Schnure: mischaracterizes expert testimony

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Dorothy Schnure, manager, corporate communications, Green Mountain Power.

A recent article led with the statement “Green Mountain Power’s noise expert admitted under questioning that he hadn’t read the study on which he based his main conclusion.” (Feb. 12) That statement is inaccurate and misleading.

First, there is no mention whatsoever in the oral testimony that Dr. McCunney stated he did not read one of the 64 or more references cited by the World Health Organization in its recent (2009) position paper on nighttime noise.

Second, the question that Attorney Margolis posed to Dr. McCunney was whether he read an article by Miedema as part of the literature review that he along with six other international experts performed for their 2009 report to the American Wind Energy Association.  (See p. 79 of  the testimony where Margolis asks: “Did you read that report (Miedema) as part of your literature review that you did on behalf of AWEA?” Answer: “I don’t recall. We can check for sure to see whether it’s cited”; answer by Margolis: “It’s not important if you don’t recall.”) It needs to be emphasized that the question posed by Margolis pertained to the AWEA report not his Vermont testimony.  Note that Miedema is the lead author of the chapter in the WHO document that addresses nighttime noise and sleep disturbances, a figure from which is included below.

The above figure is taken directly from the World Health Organization’s Report on “Night Noise Guidelines” available for free from the World Health Organization web site.
The above figure is taken directly from the World Health Organization’s Report on “Night Noise Guidelines” available for free from the World Health Organization web site.


Third, Dr. McCunney stated numerous times during his testimony that he based many of his opinions on the WHO position paper. The actual Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) transcript from Dr. McCunney’s testimony records him saying: “I don’t know how I can make myself more clear. I looked at the WHO (World Health Organization) report and I looked at the conclusions drawn by the WHO and I looked at the references cited by the WHO.” (PSB testimony 2-10-11, page 97.)

Dr. McCunney provided extensive testimony based on the World Health Organization’s guidelines for night noise following a comprehensive review of scientific literature conducted by more than 35 scientific experts and citing 64 studies. One study Dr. McCunney cited, which is reproduced below from the WHO report, demonstrates that until noise levels of 45 decibels are reached, there is no effect on noise induced sleep awakenings. The PSB noise standards are considered more stringent than the WHO guidelines. Green Mountain Power will build the project to meet PSB standards.

During the four hours of testimony, Dr. McCunney responded to at least 242 questions, posed by Attorney Margolis, some of which misrepresented his original responses. Dr. McCunney exercised extreme care in setting the record straight, as it is his strong belief that decisions around the development of wind turbines should be made on correct interpretations of science.

It is clear that Dr. McCunney provided accurate, valuable information that will help the Public Service Board as it assesses whether building Kingdom Community Wind is in the public’s interest.

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  • This is similar to the fuss GMP made over the Burlington Free Press’s use of a simulation provided by wind opponents. Badgering everyone who raises questions about how GMP is portraying its project is one way GMP is using its corporate well-funded bullying power against the people. This Lowell wind project has become about way more than renewable energy production. It goes to the heart of our democratic process, about fairness and equity, about political interference in due process, about corporations against average Vermonters. Our Governor, who in his campaign was all about the everyday Vermonter vs. corporations, has abandoned his principles and the people he was elected to represent. If this is not the case, then I expect he will accept the invitation of the people whose particularized interests are affected by GMP’s massive wind project and go visit them, see the project from their perspective, and see the environmental and public health issues firsthand.

    • Eric Rosenbloom

      Hear, hear!