SHEFFIELD – Additional sound monitoring will take place outside the residence of Carol and Paul Brouha, following a 7-month investigation launched by the Vermont Public Service Board into complaints that the wind project was violating the conditions of its Certificate of Public Good.
In an order filed in recent days by the PSB, the state board notes that the Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS) will develop a monitoring plan to assess whether the wind project is operating within the conditions of its permit.
George E. Young, PSB hearing officer, in the 10-page order, directed the parties in the case to take steps “… to produce reliable data.”
He ordered that the monitoring plan be put into place “as soon as practical,” and that it continue until the end of October, “… the time period (the hearing officer) concluded that a windows-open or partially-open assumption (for noise level compliance) should apply.”
A status conference is set for today, in the case, the docket shows.
The PSB took up the investigation on Dec. 11 last year after Paul Brouha, through his attorney, filed an additional complaint alleging that his own sound experts had found evidence that the noise standards of the CPG were not being adhered to, and exceeded allowed levels at his home in Sutton, near the Sheffield industrial wind project site.
Vermont Wind, now a subsidiary of SunEdison, had filed an argument against additional sound monitoring near the Brouha residence. They argued, in part, the recent order states, “… that the Noise Monitoring Plan was not designed to determine specific sound levels at all sites in the area of the Project.”
“Additionally, Vermont Wind maintains that the data from the Noise Monitoring Plan was designed to err on the side of overestimating Project sound levels ‘to ensure that potentially legitimate complaints were not screened out under the Complaint Protocol,’” the order notes.
The DPS recommended in the recent matter that the PSB “clarify certain parameters related to the CPG,” for the Sheffield wind project, including the position of windows during testing, whether to adjust outdoor-to-indoor sound level reduction measurements to typical wind turbine sound spectrums, where to take sound samples when conducting outdoor-to-indoor testing, and more.
The DPS recommended the additional monitoring at the Brouha residence be conducted by the DPS and its outside experts and be conducted continuously from May to September, and concurred with Vermont Wind about turning off the turbine for comparison of sound levels pre-turbine and with it operational, “…to effectively separate project sound from background sound under a range of weather and background sound conditions.”
Brouha had argued in the recent motion that, “…such additional testing is unnecessary,” and that “he has already demonstrated a violation, and as such, site specific testing at his residence is unneeded. Instead, Mr. Brouha maintains, the Board should direct Vermont Wind to take such action as is necessary to ensure compliance.”
The hearing officer noted in his recent order requiring additional testing, that there is not, in his view, “an adequate evidentiary record to conclude that a violation of the sound levels…of the CPG have been violated at the Brouha residence.”
The hearing officer also sided with DPS to require a longer period of testing, disagreeing with Vermont Wind’s position of a four-week testing time.
The testing period will be for five full months, as DPS had proposed, and the actual testing period is one of the matters to be determined at today’s status conference.
Neither Brouha nor his attorney could be reached by press time Monday for comment.
Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for Clean Energy, on Monday said, “From my perspective, this is yet another bad decision by the Public Service Board where wind turbine noise is concerned. Paul Brouha correctly reported a violation of the CPG.” She said testing conducted near his home violated the PSB’s approved sound monitoring protocol, and “A finding of a violation would have been the correct decision on the partial motion for summary judgment filed earlier this year.”
Smith said, “The whole thing stinks. There is no protection for neighbors, whether they hire lawyers or not. What the wind industry wants from the PSB, the wind industry gets.”
John Lamontagne, spokesman for Vermont Wind/SunEdison, said on Monday, “We’re reviewing the order and will determine next steps. The PSB’s order is similar to what SunEdison had proposed earlier this year.”
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