Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
Wind Energy Generation
476. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if in the contexts of correspondence from the deputy chief medical officer, dated 11 April 2014 to his Department identifying that the limited number of peer revised articles and research about the influence of wind turbines on human emotional and physical health requires to be addressed; if he will ensure that this issue is addressed and that adequate resources are provided to do so; if the deputy chief medical officer and the Department of Health will be given the lead role in this area of profound national importance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26076/14]
477. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in respect of the wind energy guidelines 2006, that notwithstanding the recognised concerns, that the Department of Health had no input into the finalisation of these guidelines, especially in relation to recommending a safe level of noise; his views that this was a serious anomaly; if he will take steps to ensure that the concerns of the Department of Health are now recognised and included in the current review of these guidelines, especially in view of the fact that the draft revision of these guidelines, prescribe a noise level that is in excess of twice that which the World Health Organisation recommend for protecting community health; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26077/14]
478. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm that with regards to both the wind energy development guidelines 2006, and the review of same, that a health vacuum exists and that in the context of this health vacuum, that local authorities have a legal obligation to protect community health; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26078/14]
479. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide an undertaking that, in relation to the wind energy development guidelines 2006 targeted review, the Department of Health will have a central and lead role in recommending a safe level of noise which protects community health in the revised guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26079/14]
480. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government that pending a review by the deputy chief medical officer and the Department of Health of the impact of wind turbines generated noise upon communities and persons, if in the interim, he will confirm that the World Health Organisation standards pertaining to the maximum noise limits which will be permitted to apply and that a circular to that effect be issued to all planning authorities to this effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26080/14]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 476 to 480, inclusive, together.
My Department is currently conducting a review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines focused specifically on noise and shadow flicker. As part of this process, my Department wrote to the Department of Health in September 2013 inviting any input that they might have on the health aspects, if any, of wind farms.
Preliminary feedback was received from a Deputy Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the Department of Health on 11th November 2013, which indicated that wind turbines do not represent a threat to public health. This feedback was based on a 2009 literature review conducted by the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council.
The Deputy CMO subsequently wrote to my Department on 11 April 2014 to advise that Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council have recently updated their evidence in relation to this matter. In that letter, the Deputy CMO states ‘This review again supports previous advice that there is no reliable or consistent evidence that wind farms directly cause adverse health effects in humans.’ The Deputy CMO also refers to the limited number of peer reviewed articles and research in this area and that Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council may recommend further high quality research. My Department will continue to liaise with the Department of Health, particularly in relation to the findings of any further international peer reviewed research on this subject. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has also been made aware of this ongoing dialogue in the context of the implementation of their renewable energy policy (including wind energy).
My Department published draft revisions to the Wind Energy Development Guidelines on 11th December 2013 and commenced a period of public consultation. A stringent absolute outdoor noise limit (day and night) for future wind energy developments has been proposed in these draft revisions to Guidelines. This takes into account the 2009 World Health Organisation’s findings in relation to night time noise, when people are generally sleeping, and the recent review of international practice on wind noise undertaken by Marshall Day Acoustics.
Submissions were received from 7,500 groups and individuals during the public consultation period, which are currently being considered by my Department. Following consideration of these submissions, my Department intends to consult further with the Department of Health prior to finalising the revised Wind Energy Development Guidelines.