EPA produced a model noise ordinance in 1975, it is out of date today.

The American National Standards Institute’s Accredited Standards Committee S12 Noise is working to produce a standard with guidelines for developing community noise ordinances or regulations to inform communities (ANSI, 2009). The sponsor of this effort, the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) Committee on Standards S12 Working Group 41, has a draft document for comments from working group members before it is submitted for voting as an ANSI standard. If it is adopted, this standard will provide a menu of options to guide local communities in establishing enforceable, practical noise ordinances. The draft standard is expected to be voted on in 2010.

Thanks to corporate sponsorship, ASA has made ANSI S12.60 available for free download; this standard pertains to acoustics in classrooms (ASA, 2009). ASA would perform a public service if it could also provide free guidance on community noise ordinances.


The noise-related activities of many federal government agencies are described elsewhere in this report. With respect to the federal government, the emphasis in this chapter is on current mechanisms of federal interagency cooperation and the characteristics of a new organization that would require congressional action to create. Less emphasis has been placed on the role of state and local governments; these activities are difficult to describe briefly and, with the exception of work on highway pavement, do not generally involve technology. Under current law, there are opportunities for EPA to provide assistance to state and local governments, which could help in the coordination of noise-related activities.


Although EPA currently has a small program related to noise, the agency has the authority under the U.S. Code to do much more. It appears that if new tasks are assigned to another department in the federal government, the law will have to be changed. EPA, however, could carry out these tasks if Congress appropriated the necessary funds.

Of several models of federal cooperation related to noise activities, the existing model most suitable for a new organization in EPA is JPDO, which is involved in policy, R&D, and cooperation with industry. As noted by the Administrative Conference of the United States (see Shapiro, 1991) and reports by others, many items related to noise regulation could be addressed. Until these items are addressed, it will be difficult to make progress on noise control.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides regular reports to Congress in a series titled Noise Abatement and Control: An Overview of Federal Standards and Regulations; in addition, three annual reports are available (CRS, 2000, 2003, 2006). CRS should be asked to prepare a new report to Congress outlining policy options and encouraging congressional action to develop a new noise policy.

Recommendation 8-1: The Environmental Protection Agency should carry out its coordinating function under 42 USC 65, Section 4903. The agencies with noise-related activities include the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Science Foundation.

Recommendation 8-2: Congress should pass legislation and provide the necessary funds to establish the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead agency in the development of a cooperative effort on noise measurement, abatement, and control involving federal agencies, state governments, industry, consulting firms, and academia. An EPA office should implement 42 USC 65, Section 4903, and the legislation should expand the authority already given by Congress to ensure that the agency can effectively manage a program to meet the following objectives:

  • coordination and cooperation among existing interagency groups concerned with noise

  • clear delineation of the roles of federal agencies, as well as state and local governments

  • assisting American industry in lowering noise levels in the U.S. workplace and developing industrial and consumer products with noise emissions that are competitive with foreign products

  • development of international standards for the measurement and labeling of noise emissions

  • active U.S. participation in the harmonization of noise emission requirements worldwide

  • development of metrics for environmental noise that truly represent community response to noise

  • ongoing assessment of the costs and benefits of noise control

  • increased research on the health effects of noise, especially nonauditory effects


ADC40 (Transportation Research Board Committee on Transportation Noise and Vibration). 2009. ADC40 Membership List. Available online at http://www.adc40.org/adc40membershiplist.pdf.

ANSI (American National Standards Institute). 2009. Accredited Standards Committee S12, Noise. Working Group 41 (ANSI S12/WG41), Model Community Noise Ordinances. Available online at http://www.acosoc.org/standards/S12/ASCS12.htm.

ASA (Acoustical Society of America). 2009. American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools. Available online at http://asastore.aip.org/.

Brooks, B.M. 2001. The Need for a Unified Community Noise Policy. Proceedings of NOISE-CON 01, The 2001 National Conference on Noise

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