Timeline on the Mills’ Health Report

This is my fourth posting on the health report authored by Dr. Dora Mills of the Maine CDC, which found there were no health issues caused by wind turbines.  The previous three (shorter critique part 1longer critique part 2 and DEP emission numbers) concerned themselves with the content of the Mills report.  In this posting I am concentrating on the circumstances surrounding the report’s creation.

My main sources are Dr. Mills’ emails that were made public as a result of an FOAA query, as related by windaction.org.  I caution everyone that I don’t have all the details of what happened.  I’ll be doing some uncharacteristic conjecturing and thus may be terribly wrong – I’d certainly appreciate any corrections from anybody out there.  But at least the emails seem to reveal the general timeline associated with how the report got written.  The main reason I’m even taking the time to write about this (after all, it doesn’t impact the case for or against wind turbines either way) is to try to reconcile how this dreadful report was created by someone who otherwise appears to be competent.

The story starts during the week of February 2, 2009.  One Dr. Aniel left a voicemail for Dr. Mills stating that the medical center in Rumford was about to publish an open letter asking for a moratorium on further wind turbine projects until the health effects could be independently studied, and that their statement was being sent to a number of people, including the newspapers.  It seems that at this time Mills knew very little about noise and even less about wind turbines.

On February 9, a Monday, Mills and Aniel had a phone conversation “at length” about the matter, and at 5:19 PM sends her an email with a series of references by Pierpont, Alves-Pereira and Kamperman.   Mills apparently did some research overnight, starting Tuesday at 2 AM.

On February 10 at 4:49 AM Mills wrote back to Aniel that she had come to the conclusion that “it appears our own law is quite comprehensive…”  She included a variety of links, most of which showed up in her final report. A partial list:

  1. Maine’s regulations
  2. Pedersen’s 2003 Review, saying it “Found no evidence of health problems…”
  3. NREL’s “refrigerator” comparison
  4. Rogers’ White Paper

Shortly afterwards, at 5:03 AM Mills emailed Littell, the DEP commissioner.  She mentions at this point that Aniel’s resources are from non-peer-reviewed sources, but she is not yet asking for any assistance.  At 7:31 AM Littell answers her saying that “We will look at and do a response when it comes in.”  At some point on the 10th a reporter from the Sun Journal talks to Mills, asking for her response to the Rumford letter.

By 1:57 PM on February 11 Mills has a rough draft of a Q & A, and emails Littell et al that “I do not find evidence to support their conclusions…”  She does admit that “there may be room for improving the noise rules for developments to take in account wind farms” and lists examples from Massachusetts and Canada of regs that might be better.  She reiterates that “Most of the [Aniel’s] information was not from legitimate sources, although some were and had misinterpreted.”  By 6:23 PM Mills is asking the DEP for “other DEP data that would be helpful for me to include to refute the claims made by the Rumford medical staff…”

The emails continue, but the main point I got out of this timeline was the speed with which Mills reached her conclusion that the call for a moratorium wasn’t justified.  The critical timings are:

2 AM on the 10th she starts researching the issue.

Not quite 3 hours later (~ 5 AM on the 10th) she has dismissed Aniel’s sources and found a few of her own.

33 hours later (~2 PM on the 11th) she has created a rough draft of her Q & A and come to the conclusion that a moratorium is unwarranted.

I assume Mills has to eat and sleep and so on, and I have to admire her for acting so quickly.  However, I am reminded that haste makes waste, and certainly her rough draft – which was about 90% identical to what she released 4 months later in June – was a waste.  How similar was it?  It contains the same seven questions, verbatim.  Exactly the same references are used in answering the seven questions.  Most of the text is very similar.  The differences, and they are minor, are mostly in question 5 (“What about low frequency noises?”) and in the Basic Wind Resources section at the end of the report.

This report was made “public” very quickly, to (for example) the Sun Journal reporter, the Rumford staff, other government agencies and the Maine Medical Association before they passed a resolution for a moratorium also.  It was made really public in June 2009.  In the interim four months Nissenbaum published the results of his health survey of Mars Hill, but that was discounted because the DEP had allowed a 5dB increase in the limits that was unlikely to be repeated.  In any event Mills was locked into her position, and continues so to this day.

I find it highly unlikely that she could find the evidence, perform an honest assessment of that evidence, and come to what was to be her final conclusion about a complicated matter that was “new” to her in a mere 33 hours.  Instead, it is apparent that right from the start she regarded any threat to wind energy was something to be quashed.  Note that she didn’t ask the DEP to help evaluate Rumford’s position; rather she asked for help refuting Rumford’s position.

For a backup copy of the emails you can go to “reference materials” and scroll down to “mills—“, with 4A being the important one.

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