Specific Provisions

The Noise Control Act provides noise emission standards and other requirements to control noise.

Noise Emission Standards

The Noise Control Act requires the EPA to establish noise emission standards for various products for which such determinations are feasible (42 USC §4905). The EPA must first, however, develop and publish criteria relating to noise (42 USC §4904). These criteria reflect the scientific knowledge available to show the effects of differing quantities of noise. The EPA must also publish at least one report containing products which are major sources of noise and an assessment of techniques available for controlling the noise emitted from those products. The noise control techniques should include technical data, costs, and alternative methods of noise control. The criteria and reports should be reviewed and revised from time to time.

Products identified in the report and which fall within a specified category must have regulations established for them. The specified categories of products are:

1. Construction equipment

2. Transportation equipment

3. Any motor or engine

4. Electrical or electronic equipment (42 USC §4905)

In addition, the EPA can promulgate regulations for other products where such regulations are feasible and necessary to protect the public from harmful noise effects. Regulations should include a noise emission standard which considers "the magnitude and conditions of use of such product (alone or in combination with other noise sources), the degree of noise reduction available through the use of the best available technology, and the cost of compliance" (42 USC §4905[c]).

Other Requirements

Products which emit excessive noise under the act must be labeled to warn its prospective user (42 USC §4907). The distribution of products which violate standards and labelling requirements is prohibited (42 USC §4909). Moreover, the act provides for enforcement through criminal penalties and allows any person to commence a civil action under its citizens suits provision (42 USC §§4910, 4911).

The 1978 amendments to the Noise Control Act added provisions relating to the Quiet Communities Program (42 USC §4913). The purpose of the amendments was to increase state and local noise control programs. The amendments provide for federal grants and contracts to research noise pollution and inform the public about noise pollution issues and concerns. They also develop a national noise environmental assessment program to identify human trends in noise exposure, identify ambient noise levels and compliance data, and determine the effectiveness of noise abatement actions. Finally, the amendments establish regional technical assistance centers and provide for technical assistance to state and local governments to promote local noise control.

In 1981 Congress implemented the administration's proposal to cease funding the EPA Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC). The act, however, was not repealed. The standards promulgated under both the Noise Control Act and Quiet Communities Act remain in effect. Because the noise emission and labeling standards remain in effect, they preempt state and local governments from adopting other standards.24

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