Archive for the ‘DEP’ Category

Excellent analysis of why a public policy response is needed for enforcing wind turbine noise standards: from a former Lt. Gov. of Vermont, Brian Dubie

October 7, 2015

Wind Turbine Noise: What you can’t hear can harm you.
by BRIAN DUBIE on October 6, 2015 at 9:33pm

Wind Turbine Noise: What you can’t hear can harm you.

What do you think of when you think of an industrial wind project? Wind developers want you to think of free, green electricity. People who live near industrial wind turbines think of noise. Let’s see why.

An Industrial Wind project in Swanton proposes to install seven 499-foot tall wind turbines along 6,000 feet of Rocky Ridge (elevation 323 feet). We recently learned that the developer of this proposed project plans to use Chinese made, Gold Wind 2.5mw turbines. The Chinese manufacturer Gold Wind http://www.goldwindamerica.comdoes not even list the noise rating of this turbines. Hiding a noise rating from the public is bad omen for proper siting for an industrial wind turbine. Let’s assume that the developer will use a GE 2.75-120 Wind Turbine. At 475 feet, it is slightly smaller than the developer’s Swanton turbines. GE says a single one of their 475-foot monsters can produce 106 dBA of noise. Scaling up to seven turbines would increase that noise to 109 dBA. (Noise is measured as pressure on a scale that is logarithmic, so sometimes the numbers are difficult to understand, but 109 dBA is loud. For comparison, my chain saw is rated at 109 dBA. I wear ear protection when I use it.)

So, when you think of industrial wind turbines on a ridge line, envision an airport with a line of airplanes that are holding for take-off. The airplanes are powered by chainsaw engines that have run up their engines to full power. But, unlike planes at an airport, the turbines never take off. Now, imagine this at 2am in the morning.

Some people will say wind turbines are not that noisy. Well that depends on how far from the turbines (chainsaws) and how many turbines (chainsaws) there are. Sound attenuates over distance. The further you are from the turbines (chainsaws) the more the noise attenuates and thus the quieter the sound is. Noise attenuation is also dependent on many topographical and meteorological factors. For example if you are downwind from the turbines (chainsaws) the noise is greater. If the turbines (chainsaws) are located on high ground, the noise carries farther. (more…)

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Bangor Daily News: DEP argues court has no say in Vinalhaven wind turbine noise level enforcement

December 10, 2014

DEP argues court has no say in Vinalhaven wind turbine noise level enforcement

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 09, 2014, at 1:13 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 09, 2014, at 2:01 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Department of Environmental Protection argued Tuesday that the state’s highest court has no authority to order the agency to take tougher action to reduce noise levels from wind turbines on Vinalhaven.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments Tuesday on an appeal by the DEP of a Kennebec County judge’s ruling in March that chastised Commissioner Patricia Aho for her role in responding to complaints by Vinalhaven residents about noise from the Fox Islands Electric wind turbines.

Attorney Gerald Reid, who represented the DEP, said Tuesday that state law specifically prohibits judicial review of the enforcement of a final agency rule. Instead, Reid said the wind farm neighbors should have appealed to the Board of Environmental Protection, a citizens’ panel, or filed a nuisance lawsuit against Fox Islands in court. (more…)

Portland Press Herald: Maine’s high court hears appeal over Vinalhaven wind turbine noise

December 10, 2014

Maine’s high court hears appeal over Vinalhaven wind turbine noise
But many of the justices’ questions focus on whether they should rule on Department of Environmental Protection decisions.
BY TUX TURKEL STAFF WRITER
tturkel@pressherald.com | @TuxTurkel | 207-791-6462

PORTLAND — A five-year fight by residents living near the Fox Islands Wind project on Vinalhaven got a high-stakes airing on Tuesday, as the Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard an appeal dealing with state noise regulations for wind turbines.

The residents, organized under a group called Fox Islands Wind Neighbors, were buoyed last spring by a lower court ruling that found the Maine Department of Environmental Protection erred in a decision by its commissioner on how to deal with noise complaints. The neighbors came to the state’s highest court hopeful that they could get the DEP to step up enforcement, and limit turbine operation during certain wind conditions. (more…)

Neighbors file a reply brief worth reading, to Maine Law Court

September 12, 2014

FIWN Reply Brief

Fox Islands Wind Neighbors final brief to Maine Law Court

August 6, 2014

FIWN Brief Part 1

FIWN Brief Part 2

Wind Blows Good and Bad on Vinalhaven

July 23, 2014

“If these turbines can’t be run in compliance during all conditions, then they need to be turned down… We hope the Supreme (Judicial) Court decision will point in that direction. … It’s hard for people to acknowledge that a mistake was made.”

Wind blows good and bad on Vinalhaven
Five years on, a landmark project generates power and frustration

BY TUX TURKEL STAFF WRITER
tturkel@pressherald.com | @TuxTurkel | 207-791-6462
VINALHAVEN — Sally and David Wylie are having an addition built onto their island vacation home. A patio door admits views of the woods and water, but the sunny, southern exposure has no windows. That south wall is a foot thick, and stuffed with sound-deadening insulation.

“On a bad day, we can get away from it,” David Wylie said. The Wylies are creating an acoustic cocoon for their new bedroom to get away from the “whomp, whomp, whomp,” the airplane-like drone and the low-frequency resonation that they experience periodically from the three massive wind turbines that are clearly visible from their deck.

Sally and David Wylie of Vinalhaven are building an addition to their home with sound-deadening walls to escape the “whomp, whomp, whomp” generated by turbines at the Fox Islands Wind Project.

“We moved out here for the peace and quiet,” Sally Wylie said. “We didn’t want any of this and we’re very sad.”

Five years ago this November, the residents of Vinalhaven and North Haven became part of an alternative energy experiment that drew national attention. Burdened by high electric rates, they erected New England’s largest coastal wind project, a proud achievement for a small island community, 12 miles out to sea from Rockland.

Today, the Fox Islands Wind Project is the tallest structure in Penobscot Bay. Standing higher than a football field is long, 388 feet from ground to blade tip, the turbines are visible from miles away.

For people who glimpse them on the horizon, for passengers on the ferry between Rockland and Vinalhaven, for neighbors who live in their shadows, the turbines have become a powerful symbol.

But a symbol of what? (more…)

NY TIMES: Vinalhaven neighbors win court round over wind turbine noise

April 18, 2014

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/neighbors-win-court-round-over-wind-farm-noise/

A legal petition aimed at reinstating a state rule for limiting noise at a controversial wind farm in Maine can proceed, a judge ruled on Friday, denying a motion from the farm’s developer, Fox Islands Wind, for dismissal.

Since the farm – three 1.5 megawatt turbines – began operating on the island of Vinalhaven in late 2009, neighbors have complained about the noise from its 123-foot spinning blades, especially at night. After receiving many complaints, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection found in 2010 that the installation had been too noisy on two occasions. In 2011, Fox Islands Wind submitted a new operating procedure to remedy those infractions.

The state agency then drafted a new set of rules, a condition compliance order, that accepted the wind company’s proposal but added a requirement that it actively show it was complying during certain testing periods and to stop operating if it was not.

Then last June, according to Friday’s ruling, Patricia Aho, a deputy environmental commissioner and former lobbyist for the power company’s law firm, took over as acting environmental commissioner. She finalized the new regulations but removed the provision that Fox Islands actively prove its compliance.

The next month, the group of neighbors filed their petition to review that order, saying that it was “politically motivated, arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law, unsupported by substantial evidence, and the product of an abuse of discretion,” Judge Michaela Murphy of Kennebec County Superior Court noted in Friday’s ruling.

The power company then filed a motion to dismiss the petition, saying that the court did not have jurisdiction over the matter. But Judge Murphy found that it did.

Whether or not Ms. Aho’s decision ultimately holds up, she said, its legality or lack thereof “must be argued and considered at a later stage of these proceedings.”

Bangor Daily News: Judge chastises Maine DEP commissioner in overturning Vinalhaven wind power decree

March 14, 2014

Judge chastises Maine DEP commissioner in overturning Vinalhaven wind power decree
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted March 14, 2014, at 8:15 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Superior Court judge has overturned a decision by the commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection concerning noise complaints against a Vinalhaven wind power project, saying the agency head’s action had no rational basis.

Maine Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy’s ruling, issued Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court, criticized DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho for participating in the department’s handling of the Fox Islands Winds case.

Aho had worked for Pierce Atwood LLC before being appointed deputy DEP commissioner and then acting commissioner on June 20, 2011. Pierce Atwood represents Fox Islands Wind. She overrode the DEP staff and an outside consultant’s recommendation 10 days after she became acting commissioner. (more…)

Maine Superior Court rules at last: for Fox Island Wind Neighbors and against state agency Maine DEP charged with enforcing wind turbine noise standards

March 13, 2014

After three years of litigation, a Maine Superior Court decision has finally found in favor of wind turbine neighbors complaining about excessive noise from three nearby 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbines. Although citizens across the United States living near wind turbines are complaining — including lawsuits against wind turbine operators — this is the first court case where a state judge has found against a state agency charged with enforcement; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The judge’s decision follows the key claim of the plaintiffs who proved that FIW (Fox Islands Wind) was not complying with the State’s noise limits and that the DEP failed to enforce against the turbine operator or to require compliance. The immediate impact of the court decision is to remand to the state agency and work with neighbors to find an equitable way to measure and enforce against ongoing noise violations.

For years Fox Islands Wind Neighbors has felt betrayed by the DEP for not protecting them by enforcing against excessive wind turbine noise. Falling back on their own resources, neighbors were forced to do noise measurements to state regulatory specifications — often in extraordinary weather conditions — , then engage in a protracted administrative process to clarify for state regulators the deficiencies of antiquated rules; rules never designed to protect people from wind turbine noise. Throughout the lawsuit, the wind turbine operator, FIW (Fox Islands Wind LLC), stonewalled both the state and the neighbors. It failed to produce data and information about the noise from the turbines, thumbing its nose at due process, and when the neighbors proved at their own expense that violations were occurring, the wind turbine operator flexed political muscle to operate the turbines its own way.

The Vinalhaven wind turbines are permitted to operate at 45dbA at night time. In other parts of Maine, after complaints by neighbors and a public hearing process by the state of Maine, noise levels are 42dbA.

This decision is an important step in the neighbors’ long battle that began in late 2009 when the wind project commenced, threatening health and depressing property values. But it is hardly the last word. Fox Islands Electric Coop informed ratepayers (July 2013) that it has already spent more than $800,000 on behalf of the wind turbine operator’s legal troubles with the state.

The judge’s order also notes that that Patricia Aho, who worked for FIW’s law firm, Pierce Atwood, LLC previous to her appointment as Maine DEP commissioner, “… created an enormous amount of mistrust by the Neighbors as to whether their grievances can receive fair treatment by the Commissioner and the Department… Commissioner Aho’s continuing participation in deciding upon operational and complaint protocols could be viewed as antithetical to the common notions of impartiality which Maine citizens understandably expect from decision makers in Maine agencies.”

The wind industry has retreated from poorly sited turbine locations like those on Vinalhaven where wind shear and turbine placement present significantly more noise than predicted in the planning phase of the project. For example, Harvard Business School’s George Baker — former president of FIW and chief promoter of the project — assured neighbors and Maine DEP during initial permitting that turbine noise would be masked by wind rustling leaves. Baker, former Vice President of Renewable Energy for the Island Institute of Rockland, Maine, both minimized and ignored consultants who had warned of likely noise problems. In one Harvard Business School study of the project, Baker took pride in speeding the Vinalhaven project past likely objectors. Not one director of Fox Islands Electric Coop, Fox Islands Wind, or George Baker live within earshot of the Vinalhaven wind turbines.

Around the world communities impacted by wind turbine noise are pleading for lower noise thresholds and, also, for improved acoustic metrics compared to poor standards in effect, today. Fox Islands Wind Neighbors look forward to working with the DEP to formulate protocols that will assure compliance by FIW in the future.

View this document on Scribd

Portland Press Herald: Maine DEP faces court’s ire over Vinalhaven wind turbine noise

March 13, 2014

Judge voids ruling by Maine’s Aho in wind farm case, says it ‘had no rational basis’
Kennebec County Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy overturns Patricia Aho’s decisions in a Vinalhaven case, saying her involvement ‘directly benefited a client of her former employer.’

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Posted: March 13
Updated: Today at 12:22 AM

The court decision adds to criticism that the actions of Patricia Aho, Maine’s environmental chief, frequently benefit her former employer’s clients.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Patricia Aho, commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, is the target of renewed criticism over regulatory action that benefited clients of her previous employer, the Pierce Atwood law firm, where she was a longtime industrial lobbyist.

A spokeswoman says some actions by DEP chief Patricia Aho, above, are bound to help ex-clients. 2013 Press Herald file/Carl D. Walsh

Maine Superior Court Judge Michaela Murphy

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This time, the incoming fire is from a state judge.

In a ruling issued Monday, Kennebec County Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy overturned a controversial decision that Aho made in June 2011 involving noise violations at a wind farm in Vinalhaven, saying there was “no rational basis or relevant evidence” to support it.

Aho’s decision, which reversed the recommendations of the DEP staff and the state Attorney General’s Office, was the exact outcome sought by Fox Island Wind, which was represented by Pierce Atwood, the state’s largest law firm, where Aho had worked until earlier that year.

Instead of requiring disclosure of detailed monitoring information to enable the staff to develop appropriate protocols, Aho announced that the company would have to address only the exact conditions that existed on the night of July 17-18, 2011, when a documented noise violation had occurred. The DEP did not explain its decision, either publicly or in records the court reviewed. (more…)