The existence of violations during monitoring suggests that other violations may have occurred during periods when there was no monitoring."

Nelson provided the board her diaries about when higher noise levels occurred and the impact on herself and her family.

She asked for the maximum penalty, saying that the noise caused "severe" harm to her health and to the health of her neighbors. She accused GMP of knowing about noise but not acting on it in a timely fashion, saying that indicated the violations were intentional.

In her pre-filed testimony, she cites noise levels during an ice storm April 12 when the noise inside the house was above the limit for outside the house, based on her own monitor.

She said that she has experienced ringing in the ears, loss of memory and cardiac issues. Other neighbors have told her of similar conditions, but she said they are not parties in the Lowell wind project case and cannot testify at the hearing.

"The only way GMP can keep the sound levels low enough to protect neighbors' health is to require real-time, full-spectrum monitoring and immediate reports of violations -- with enforcement to follow -- so that the turbine output can be reduced," Nelson stated.


Source: http://caledonianrecord.com...

AUG 1 2013
https://www.windaction.org/posts/37890-lowell-state-wants-gmp-fine-to-fund-more-monitoring
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