§ 7101 Declaration of purpose.
(a) The General Assembly finds and determines that the people of this State are entitled to and should be ensured an environment free from noise which unnecessarily degrades the quality of their life; that the levels of noise often reach such a degree as to endanger the health, safety and welfare, jeopardize the value of property and erode the integrity of the environment of the people of this State.
(b) The General Assembly also finds that a substantial body of science and technology exists by which noise may be substantially abated; and that the dangers of excessive noise can be abated by the adoption and enforcement of noise standards embodied in regulations based upon these scientific and technological findings.
(c) The General Assembly also finds that the problem of combating noise involves a high degree of cooperation on the part of various state agencies and departments; this chapter makes specific provisions for such inter-agency cooperation.
§ 7102 Short title.
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Delaware Noise Control Act".
§ 7103 Definitions.
(a) "Committee" shall mean the Noise Advisory Committee created under this chapter.
(b) "Farming operations" shall mean any activity which is involved in the production of agriculture, livestock, dairy or poultry products for sale.
(c) "Farm vehicle" shall mean a wheeled device used for transportation in farming operations.
(d) "Manufacturer" shall mean any person employing 5 or more employees and who is licensed as a manufacturer by the Department of Finance in accordance with Chapter 27 of Title 30.
(e) "Motor vehicle" shall mean any vehicle defined as a motor vehicle in accordance with § 101 of Title 21.
(f) "Noise" shall mean any sound which annoys or disturbs humans or which causes or tends to cause an adverse psychological or physiological effect on humans, excluding all aspects of noise regulated by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
(g) "Noise disturbance" means any sound which:
(1) Endangers or injures the safety or health of humans or animals; or
(2) Annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities; or
(3) Jeopardizes the value of property and erodes the integrity of the environment.
(h) "Person" shall mean any corporation, company, association, society, firm, partnership and any joint stock company, as well as individuals, and shall also include the State and all of its political subdivisions, agencies and instrumentalities as well as any department, board or agency of the government of the United States.
(i) "Secretary" shall mean the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
§ 7104 Noise and noise disturbance prohibited.
(a) No person shall, without first having obtained a variance or a temporary emergency variance from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, undertake any activity which in any way may cause or contribute to the creation of noise or a noise disturbance.
(b) No person shall, without having first obtained a variance or a temporary emergency variance from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, construct, install, replace, modify or use any equipment, machinery, motor vehicle, device or other article which in any way may cause or contribute to the creation of noise or a noise disturbance.
§ 7105 Administration of chapter; applicability of subchapter.
(a) The Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control or the Secretary's duly authorized designee shall exercise general supervision over the administration of this chapter and, in conjunction with the various law-enforcement agencies of this State, the enforcement of this chapter, and shall have jurisdiction over noise emanating from motor vehicles to the extent of approving standards, codes and regulations proposed by the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
(b) The Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security shall exercise general supervision over the administration and enforcement of this chapter with regard to noise emanating from motor vehicles.
(c) This subchapter shall not apply to noise caused or created by the work of any public service company incident to the repair or maintenance of its equipment or facilities which may have been damaged or destroyed as the result of any emergency situation including but not limited to acts of God, accidents and explosions.
§ 7106 Powers and duties of Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control shall have the power and its duty shall be to:
(1) Adopt standards, rules and regulations, after public hearing, for the prevention, control, reduction and abatement of noise pollution, applicable throughout the State or to such parts or regions thereof specifically designated in such regulations. The procedure for public hearings shall conform to the procedure described in § 6006(2) of this title; such rules and regulations, however, shall not purport to exercise jurisdiction over any person or activity not included or affected by this subchapter;
(2) Cooperate with all other state departments, divisions and agencies in the formulation and preparation of rules and regulations for the control of noise;
(3) Enter into agreements with any other state department in order to effectuate this chapter;
(4) Enforce this chapter, and all regulations, codes and rules, promulgated pursuant thereto, except those provisions of this chapter pertaining to motor vehicles;
(5) In conjunction with the various law-enforcement agencies of this State, receive or initiate complaints of noise and institute legal proceedings for the prevention of noise and for the recovery of penalties, in accordance with this chapter;
(6) Keep records of violations cited, enforcement procedures initiated and completed in accordance with this section.
§ 7107 Authority of Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control shall have the authority to:
(1) Conduct and supervise research programs for the purpose of determining the causes, effects and hazards of noise;
(2) Conduct and supervise statewide programs of noise control education, including the preparation and distribution of information relating to noise control;
(3) Enter and inspect any building or place, except private residences, for the purpose of investigating an actual or suspected source of noise and ascertaining compliance or noncompliance of any statute, rule or regulation of the Department. Any information relating to secret processes or methods of manufacture or production obtained in the course of such inspection, investigation or determination shall be kept confidential and shall not be admissible in evidence in any court or in any other proceedings except to the extent herein provided. If tests of any type are made for the purpose of determining whether or not a violation has occurred, or for any other purpose in connection with such entry and inspection, a duplicate of the results of the tests shall be furnished promptly to the person suspected of violating the statute, code or regulation;
(4) With the approval of the Governor, cooperate with and receive money from the federal government, the state government or any county or municipal government or from private sources for the study and control of noise; and
(5) Review and approve any plan to construct any highway corridor, the construction or operation of which may in the opinion of the Department cause or contribute to an amount of noise deemed excessive by the Department.
§ 7108 Enforcement; investigations; injunctive relief.
(a) The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control shall enforce this chapter and any duly promulgated rules and regulations. All law-enforcement agencies of this State, including but not limited to police forces of the counties and incorporated cities and towns, may also enforce this chapter and any duly promulgated rules and regulations.
(b) Whenever the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control or any law-enforcement agency within this State has cause to believe based upon observation or a complaint that any person is violating this chapter, or any rules or regulations promulgated in accordance with this chapter, the Department or law-enforcement agency is authorized to conduct an investigation in connection therewith.
(c) If upon investigation the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control or any law-enforcement officer of this State discovers a condition which is in violation of any provision of this chapter or any rule or regulation promulgated pursuant thereto, the Department or law-enforcement officer shall be authorized to order such violation to cease and may take such reasonable steps as are necessary to enforce such an order. The order shall state why a violation exists and shall provide a reasonably specified time within which the violation must cease.
(d) The person responsible for the violation shall make the corrections necessary to comply with the requirements of this chapter or any rule or regulation promulgated pursuant thereto within the time specified in the order.
(e) Nothing herein shall be deemed to prevent the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control or any other law-enforcement agency of this State from prosecuting any violation of this chapter or any rule or regulation promulgated pursuant thereto, notwithstanding that such violation is corrected in accordance with the above order.
(f) In his or her discretion, the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control may endeavor by conciliation to obtain compliance with all requirements of this chapter or any rule or regulation promulgated pursuant thereto. Conciliation shall be attempted by giving written notice to the responsible party which:
(1) Specifies the violation;
(2) Proposes a reasonable time for its correction; and
(3) Advises that a cease and desist order may be issued or other action taken unless the violation is corrected.
(g) If a violation is threatening to begin, or is continuing, or if there is a substantial likelihood that it will reoccur, or if the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control receives information that a noise disturbance presents an imminent or substantial hazard to public health or to the environment, the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control may, in addition to or in lieu of any other remedy provided for in this chapter, seek a temporary restraining order or a preliminary or permanent injunction in the Court of Chancery.
(h) Whoever violates this chapter or any rule or regulation duly promulgated thereunder, or any variance or temporary emergency variance issued pursuant to this section or § 7109 of this title or any cease and desist order of the Secretary, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $500 for each violation. Each day of violation shall be considered as a separate violation. Any court of competent jurisdiction shall have jurisdiction of offenses under this subsection.
(i) Any person who willfully or negligently violates this chapter or any rule or regulation duly promulgated thereunder, or any variance or temporary emergency variance or any cease and desist order of the Secretary shall be punished by a penalty of not less than $500 nor more than $3,000 for each day of such violation. The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction of offenses under this subsection.
(j) It shall be a misdemeanor for any person to obstruct, hinder, delay or interfere with, by force or otherwise, the performance by personnel of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control or any other enforcement personnel of any duty under this chapter, or any rule or regulation or order or permit or decision promulgated or issued thereunder.
§ 7109 Variance.
(a) Any person who owns or operates any stationary noise source may apply to the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for a variance or a partial variance from 1 or more of the rules or regulations promulgated pursuant to this chapter. Applicants for a variance shall supply information including, but not limited to:
(1) Information on the nature and location of the facility or process for which such application is made.
(2) The reason for which the variance is required, including the economic and technical justifications.
(3) The nature and intensity of noise that will occur during the period of the variance.
(4) A description of interim noise control measures to be taken by the applicant to minimize noise and the impacts occurring therefrom.
(5) A specific schedule of the best practical noise control measures, if any, which might be taken to bring the source into compliance with those regulations from which a variance is sought, and a statement of the length of time during which it is estimated that it will be necessary for the variance to continue.
(6) Any other relevant information the Department may require in order to make a determination regarding the application.
(b) Failure to supply the information required shall be cause for rejection of the application unless the applicant supplies the needed information within 30 days of the written request by the Department for such information.
(c) No variance shall be approved unless the Secretary finds that:
(1) Noise levels occurring during the period of the variance will not constitute a danger to the public health; and
(2) Compliance with this chapter and any duly promulgated rules or regulations would impose an arbitrary or unreasonable hardship upon the applicant without a commensurate benefit to the public.
(d) In determining whether to grant a variance, the Secretary shall consider:
(1) The character and degree of injury to, or interference with, the health and welfare of people or the reasonable use of property which is caused or threatened to be caused by the noise during the variance period.
(2) The social and economic value of the activity for which the variance is sought.
(3) The ability of the applicant to apply best practical noise control measures, as defined in duly promulgated regulations.
(e) Following receipt and review of an application for a variance, and after publishing notice once a week for 2 weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county wherein the variance is proposed, the Department shall, if necessary, fix a date, time and location for a hearing on such application in accordance with § 6004 of this title. Costs of newspaper advertising are to be paid by the applicant.
(f) Within 10 days of the receipt of the record of a hearing on a variance application, or within 10 days of receipt of an application on which no hearing is held, the Department shall issue its determination regarding such application and provide a copy to affected parties. All such decisions shall briefly set forth the reasons for the decision.
(g) The Department may, in its discretion, limit the duration of any variance granted. Any person holding a variance and needing an extension of time may apply for a new variance under this chapter and any duly promulgated rules and regulations for a period not to exceed 1 year. Any such application shall include a certification of compliance with any condition imposed under the previous variance.
(h) The Department may attach to any variance any reasonable conditions it deems necessary and desirable, including, but not limited to:
(1) Requirements for the best practical noise control measures to be taken by the owner or operator of the source to minimize noise during the period of the variance.
(2) Requirements for periodic reports submitted by the applicant relating to noise, to compliance with any other conditions under which the variance was granted or to any other information the Department deems necessary.
(i) A variance may include a compliance schedule and requirements for periodic reporting of increments of achievement of compliance.
§ 7110 Temporary emergency variance.
(a) A temporary emergency variance may be granted by the Department:
(1) If a severe hardship would be caused by the time period involved in obtaining a full variance.
(2) If the emergency is of an unforeseen nature so as to preclude a full variance because of time limitations.
(3) If all conditions comply with those required for a full variance.
(4) For a period not to exceed 60 days, not to be extended more than once.
(b) The granting of any temporary emergency variance shall be published within 5 days of the granting in a newspaper of general circulation once a week for 2 weeks in the county where the applicant resides.
§ 7111 Testimony at hearings.
Testimony taken at any hearing shall be under oath and recorded stenographically, but the parties shall not be bound by the strict rules of evidence prevailing in the courts of law and equity. True copies of any transcript and of any other record made of or at such hearings shall be furnished to any party thereto upon request, and at such party's expense. Applicants shall pay for any and all stenographer's fees and, if requested, copies of the transcript.
§ 7112 Conduct of hearings.
Any administrative or nonjudicial hearings required by this chapter shall be held before the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control or before members of the Department designated by the Secretary. The Secretary, or persons designated by the Secretary to hear the case, shall have the power to subpoena witnesses and compel their attendance, administer oaths and require the production for examination of any books or papers relating to any matter under investigation in any such hearing. The respondent to a complaint made by it, or to it, pursuant to this chapter, shall subpoena and compel the attendance of such witnesses as the respondent may designate and require the production for examination of any books or papers relating to any matter under investigation in any such hearing.
§ 7113 Appeals of final orders.
(a) Any person or persons who jointly or severally are substantially affected and aggrieved by any final order or variance of the Department, or any taxpayer, or any officer, department, board or bureau of the State may appeal that order to the State Environmental Appeals Board and to the Superior Court as provided in §§ 6008 and 6009 of this title except that the word "variance" shall be substituted for the word "permit" in § 6008(b) and (c) of this title.
(b) No appeal shall operate to stay automatically any action of the Secretary, but upon application, and for good cause, the Secretary or the Court of Chancery may stay the action pending disposition of the appeal.