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Noisy neighbor?

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From Georgia Mountain to Lowell and Sheffield further to the north, the outcry from some neighbors has been deafening. They complained of the noise sounding like jets going overhead.

A public hearing Wednesday was billed as a way to help the Public Service Board develop a new process to re-evaluate noise levels at all utilities. But for the majority, wind was front and center.

"There are a lot of people in this room who are living with the problems, who have filed complaints with the board and have not even received a response," said Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.

"I'd like to see a more consistent monitoring of noise levels," said Keith Ballek of Sheffield.

"When Kevin McGrath drives up Farm Road and sees the wind blowing in the direction of his home, that means he's going to have a bad night," said Kevin McGrath of Lowell.

The Public Service Board has considered complaints from all three projects. But in most, cases utilities insist they are operating in compliance and that the objections are coming from a vocal minority.

The board has used World Health Organization standards to set noise levels. The question before them-- is that standard enough?

"Does Quality of Life factor into what we should be doing here?" said John Burke of the Public Service Board.

"I'm not aware that the concept of quality of life has risen to become a standard or a measure," said Peter Zamore of Green Mountain Power.

Utilities insist decisions about sound levels need to be based on peer-reviewed science.

"There is a wide variety of opinions in terms of what the science shows. We would submit that the Department of Health take a central role in this proceeding," Zamore said.

Vermont health officials told lawmakers last session from their review of the literature, as well as research by a number of other states, they can find no evidence that turbines cause health problems.

One of the biggest points of contention-- if the board ends up developing new noise standards, utilities insist they should not apply to existing projects.

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