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PSB Sets Interim Sound Standards For Wind Power

Toby Talbot
This photo shows wind turbines on Lowell Mountain.

The Public Service Board on Thursday issued interim noise standards for commercial and small scale wind projects.

The board was asked to come up with the interim rules after Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a renewable energy siting bill following a special veto session in June.

Shumlin opposed the original energy siting bill because he said it would have slowed down development of wind power.

The legislation directed the Public Service Board to issue interim rules within 45 days of the passage of the bill.

For commercial wind projects the board set a limit of 45 decibels outside of a building and 30 decibels on the inside.

The standards for measuring sound inside were set under the assumption that windows would be closed between November and March.

The board also said it would evaluate appropriate sound standards for proposed wind facilities on a case-by-case basis.

Annette Smith, of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, says the interim rule is actually a step backwards for protecting people from wind turbine noise.

"It's unconscionable what the Public Service Board has just done," Smith said. "There are so many people threatened by this. They just gave the wind industry full steam ahead. Everything you want boys, go for it, because the door is wide open. That's  the message they've just sent."

The board acknowledged in the ruling that it would have been hard to set new rules with so little time to gather testimony.

"We realize that participants advocated for a variety of standards, both stricter and more lenient than the ones set forth in the temporary rule that we adopt today," the board wrote. "Some commenters advocated for complex provisions that would have required a level of review not possible in the time allotted for the temporary rule."

The Public Service Board will work on permanent sound standards in the coming year.

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