Utility Offering Oregon Residents $5,000 To Not Complain About Wind Turbine Noise

Think fast: if a utility offered you $5,000 not to complain about the noise from their wind turbines, would you accept? What if the noise was so loud that it caused headaches and nausea? It’s a choice Caithness Energy is asking some Oregon residents to make as the utility tries to build one of the largest wind farms in the country.

Large farms like [the one Caithness is trying to build] are regulated by the state. Tom Stoops, the council secretary for the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council, said that large projects must prove they will comply with the noise ordinance and that noise waivers, or easements, are among the solutions. Asked if it was common for companies to pay people to sign such easements, Mr. Stoops said, “That’s probably a level of detail that doesn’t come to us.”

Ms. Pilz, the local Caithness representative, did not volunteer the information that Caithness offers people money to sign noise easements, though she eventually confirmed in an interview that it did. She also would not say how much money it offers, though several property owners said she had offered them $5,000.

“What we don’t do in general is change the market price for a waiver,” Ms. Pilz said. “That’s not fair.”

Some people who did not sign said that Ms. Pilz made them feel uncomfortable, that she talked about how much Shepherd’s Flat would benefit the struggling local economy and the nation’s energy goals, and that she suggested they were not thinking of the greater good if they refused.

Oregon has noise regulations on the books, but the agency that enforced them was nixed back in the early ’90. Local governments are trying to enforce the regulations, but it’s unclear what success they’ll have, if any. Tell us in the comments, what would you do if one of the utility company’s representatives showed up at your door?

Turbines Too Loud? Here, Take $5,000 [The New York Times]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.