Neighbors Win Court Round Over Wind Farm Noise
Matt McInnis for The New York TimesOne of the three wind turbines in Vinalhaven, Me., illuminated by moonlight. The turbines, which residents say are especially noisy at night, have red flashing lights to alert low-flying aircraft.
A legal petition aimed at reinstating a state rule for limiting noise at a controversial wind farm in Maine can proceed, a judge ruled on Friday, denying a motion from the farm’s developer, Fox Islands Wind, for dismissal.
Since the farm – three 1.5 megawatt turbines – began operating on the island of Vinalhaven in late 2009, neighbors have complained about the noise from its 123-foot spinning blades, especially at night. After receiving many complaints, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection found in 2010 that the installation had been too noisy on two occasions. In 2011, Fox Islands Wind submitted a new operating procedure to remedy those infractions.
The state agency then drafted a new set of rules, a condition compliance order, that accepted the wind company’s proposal but added a requirement that it actively show it was complying during certain testing periods and to stop operating if it was not.
Then last June, according to Friday’s ruling, Patricia Aho, a deputy environmental commissioner and former lobbyist for the power company’s law firm, took over as acting environmental commissioner. She finalized the new regulations but removed the provision that Fox Islands actively prove its compliance.
The next month, the group of neighbors filed their petition to review that order, saying that it was “politically motivated, arbitrary and capricious, contrary to law, unsupported by substantial evidence, and the product of an abuse of discretion,” Judge Michaela Murphy of Kennebec County Superior Court noted in Friday’s ruling.
The power company then filed a motion to dismiss the petition, saying that the court did not have jurisdiction over the matter. But Judge Murphy found that it did.
Whether or not Ms. Aho’s decision ultimately holds up, she said, its legality or lack thereof “must be argued and considered at a later stage of these proceedings.”