Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Research Tells Us: Wind Turbines Should Not Be Placed On the Edge of Cities

Submitted by Paul Faber, Hays, Kansas:

Opponents of developing the western edge of Hays as an industrial power generation facility have been accused of many things lately. They have been accused of ignoring research, of relying upon old research, of using research that is untrustworthy because it is available on the internet, of being unduly concerned for their property values, and of being unduly worried about the health effects of prolonged exposure to the increased noise produced by the industry.

Let’s consider these charges.

In the Local Voices column published in the Hays Daily News on April 18, 2007, I cited one scholarly journal, Noise and Health, as the source for the heart of my material. This is a peer-reviewed journal, which is to say that when persons do some research, the report on their research is considered by others who are expert in the field before the editor gives the OK to publish the research. This research is published both on paper and on the internet.

This article was published in 2004. Have human physiological reactions to prolonged exposure to noise, particularly low frequency noise, changed considerably since 2004?

I suspect not. It would seem that some of us having been doing research, and that the research is reasonably current.

I also cited the work of a commission put together by the British government’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, which is also available on the internet. Here the critics may have some point, though I am not sure.
They may have some point because here in the United States, President Bush issued Executive Order 13422 on January 18, 2007, which specified, among other things, that ``Within 60 days of the date of this Executive order, each agency head shall designate one of the agency's Presidential Appointees to be its Regulatory Policy Officer….''

It also says, `Unless specifically authorized by the head of the agency, no rule making shall commence nor be included on the Plan without the approval of the agency's Regulatory Policy Office….”

When we put these together, they certainly seem to be saying that every agency should have a political appointee—not someone protected by civil service—who will make sure that all of the rule making and all of the “guidance documents” (though I did not quote that passage) will be able to be modified to serve political ends.

Thus, when a government department, albeit a British government department, puts forward conclusions, we do have reasons to think they may have put their political purposes ahead of their concern for the truth. It is hard for me to see, however, just what political ends the British government may be serving when it puts forward unwelcome truths, such as, “Children exposed to higher noise levels in the sample had significantly more problems with memory, concentration and sleep and also had higher cortisol levels.”

Other recent research has not yet been cited because it is too new. The National Research Council was charged by Congress with reviewing “the positive and negative environmental impacts of wind-energy development, including effects on landscapes, views, wildlife, habitats, pollution, and greenhouse gases.” This report was published May 3, 2007, less than two weeks ago.

The National Research Council says that using industrial wind power generation facilities will help slow the increase the greenhouse gases, though it will not help with air pollution. And it is wind power’s contribution to slowing the process of global warming that is the feature most attractive to many of us.

And the National Research Council report also points to some of the environmental costs. For example, even if proponents of industrial power generation claim that their pet house cat is more of a danger to birds than a turbine is, the report says that “somewhere between 20,000 and 37,000 [birds] died in 2003 as a result of collisions with wind-energy facilities.”

The National Research Council report says that nationwide there is not a big impact on property values of all private property within a ten-mile radius. However, it notes, “Aesthetic impacts could be important, especially when a property is valuable for a purpose incompatible with wind-energy projects, such as to experience life in a remote and relatively untouched area. In this scenario a view that includes a wind-energy project may detract from property values.”

But the NRC’s biggest conclusion is that “federal, state and local agencies
should adopt a consistent approach to evaluating the planning, regulation, and location of wind-energy projects. This National Research Council report proposes a framework that can help in evaluating tradeoffs between the benefits of new wind-energy projects and risks of adverse environmental impacts before projects begin.”

The NRC proposes a framework, but this framework has not been used by the federal government, by State of Kansas, or by Ellis County in framing rules and making decisions about industrial wind power facilities. Remember, the report came out less than two weeks ago.

Research that is more up-to-date than the presentation by CPV Wind Hays and from what is probably a more reliable source than CPV Wind Hays tells us that the county should not give approval to the establishment of an industrial power generation facility until the government gets its act together in genuinely working for the health, safety, and welfare of both people and environment.

And when they do, I am confident they will say that wind turbines should not be placed on the edge of cities.

That’s what the research tells us.

Submitted by Paul Faber, Hays, Kansas

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