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Maine adopts better standards for wind turbine noise emissions

Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM) is pleased to announce that after more than a year of citizen involvement, the Maine Legislature has finally approved stricter noise rules for industrial wind turbine noise emissions. All future wind projects in Maine, either in the jurisdiction of the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) or the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), will be subject to these safer standards. The major change is that of a night time sound limit of 42 decibels instead of the prior 45 decibels. The new rule also improves protection relative to Short Duration Repetitive Sounds (SDRS), which are best defined as high and low undulating sounds.

This week, the Noise Rulemaking Changes (LD 1793) sailed through the House and Senate without opposition. The rule-making proceeding was initiated in the summer of 2010 when Maine’s Citizen’s Task Force on Wind Power brought a citizens’ petition to the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) requesting a closer review of the current noise rules and proposing a 35 decibel night time noise level. Rufus Brown, attorney for FMM, assembled a team of experts and presented a solid case for enhanced protection from wind turbine noise emissions.

Despite steadfast opposition by the wind lobby, Attorney Brown prevailed upon the BEP-encouraging them to heed the testimony of experts, of citizens and of those who are currently suffering from the effects of wind turbine noises. In September 2011, the BEP provisionally adopted a new rule but with more permissive noise standards than had been sought by the petitioners. Maine’s Attorney General determined that the rule would need legislative review, so Maine citizens had to wait until February 2012 for the case to be heard in front of the Legislature’s Environment & Natural Resources Committee. The Attorney General and the Secretary of State will need to perform their routine enabling duties before this new rule becomes fully effective.

While this rule change is less restrictive than what citizens had originally requested and what leading experts believe is necessary to protect health and quality of life, this law is a definite and positive step in the right direction. Due to this new noise standard, any future wind projects proposed to be built in Maine will most likely not be sited as close to homes as has previously been allowed. The new rule will not apply to existing wind projects or those already permitted under the old noise standards.

FMM applauds the 125th Legislature for its acknowledgement of the potential harmful effects of wind turbines and thanks all who contributed to the effort of bringing about these more protective rules.