The state’s Department of Public Service is directing the Public Service Board to open an investigation into noise level concerns related to the Certificate of Public Good (CPG) the PSB issued in 2011 for wind towers in Sheffield.
A 15-page filing by the department on Oct. 14 noted that the department had reviewed sound data in a Request for Relief filed in March 2014 by Sutton homeowner Paul Brouha on behalf of Ridge Protectors.
Brouha had sound experts conduct testing at his home with the windows open, and found noise levels may exceed what is permitted in the CPG. He first complained about noise concerns within six weeks of the turbines going live in 2011. The owner of the project is UPC Vermont Wind LLD.
The Brouhas lives on a family farm abutting the Sheffield industrial wind project, made up of 16 turbines which are more than 400 feet in height.
In addition to suggesting an investigation be opened, the DPS also is suggesting that the PSB accept additional comments from Vermont and Brouha in response to the DPS filing in the matter; the report suggests that a status conference could be convened to discuss whether “re-examination of the project noise limits is appropriate at this time.”
An independent consultant hired by the DPS noted, “The interior noise levels at Mr. Brouha’s home exceeded the CPG noise standard by as much as 14 percent of the time,” according to a press release issued Tuesday by former Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie.
Dubie has joined the wind fight as a wind project is on the table near his own property and more than 130 other families in Swanton.
The former lieutenant governor said Wednesday his neighbors sought him out and needed help, and he began talking to people on Georgia Mountain who live near a wind project – a project Dubie had supported when he was in office – and found that people’s quality of life had been hurt by the project and he was both disappointed and called to action.
“We didn’t know when these things were built and now that we know, I have an obligation to share what I’ve learned,” said Dubie in a phone interview on Wednesday. “You can say yes on wind, but we shouldn’t have people that are living underneath them.”
Dubie said the noise level permitted for wind projects in Vermont is too high.
“This is a technical issue. The Paul Brouha case kind of shows that this is a technical issue,” said Dubie. “It also shows that if the Public Service Board issues a Certificate of Public Good for a sound standard, that standard should be enforced, and it should be monitored, and it should be done professionally.”
Dubie said, “This is no longer a cottage industry, this is an industry.”
Efforts to obtain a comment from Brouha on Wednesday were not successful; he worked to block the wind project from being built but was not successful.
“The data collected by all the experts is very clear – any which way the DPS wants to look at the situation, at the end of the day, Vermont Wind is in violation of the CPG and the time for comments and investigation is over,” Dubie’s press release about the Brouha case states.
John Lamontagne, spokesman for Sun Edison, which now owns the Sheffield Wind project, said in an email statement on Wednesday, “We are reviewing the Department of Public Service report and determining next steps. The sound protocols for wind projects in Vermont were established by the DPS after an extensive public process with significant public input. The Sheffield project has been in compliance with those standards as established by the DPS. Scientific studies conducted by independent third parties confirm this.”
“We will continue to cooperate with the Board of Public Service as they determine next steps in this matter,” he said.
Brouha first filed a motion in 2013 seeking additional testing for noise levels at his home.
At that time, the PSB denied Brouha’s motion concluding that “Vermont Wind has, to date, complied with the requirements contained in the Noise Monitoring Plan.”
A year later, Brouha brought the Relief Request to the PSB, in a report titled, “Outside to Inside Attenuation at the Brouha bedroom,” a noise analysis he had conducted on his own, using the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse (NPC).
The DPS retained an independent sound expert to review the report written by NPC.
The consultant for the DPS found that sound levels did exceed outdoor criterion several times, and with the bedroom windows open, “at times did exceed the indoor criterion that applies to this facility. The results also indicate that project-only sound levels did not exceed the indoor criterion at any time with the bedroom windows fully closed.”
In making its recommendation that the PSB open an investigation in response to Brouha’s Relief Request, the DPS filing states, “A reasonable possibility that the project sound level is within three dBA of the CPG noise limit at the Brouha residence appears to exist” based on findings by the department’s sound expert.
Another Neighbor to Sheffield Wind Weighs In
Luann Therrien, who moved from her home near the Sheffield wind project a few days before Christmas last year after trying to get First Wind (the former owner of the project) to buy the family’s modest home on the mountain, citing physical and psychological issues related to turbine noise, said Wednesday of the DPS call for investigation, “Anything that comes out, it’s for everybody, because it’s exposing the problem that we knew existed. ”
“First Wind, Sun Edison now, just sits back and says, ‘We’re in compliance,’ ” Therrien said.
Therrien said, “That’s a step in the right direction any way you want to look at it, but I refuse to get my hopes up because we’ve been fighting this for so long, and every time we thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel, someone would shut it off.”
The couple left their rustic home on 50 acres with their two preschoolers just before the holidays, and now live on a one-acre lot in a trailer in Derby.
The couple are behind on the taxes on their Sheffield property, which they have been unable to sell.
They have sought tax relief from the town, which receives more than a half-million dollar payment in lieu of taxes a year for hosting the wind project.
Therrien said they were told that the payment from the wind project is shared equally to help lower Sheffield property owners’ taxes, but, “Not everybody is suffering equally,” she said.
Steve Therrien said, “They’ve done studies here and there and they’ve let them get away with murder, this is just a sign that their system is flawed, and it’s time for them to start figuring compensation from the wind companies, they’ve been hiding behind everything.”
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