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PSB opens investigation into noise levels at Sheffield wind site

The Vermont Public Service Board has opened an investigation into whether the Sheffield wind project has violated noise level conditions set in its Certificate of Public Good.

The order and notice of pre-hearing conference was issued Friday by the PSB, which noted the matter was brought forward by Sutton resident Paul Brouha, who lives near the industrial wind project.

Brouha raised concerns regarding noise levels at his residence in early March 2014 related to the project operated by Vermont Wind. He alleged at the time that the project was exceeding its permitted levels of 30 dBA.

Brouha provided the PSB with a copy of a report written by the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse which assessed sound levels at his home, according to the 4-page order entered by the PSB on Friday.

“Based on the comments filed by Mr. Brouha, the Department (of Public Service, DPS) and Vermont Wind, the Board has decided to open an investigation in response to Mr. Brouha’s complaint,” Friday’s PSB order states. “The hearing officer should consider whether additional clarification of the sound standards is needed to assess compliance (with the CPG), and whether, based on those standards, the project is in compliance with that CPG.”

That hearing has been set for Jan. 8, at 2:30 p.m. in the PSB Hearing Room, on the third floor of People’s United Bank Building, 112 State St., Montpelier.

Brouha could not be reached for comment by press time on Tuesday.

John Lamontagne, spokesman for the wind company, stated in an email Tuesday, “We have fully cooperated with the Public Service Board throughout this process and will continue to participate going forward.”

“The sound protocols for wind projects in Vermont were established by the DPS after an extensive public process with significant public input – from opponents and proponents of wind power – over many months,” stated Lamontagne. “The Sheffield project has been in compliance with the standards as established by the DPS, which has been confirmed via independent third-party testing.”

Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, which has worked with families who live near the Sheffield wind site, said Tuesday, “As is the case for the many people who have complained about noise from wind turbines in Vermont, it is hard to know what to say anymore.”

“People have been complaining for more than three years,” Smith stated in an email. “The PSB just opened a new docket to investigate a very narrow issue. I am not a lawyer and do not understand what they are doing. Since the beginning of operations, people have complained about the noise from the Sheffield wind turbines. That’s four years!”

“The process does not have a clear path towards resolution of noise complaints from the Sheffield wind project,” Smith said. “A similar new investigation docket is taking place for the Georgia Mountain wind project, where a mid-Sept. complaint resulted in a Nov. 30 prehearing conference. More work for lawyers, no relief for neighbors who can’t sleep.”

“We need the legislature to take hold of this issue,” Smith concluded. “The PSB has failed.”

Luann Therrien, who moved last year from the home she and her husband had shared with their two young children very close to several of the turbines at the Sheffield wind project, said Tuesday, “First Wind/SunEdison has been caught out of compliance, their CPG should be revoked.”

“In their agreement with the State, it is stated that if there were any noise issues to any land owners close to the projects that they would work to make it right with the landowners,” said Therrien. “We have seen no evidence of this from either First Wind/SunEdison or in the State forcing them to uphold their end of the bargain.”

“So existing victims are forced to endure further abuse from these corporations while the PSB is looking to approve future projects that will create more victims,” said Therrien. “The process is flawed, existing problems are swept under the rug. Until the existing complaints are dealt with and resolved no future projects should be approved.