Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Environmental Quality
Department of Environmental Quality
Small Renewable Wind Energy Projects Permit by Rule [9 VAC 15 ‑ 40]
Action Establishment of permit(s) by rule for the construction and operation of small wind energy projects
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ended on 8/20/2010
Previous Comment     Back to List of Comments
8/20/10  10:27 pm
Commenter: Virginia

PBR needs more work


DEQ agency mission statement from web.
DEQ: “Protects the environment of Virginia in order to promote the health and well-being of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
General Comments:
  1. The un-researched statements contained in the economic impact analysis of this regulation are grossly deficient in evaluating the impact to Virginia citizens and businesses. The economic impact analysis should be provided by the governor's office, as the higher costs of electricity resulting from wind development are of significant statewide interest. 
  2. The proposed regulation does not provide a means of achieving the DEQ stated mission of promoting public health.  Rather, the PBR places public health at risk, failing to even consider the issue of the negative ‘nearby’ resident health impacts from improperly placed industrial wind turbines.  These health impacts are well documented throughout the world, and are a primary public health concern associated with wind turbines. 
  3. The proposed regulation does not provide a means of achieving the DEQ stated mission of protecting the environment.  Rather, the PBR appears to effectively remove meaningful environmental reviews to critical environmental resources.  For projects that will result in ~ 7 miles per permit, these impacts need more comprehensive  assessments. 
  4. The word ‘significant’ is never defined and is the most ‘significant’ word used in the entire PBR.  Define significant in each context for which it is used.
The idea of wind energy sounds good, and I believed that it was a good idea at first, but the scientifically based realities of ‘wind energy’ indicate that inland industrial wind development is not an environmentally responsible means of developing wind power.  Poorly conceived legislation promoting inland wind development does not relieve the agency from its duty to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Virginia citizens and the Commonwealth's environment.
Please consider the following comments to specific language of the regulation, noted in italics:
Purpose:…This regulatory action is essential to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Virginia citizens because it will establish necessary requirements (there are no provisions of the permit to provide for the protection of public health, safety, or welfare – in fact no mention at all of these serious public impacts from industrial wind turbines. Therefore, this is a false statement and must be deleted, or in fact, provide provisions in the regulation that do protect public health, safety, and welfare. 
Mountaintop turbines can profoundly affect public safety communications systems, television reception, radar systems, etc., so a design review focused on the wind farm’s effects on these critical public safety components must be required as part of the PBR application.) 
Issues: The primary advantages of the proposed regulation to the public……proposal creates a clear and, DEQ believes, an efficient path for development of wind energy in Virginia. Avoiding additional electrical generation from fossil is a benefit for the environment because renewable energy projects do not emit greenhouse gases or other air pollutants. (Is this verifiable? There are numerous resources available which contradict this statement.  Coal-fired plants must be kept running to ‘back-up’ wind, and coal is marketed and sold globally, its mining and burning will not be effected at all by wind development.
Developing and expanding new, environmentally friendly industry in Virginia is also a boost for our economy and a significant step in creating energy independence from foreign oil interests.  There is no evidence of such a general statement. Oil is not the issue, because it is not the resource used for generating electricity.  As for coal, there will ultimately be no reduction in green house gas emissions.  John Droz has an excellent slideshare presentation that explains the science based truth about industrial wind development
The American Thinker recently published an article which is an appropriate response to this misleading statement of the regulation:  Please consider
Estimated Economic Impact.
Wind power is generally considered less damaging to the environment than most other sources of energy. (“Generally considered” is no basis for allowing the environmental damage of the massive land base required for one industrial 100MW wind complex allowed by the PBR (which is roughly 7 miles of mountain ridgetops per PBR).  Sacrificing the last of the Commonwealth’s wild places, our mountaintops, will not result in the reduction of coal mining, because there will be no reduction in coal mining activities, making wind an additional sacrifice of already limited resources of the Commonwealth.  The PBR only evaluates a narrow select set of environmental concerns ,and therefre, the scope of the impact isn't even being evaluated) Thus, to the degree that the likely increase in generation of wind energy replaces more polluting forms of energy, there will likely be some benefit to the environment.  (Using a “likelihood” argument is also irresponsible.  Without an adequate site specific study on all of the ‘environment’ impacts, can this statement be considered sincere?  As noted in above comment, there is no replacement of more polluting forms – if replacement is going to happen, the details of the replacement issue must be codified in the PBR.
The economic impact analysis must include the fact that industrial wind projects increase the cost of electricity to communities – and the tax burden also necessarily increases because these projects are heavily subsidized (tax payers pay part of cost).  Electricity prices increase – taxes increase – this needs to be stated as part of an economic impact assessment. The increased costs associated with wind power will contribute to a slowing of economic growth and have a marked negative economic impact on businesses and also local citizens, already strapped to try to pay higher electric bills.
Effects on the Use and Value of Private Property.
The statutes and proposed regulation will increase the likelihood that small wind-energy projects will go forward. Consequently, the proposed regulation may have a small positive impact on the value of land appropriate for such projects and entities that may be considering generating wind energy.  The “use and value” of private property of a community impacted by these projects will experience negative “Effects”.  The ‘positive’ impact noted in the justification will be outweighed by the negative impact to communities, especially adjacent properties.  The adjoining property values suffer the most significant decline due to the health problems related to the noise “effects”, which can reach over a mile in the mountains. The “land use” of adjacent property values is also diminished.
Again, the DEQ mission statement says it “Protects the environment of VA in order to promote the health & well being of the citizens…”.  No provisions are contained in the proposed PBR to facilitate that goal.  Current wind energy developments are causing health impacts to local ‘nearby’ residents across the globe.  The health (noise) related issues are the ‘elephant in the room’ to rural communities, which the PBR does not address at all. There are many peer-reviewed studies showing that infra and low-frequency sound can cause adverse health effects, especially when dynamically modulated.  “There is no medical doubt that audible noise such as emitted by modern upwind industrial wind turbines sited close to human residences causes significant adverse health effects…This is settled medical science.”
Failure to address human impacts is at odds with the agency mission and the stated purpose of regulation.  Therefore the regulation is effectively allowing for the exact opposite of the stated purpose.
The health issues are related to the peculiar noise emissions from large industrial wind turbines.  At over 100 dB, the noise emitted by industrial wind turbines is the equivalent of a jet flying overhead at 1000 feet.  DEQ, must consider the potential negative effects on human health from these industrial wind turbines.  An excellent documentary detailing the issues can be viewed here:
The PBR will allow wind turbines into areas that would obviously have a negative impact on local property values, especially in ‘quiet’ rural settings, as miles of mountain tops are stripped and industrial machines are placed in the last of the quiet and scenic places in Virginia.  Listen to this realtor in PA:
The local community “health & well being” impacts from this financial loss of equity in private property are not mentioned in the economic statement.  Testimony on such impacts can be found easily:
A review of human health impacts should be requested from the VDH.  Attached is a recent report on the health issues from the Minnesota Dept of Health.  The report affirms the noise issue as a health concern.
The PBR application must include extensive noise studies for any projects where there are humans within 2 miles of any turbine to provide for the protection of the nearby citizen’s “health & well being”.  These noise studies must be available for third party review, prior to deeming application complete. 
As noted in the MN Dept of Health document, low frequency noise levels must be considered, as well as the specific impacts of local topography, and the specific atmospheric conditions, such as typical in mountainous terrains.
Watch this video as the wind industry blows the top off of a ridge to put one of these turbines up on a ridge, and neighbors testifying about the impacts
The flat spots of several acres that are required to erect these huge machines requires blasting on VAs sharp ridge tops, heaping enourmous tons of earth into steep mountain hollows.  There are no means of mitigating the water quality impacts to the downstream water resources.  It is too steep to even place a silt barrier below the 'spoil piles'.  At a proposed site in Roanoke County, a DEQ Tier III critical water resourse, Bottom Creek, derives its flow from the headwater tributaries formed by the same ridges that DEQ will allow to be blasted with this PBR.  No review of this impact appears to be required.  DEQ should request an impact analysis for downstream water resources, including adjactent property water resources (e.g. springs).   
What if impacted community is not in agreement with applicant’s response to their comments at the public meeting? 
What recourse does a negatively impacted community or individual have, if concerns are not adequately addressed by permit applicant? 
Is there any recourse after the PBR is granted to the applicant?
Much research has changed my opinions regarding ‘industrial wind’.  Industrial wind in the mountains is not responsible wind development and should not be encouraged with a PBR which does not meaningfully evaluate environmental impacts. 
 9VAC15-40-40. Analysis of the beneficial and adverse impacts on natural resources.
A. Analyses of wildlife.: (i) wildlife species and habitats known to occur on the site or within two (2) miles of the boundary of the site; (ii) bat hibernacula known to occur on the site or within five (5) miles of the boundary of the site; and, (iii) maternity and bachelor bat colonies known to occur on the site or within twelve (12) miles of the boundary of the site.
Remove “or” – replace with “and”.  This is critical to evaluating a particular site.  A site two miles away does NOT in any way allow for specific site identification of particular species to be considered.  Threatened and Endangered species are not widespread, and evaluating a site over two miles away (on large tracts of land, the ‘boundaries’ may be a good distance from the actual impact site.  Allowing two additional miles would allow a study on a completely different ecosystem, rather than the actual, perhaps extremely rare remote sites, containing rare and threatened species.  The applicant should not be allowed to evaluate an entirely different plant and animal community.  The agency should not allow for the developer to pick and choose the data to be submitted before removing miles upon miles of mountaintops along the Blue Ridge, and other mountains, for investment profiteers.  
C. Analyses of other natural resources. To fulfill the requirements of § 10.1-1197.6 B 7 …….The analyses shall include:1. Natural heritage resources         2. Scenic resources.  What about the mountaintops of Virginia?
Here is a news documentary on the health effects of living surrounded by wind turbines
 Some additional weblinks for considering actual impacts from industrial wind turbines:
CommentID: 14367