Noise: It’s one of the most common complaints in communities with wind farms and one of the least understood in terms of health impacts. That is, until October 2018, when the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new noise guidelines, which capped community exposure to wind turbine noise at 45 decibels.*
On Feb. 8, 2019, 140 Chautauqua County residents signed a petition to the state asking that these new standards for wind turbine sound be included in the regulations for the Cassadaga Wind’s Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need. Cassadaga Wind’s certificate, which was issued in January 2018, only limits turbine noise to this level during eight consecutive nighttime hours.
“Since (wind company) Innogy will need to comply with current WHO standards in Steuben County, and since the Cassadaga facility is not yet fully permitted, it appears to the petition signers that this amendment request is timely and should be approved,” petition signer and Fredonia resident Mark Twichell told the OBSERVER in a February 2019 email.
However, according to Secretary Kathleen H. Burgess of the state board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, the request was neither timely nor appropriate. In fact, it was approximately one year too late, according to Burgess.
In a letter dated March 29, 2019, Burgess responded to Twichell: “A request for amendment(s) to an Article 10 Certificate is not a remedy available to parties to the case other than the Certificate Holder.”
Burgess went on to explain that only the certificate holder – Cassadaga Wind, LLC – could petition the siting board to amend their certificate and that requests to amend the certificate made by any other party would be interpreted as requests for rehearing, “the avenue available to any party aggrieved by a decision by the Siting Board.”
Burgess cited article 170 of the Public Service Law, which states that any request for a rehearing must be made within 30 days of the issuance of the siting board’s decision. Since the siting board granted Cassadaga Wind the necessary certificate on January 17, 2018, any request for a rehearing had to be filed by Feb. 16, 2018. “Therefore, your request for rehearing of Certificate Conditions 80 and 81 is time barred,” Burgess concluded.
Twichell was disappointed in the brevity of Burgess’ response. “No explanation is given for the reason for the denial beyond the Secretary’s observation that the time period for requesting a hearing has expired,” Twichell told the OBSERVER last week. He noted that the petitioners were not asking for a rehearing, but for an amendment provided for under article 16 NYCRR 1000.16(b) of the Public Service Law: “The Siting Board, however, may consider on its own motion the amendment, revocation or suspension of a Certificate.”
Based on a recent decision made by John R. Rhodes, chair of the siting board, Twichell had good reason to be optimistic about the amendment request. In January 2019, Rhodes objected to two wind companies’ applications for Article 10 certificates because they did not meet the new WHO guidelines issued in October. “We asked for the same consideration of protection that these two other wind projects have received,” Twichell explained. “…We understand, as the law states, that such a request as ours is dependent on all parties including the developer agreeing to the proposed amendments.”
Twichell, in his April 9, 2019 response to Burgess’ letter, references New York State Department of Health document DOH-1, which appears on Document and Matter Management for Bluestone Wind, LLC and advocates for compliance with the new WHO guidelines. “The document is relevant to Cassadaga because it contains the Department’s interpretation of recent World Health Organization findings in the advisement of wind turbine noise exposure,” Twichell stated.
Additionally, Twichell stated that “the denial does not specifically relate to 16 NYCRR S. 1000.16(f) under which the Siting Board may consider on its own motion the amendment of a Certificate.” Twichell concluded by saying, “the Siting Board has not given a reason based on its merits for the petition’s denial.”
Twichell’s full nine-point rebuttal to Burgess’ letter is available to view on the state department of public service website at dps.ny.gov, case number 14-F-0490 for Cassadaga Wind, LLC.
*The 45 dB(A) limit is at the most exposed facade outside and represents the average (as opposed to maximum) level, with levels at night weighted +10 dB. [NWW note]