The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has overturned a permit for a 12-turbine, 33-megawatt wind generation project in the Saddleback Mountains. Friends of Maine’s Mountains v. BEP, No. BEP 12-137 (Me. 3/5/13). The plaintiffs alleged that the project had been approved using the incorrect night-time maximum sound level. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued the permit, and plaintiffs took an initial appeal to the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP). While the appeal was pending, BEP “provisionally” adopted a new night-time sound level for wind farms, reducing the acceptable level from 45 decibels (dB) to 42 dB. A short time later, BEP upheld the DEP permit, although the modeling for noise levels showed the highest impact to be 44 dB at one residence.
The court held that BEP abused its discretion when it failed to apply its lowered night-time sound limit in its permit review. The court denied additional challenges asserting that the underlying statutory authorities were unconstitutionally vague and that DEP and BEP violated the plaintiffs’ due process rights. The court remanded the permit for further proceedings.