5/19/10 UPDATED Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! Draft Siting Rules adopted by PSC without Wind Siting Council members knowing the contents AND regarding the precautionary principle, sorry wind farm residents, you don't qualify for this protection AND wind turbine noise and bird song: What they sound like together AND What does an abandoned wind farm look like?
Click on the images below to watch the entire May 14th Public Service Commission meeting where commissioners adopted draft wind siting rules containing details the Wind Siting Council had never seen or been allowed to discuss. Specifically, setbacks and noise limits.
The draft that was given to WSC members contained no specific numbers and when the subject of specific setbacks or noise limits has been raised by members of council in past meetings, Chairman Ebert quickly assured them there would be a time to discuss these issues in the future and moved on. Under Ebert's chairmanship, no discussion of setbacks or noise limits has been allowed at any WSC meeting.
On May 17th, after the draft rules were adopted by the PSC several members of the Wind Siting Council spoke about these numbers as being a complete surprise.
Better Plan is in the process of uploading the remaining video of this meeting to be followed with video of the May 17th meeting where Dr. Jevon McFadden gave his presentation regarding wind turbines and human health.
While citing the findings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Congressional Research Service and the Minnesota Department of Health-- all of whom agree that at half a mile negative effects from turbine noise and shadow flicker are no longer a significant problem, Dr. McFadden concluded that wind turbine noise and shadow flicker present no potential to negatively affect health and the precautionary principle was unnecessary in siting wind turbines near homes.
What is the precautionary principle?
A 1998 consensus statement characterized the precautionary principle this way: "when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically". The statement went on to list four central components of the principle: taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty; shifting the burden of proof to the proponents of an activity; exploring a wide range of alternatives to possibly harmful actions; and increasing public participation in decision making.
The term "precautionary principle" came into English as a translation of the German word Vorsorgeprinzip. An alternative translation might have been "foresight principle," which has the advantage of emphasizing anticipatory action--a positive, active idea rather than precaution, which to many sounds reactive and even negative. Although the principle has its roots in German environmental policy, over the past 20 years it has served as a central element in international environmental treaties addressing North Sea pollution, ozone-depleting chemicals, fisheries, climate change, and sustainable development (3). Precaution is one of the guiding principles of environmental laws in the European Union.
Environmental scientists play a key role in society's responses to environmental problems, and many of the studies they perform are intended ultimately to affect policy.
The precautionary principle, proposed as a new guideline in environmental decision making, has four central components: taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty ; shifting the burden of proof to the proponents of an activity ; exploring a wide range of alternatives to possibly harmful actions ; and increasing public participation in decision making.
In this paper [DOWN LOAD IT HERE] we examine the implications of the precautionary principle for environmental scientists, whose work often involves studying highly complex, poorly understood systems, while at the same time facing conflicting pressures from those who seek to balance economic growth and environmental protection.
In this complicated and contested terrain, it is useful to examine the methodologies of science and to consider ways that, without compromising integrity and objectivity, research can be more or less helpful to those who would act with precaution.
We argue that a shift to more precautionary policies creates opportunities and challenges for scientists to think differently about the ways they conduct studies and communicate results. There is a complicated feedback relation between the discoveries of science and the setting of policy.
While maintaining their objectivity and focus on understanding the world, environmental scientists should be aware of the policy uses of their work and of their social responsibility to do science that protects human health and the environment. The precautionary principle highlights this tight, challenging linkage between science and policy.
Note from the BPWI Rearch Nerd: Better Plan was quite surprised by the commissions sudden adoption of draft rules containing specifics that had not -to our knowledge- been made public. In a process which has otherwise been reasonably transparent, this action by the commission was troubling.
We were also troubled by Dr. McFaddens conclusion that the precautionary principle was unnecessary for those who will be living near wind turbines sited according to the PSC's guidelines. We'll be posting video of his presentation in the days to follow.
THIRD FEATURE: Click on the image below to see an abandoned wind farm from the 1980's. Though the project was went off line long ago some of the disconnected turbines still spin, others stand with broken blades. The project is located in South Point, Hawaii. A newer wind project was recently constructed nearby.
Click on the image below to hear what wind turbines sound like. Bird song can be heard as well in this clip. One way to get an idea of what wind turbine noise is like is to turn up the volume until the birdsong sounds to be at the right volume. This will give you a rough idea of the level of turbine noise present.