Promoting Wind Energy Development Through Antinuisance Legislation
Volume 84, No. 4, Summer 2012
By Tyler Marandola

Art Lindgren carefully picks his way through the darkness outside his home in Vinalhaven, an island off the coast of Maine. It is early morning, and he would rather be in bed, but he is determined to get the audio measurements he needs. He approaches his makeshift sound station and plugs in his laptop. As he kneels, the sound of crackling leaves and twigs, combined with the soft rustling of the wind, drowns out all other noise. But as the wind dies down, a low hum makes its way through the trees. Mr. Lindgren grabs his sound meter and points it toward the three giant wind turbines that peek up over the tree line. The meter fluctuates between forty-seven and forty-eight decibels, exceeding the State nighttime noise limit of forty-five. Mr. Lindgren, a retired engineer, plans to send his results to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, which he hopes will take seriously his pleas for relief from the sound: “It’s not greenhouse gases and save the world and global warming—that’s not what we’re dealing with here. . . . [W]hat are we going to do with the people [when] it . . . ruins their lives?”

The New York Times ended its article there, but it might have continued like this: After taking his measurements, Mr. Lindgren retreated to the quiet of his home (thirty to fifty decibels). He then trudged through the kitchen, passing the humming refrigerator (forty decibels) on his way to the bedroom, finally ready to settle in for the night. His wife, startled awake by the sound of her husband shutting the door, turned to ask him how his research was going. After a short conversation (fifty decibels) the couple went to sleep in their quiet bedroom (thirty decibels).

The next day, Mr. Lindgren awoke to the sound of his alarm (eighty decibels), and went outside to grab the morning paper while cars buzzed past (seventy-five decibels). He returned to his home to find his wife vacuuming the living room floor (seventy decibels) and thus decided to enjoy the paper out on his porch. From his porch, he watched as his neighbor’s children got into a loud argument over which of them had been playing with a particular ball first (seventy-four decibels). Mr. Lindgren sighed heavily and opened his newspaper.

This Comment argues that wind energy projects should be protected from nuisance lawsuits, much like agricultural facilities are protected under the Right-to-Farm (RTF) regime. Part II of this Comment presents an overview of the current law. First, nuisance law is briefly introduced, with an eye toward explaining the balancing test that courts apply. Next, a detailed discussion of RTF laws is presented. The RTF regime, which provides nuisance protection to qualifying farms, provides the model for the antinuisance law proposed in this Comment. Finally, Part II concludes with a discussion of wind power and its use and growth in the United States, including an overview of two recent nuisance cases involving wind energy projects. Part III proposes an antinuisance statute that would serve to protect wind energy projects from nuisance suits so long as they conform to particular standards of operation.

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