Dr. Robert McCunney was one of the seven authors of the December 2009 AWEA/CanWEA Expert Panel Review on health, which I critiqued and more importantly the Society for Wind Vigilance critiqued. Following the Review, McCunney has continued making appearances to different groups to present his opinions on the health issues of wind turbines, and has more recently appeared as an expert in hearings in Vermont. He has solid credentials, MIT and all, but when you get past his predictably professional-sounding assertions, you end up discovering that either he didn’t do his homework or he is in the pocket of the wind industry. I’ll let you decide.
Our story starts in May 2010, when Dr. McCunney and Dr. Nissenbaum appeared together for an informal debate [backup link] in Vermont. Videos of this session are available, compliments of Better Plan Wisconsin. In them, McCunney lays out his case why he thinks wind turbines cannot be the direct cause of health issues.
- Part One: Introduction and opening remarks by Dr. McCunney
- Part Two: Dr. McCunney
- Part Three; Dr. McCunney
- Part Four: Conclusion by Dr. McCunney, Opening remarks by Dr. Nissenbaum
- Part Five: Dr. Nissenbaum
- Part Six: Dr. Nissenbaum
- Part Seven: Dr. Nissenbaum concluding remarks and questions for Dr. Nissenbaum and Dr. McCunney
- Part Eight: questions for Dr. Nissenbaum and Dr. McCunney
- Part Nine: questions for Dr. Nissenbaum and Dr. McCunney
McCunney certainly sounds authoritative, but certain aspects of his presentation were bothersome. A large part of his information was drawn the three studies of Pedersen and Vandenberg. I have reviewed them in detail, and I reiterate here that these were at best annoyance studies and were never intended to be health studies. So already he is stretching his references beyond their intent. Plus he forgets to mention some of the inconvenient details in these studies, like this chart, which contradicts his comments on the video:Or this chart, which contradicts his statements and one of his slides (he showed just the lowest numbers):
The next time McCunney appeared on my radar was his July 15, 2010 appearance in Falmouth [backup links]. It was a meeting before a number of people, some of whom had experienced first-hand the effects of living close to (in this case, just one!) a wind turbine. They were curious if their symptoms – all of which should be familiar to us by now – were due to the noise or were “in their heads”. His explanation indicated their symptoms were due to annoyance, which in turn was due to their dislike of turbines. He had no explanation why presumably disinterested kids as well as people on record as supporting turbines were also having problems. He also ignores the possibility that maybe the annoyance leads to the dislike instead of the wind industry’s preferred other way around.
I thought his statements were disingenuous enough that I started a posting on his activities, but never published it.
Lowell Mountain, VT
Green Mountain Power is a developer who needed a noise expert to testify in a hearing regarding a project on Lowell. So they hired McCunney. There’s nothing like a courtroom with a well-prepared lawyer [backup link] to expose just what kind of crappy research you’ve been doing. It turns out that McCunney hadn’t even read the reference he used to bolster his main point – that “the risk of any adverse health effect at levels below 45dB (A) is virtually non-existent” (Question 7, line 1, page 5 of his testimony). That would have been obvious to anyone reading the reference (Miedema 2003) since it didn’t say anything about wind turbines and health. In fact, it didn’t discuss wind turbines at all – it was about transportation noise! Furthermore, it contained the following flowchart:
So how did McCunney even find this reference? Apparently he found it in the WHO Night Noise Guidelines for Europe and assumed it supported his position. This is something you’d expect a jerk-off student to do. But even this explanation seems odd. There are several references to Miedema’s work in the NNGE, but nothing that would lead one to single it out for supporting any position on wind turbine noise. So I don’t know what process he used to get to his conclusion. Maybe he didn’t use any. At least that would be consistent with his earlier efforts.
McCunney’s testimony got quick responses from two people whose work he criticized. Dr. Pierpont went through his testimony and made quick comments [backup link] on the problematic parts of it. Dr. Salt did the same [backup link]: “These statements by Dr McCunney are absolutely false.” Ouch.
As hard as Pierpont and Salt hit back, the prize goes to Dr. Lovko. His introductory testimony [backup link] is quite readable (for testimony), but where he really gets going is in his rebuttal to McCunney [backup link]. If you want a clear comparison of what the research says versus what McCunney says it says, please read through this. And remember that McCunney’s misuse is not unique – every “health study” (Colby, AWEA/CanWEA, King, NHMRC and Mills) has done the very same thing.
I just have to wonder – what is it about some people that makes them so unwilling to listen to the suffering of their fellow humans?