Public letter regarding Maine Superior Court action and Fox Islands Wind Neighbors

(This post originally published April 4th with updates, since) It is now three four years since the three 1.5 megawatt industrial wind turbines changed the lives of nearby Vinalhaven residents. In its 2012 December newsletter, the wind turbine operator Fox Islands Wind and Fox Islands Electric Cooperative prepared ratepayers for an appeal of any decision by Maine Superior Court in the favor of neighbors. Oral arguments took place in Augusta in July 2013.  Following the Court date, the parties agreed to attempt mediation. During mediation, consideration of the case by the Court was suspended. Now that the mediation failed, the Court is taking up the case again.

The final reply brief to the Court details what Fox Islands Wind Neighbors want:

1) That the Maine Department of Environmental Protection be directed …

to formulate a new enforcement order that requires the wind turbine operator to reduce operations “under all conditions of significant vertical or directional wind shear”. These are the conditions most likely to cause noise exceedences based on extensive testing. Importantly, Fox Islands Wind and the wind turbine advocates on the island ignored its own consultant advice that wind shear conditions could prove troublesome for neighbors. Wind shear is exactly the condition that allows for foggy, stillness on the ground while the turbines roar overhead, hundreds of feet in the air.
2) That FIW must follow noise standards, including 42 dbA night-time operation.
3) That the state must address the uncooperative behavior by the wind turbine operator; requiring sound, operational and meteorological data to be available on a 24 hour basis so that neighbors, the public, and regulators can monitor wind turbine noise. It is important to note than in 2012, according to the turbine operator’s own report and during a period in which it was required to maintain data by the state, FIW’s noise recording equipment failed more than 30 percent of the time. In other words, during a period of scrutiny by the court, the wind turbine operator did not even take the care to make sure its own data collection efforts worked. Here’s what FIW says in its compliance report for the summer of 2012: “Turbine operating conditions and hub-height wind conditions are not available during the period from 11 May to the end of July 2012 due to a computer failure. In addition wav files were not recorded during the summer months due to an instrument failure.”
4) That the court to retain jurisdiction for a limited time to monitor Vinalhaven turbine operations.
5) That an award of attorney’s fees be made for the portion of the case that constitute alleged violations of the neighbors’ constitutional rights. (for more on this issue, read from Page 35, by clicking here.)

Please understand: none of the expense being incurred through litigation is the fault of neighbors, although neighbors continue to be blamed through the tactic of divide and conquer the turbine operator deployed to generate first support and then criticism of neighbors. How did we get to this point?

Fox Islands Wind decided in the planning stages of this ill-fated project to reject its own consultants’ advice concerning the likelihood of noise disturbances to neighbors. Instead of negotiating, FIW forced  neighbors, at their own considerable expense, to file complaints with the State of Maine during the spring and summer of 2010. These complaints served to highlight for Maine regulators the inadequacies of its own standards, regulations, and enforcement process.

The wind turbine operator then pursued political advantages to dodge accountability when the facts confirmed by Maine DEP did not conform to the outcome they expected. The citizens’ lawsuit alleges Fox Islands Wind used political influence to force different results. The top regulator at Maine DEP for wind turbine noise resigned, to no small degree because of what happened here. Read it, here: James Cassida affadavit

Meanwhile, we have not be resting. There are two significant initiatives underway:

1) The Maine legislature should hear and pass a bill that will require Maine wind turbine operators to adopt the night-time noise level of 42 dbA instead of 45 dbA. Last year, the legislature approved a lower night-time noise standard in recognition of the failure of existing rules to protect wind turbine neighbors. We expect the wind industry lobbyists to strongly oppose our initiative, but we have allies across the state of Maine. We hope this simple measure will provide an opportunity for the Maine legislature to acknowledge the inequity done to neighbors of existing wind farms.

2) Vinalhaven’s complaints about wind turbine noise are echoed in many communities around the nation, where a patchwork of state regulations turns private property into sacrifice zones for wind turbine farms. In other words, a network of wind turbine noise activists is coalescing around the harms done to health, natural quiet, quality of life and property values. Vinalhaven neighbors of the wind turbines are launching an effort with like-minded citizens in other states to highlight this issue before Congress.

We are asking our elected representatives to support a Congressional hearing on wind turbine noise. We are working with others, around the nation, whose homes have also been turned into “sacrifice zones” by wind turbine noise.

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