September 1, 2010
Noise Free America
For immediate release
Albany: The Environmental Protection Agency has won this month’s Noisy Dozen award from Noise Free America for failing to enforce the Noise Control Act of 1972. Even more outrageously, the EPA has actively intervened to prevent localities from taking action against motorcycle noise.
The federal Noise Control Act of 1972 makes it illegal for motorcyclists to remove or alter their exhaust for the purpose of making noise. Also, the Act restricts motorcycle noise to 82 decibels. In 1983, the EPA instituted a label match-up program, which requires motorcycles to display a stamp proving that the original factory exhaust has not been tampered with.
A number of municipalities are actively enforcing the motorcycle label match-up program, including Denver, Boston, and Anaheim. Motorcycle noise has diminished significantly; some motorcycle groups have even urged their members to stay out of these cities.
In May 2010, the citizens of North Hampton, New Hampshire, a town of 4,000 in southeastern New Hampshire, overwhelmingly approved a motorcycle noise ordinance based on the 82 decibels standard and the label match-up program. The ordinance is attempting to limit motorcycle noise to the EPA standard rather than the incredibly permissive New Hampshire standard of 106 decibels.
Remarkably, on August 31, 2010, Timothy Williamson, the EPA’s Senior Assistant Regional Counsel for New England, stated that the Noise Control Act of 1972 does not allow a municipality to enforce noise standards more stringent than state law. He argued, “The Noise Control Act, which authorizes EPA to enact noise control regulations, states that ‘nothing in this section precludes or denies the right of any state or political subdivision thereof to establish and enforce controls on environmental noise. However, neither does it grant localities any additional authority to control environmental noise beyond that available to the under state and local law. Thus, neither the Noise Control Act nor the regulations in Part 205 (of the EPA code) grant municipalities the authority to enact or enforce ordinances that supersede any limitations on their authority under state law.”
Ted Rueter, Noise Free America’s director, stated that “the EPA’s behavior is an outrage. The EPA is not enforcing the Noise Control Act of 1972–and then they instruct a municipality not to enforce it, either! If the EPA was protecting American citizens from the scourge of motorcycles, boom cars, leaf blowers, and scores of other outrageously loud products, state and local jurisdictions would not be forced to contend with the growing noise problem. Right now, the EPA is as much an impediment to peace and quiet as the noise-makers.”
The problem with EPA’s non-enforcement of the Noise Control Act of 1972 began with the abolition of the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) in 1983. The Reagan administration de-funded the agency, claiming that noise pollution was somehow a “local matter” and that ONAC’s noise protections were ‘”burdensome” to business. The Noise Control Act of 1972, though, remains on the books. Since then, America’s noise situation has worsened tremendously, with more and more pounding from noisy motorcycles, boom cars, leaf blowers, car alarms, airplanes, Muzak, weed whackers, sports stadiums, train horns, barking dogs, garbage trucks, street traffic, loud pipes, and back-up beepers.
Seacoast Motorcycles, Inc, a Harley-Davidson dealership in North Hampton, requested an injunction to stop enforcement of the town’s motorcycle noise ordinance, stating that the law is “bad for both the community and its business.”
“A noise ordinance being bad for a community? I don’t think so,” said Noise Free America’s Rueter. “Noise is Americans’ number one complaint about their neighborhoods and the number one reason they wish to move. Americans are sick and tired of excessive, unnecessary, intrusive, irritating noise. The vast majority of North Hampton voters support cracking down on these noise criminals. The Harley-Davidson corporate office claims that they support quiet motorcycles. It is time for them to put their money where their mouth is and instruct their local dealerships to stop opposing local motorcycle noise ordinances.”
“Fortunately,” Rueter noted, “there is support for strengthening the state’s motorcycle noise law. State Representative Judith Day has sponsored legislation to create a state-wide standard of 82 decibels for motorcycle noise, in line with the Noise Control Act of 1972. Representative Day’s legislation should be passed promptly. The people of New Hampshire–and the people of the United States–need protection from the scourge of motorcycle noise. The Environmental Protection Agency should be protecting the right to a quiet environment. Protecting our soundscape is just as important as protecting the air, water, and land. The Office of Noise Abatement and Control within EPA should be reestablished.”
Noise Free America is a national 501c3 non-profit organization opposed to noise pollution. Previous “winners” of the Noisy Dozen award include South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, the Wisconsin state legislature, and New York City motorcycle clubs.