10/31/08 HALLOWEEN TRIPLE FEATURE! Lions and Tigers and Bears? No problem! 40 Story Industrial Wind Turbines lurking 1000 feet from our homes? AAUUUGGHHHHHH!!!!! PLUS the HAIR-RAISING " Nightmare on Wind Developer Street: The EYES of the ATTORNEY GENERAL ARE UPON YOU!!" and the Monster that ate Local Control and Resident's RIghts (Warning, this one may keep you up all night.)
Now for something that really does scare those of us who believe in the importance of local govenment and maintaining local control over what goes on in our communities. This story comes to us from Brown County, Town of Morrison.
Morrison town zoning administrator Joy Koomen said Invenergy is seeking permits from the state rather than going through the town.
She said state law allows that for larger wind energy facilities.
“I am not happy,” town chairman Todd Christensen said.
He said the town ordinance requires wind energy firms to get a conditional use permit from the town. It protects the town in several ways, including requiring financial assurances that the firms would remove wind towers if their projects were abandoned in the future.
Christensen said he understands that the state’s permitting process requires a public hearing and suggested that the towns need to participate in that process.
“We as a community have to express our opinions,” he said.
Christensen noted that the energy firms are large corporations with significant legal resources — something the town governments don’t have.
Christensen also is upset with the formula in state law for utility aid payments to local governments when a power facility, such as a wind farm, is located.
Under the current formula, if a wind energy farm is built in a village or city, the municipality gets two-thirds of the utility aid payments and the county gets one-third.
But if the facility is built in an unincorporated town, the county gets two-thirds and the town one-third. Christensen wants towns to get two-thirds, just like cities and villages.
The Wisconsin Towns Association is trying to get that change enacted into state law. That initiative faces strong opposition from county governments.
24 October 2008
THE FOLLOWING VERY SCARY STORY
GOES OUT TO ALL THE WIND DEVELOPERS
After allegations of corruption in the development of wind energy across New York, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced today an agreement with two major wind farm companies for more transparency over the industry.
The agreement will require Noble Environmental Power, LLC and First Wind, who have wind farms in upstate New York, to no longer hire municipal workers or their relatives, ban gifts to public officials and maintain a Web site that lists their employees.
The attorney general’s office developed a Wind Industry Ethics Code that the firms will adhere to and created a task force made up of district attorneys and watchdog groups to monitor whether the wind companies are following the code of conduct.
The companies face up to $50,000 in fines for a first offense of the code, and up to $100,000 for subsequent offenses.
A Gannett News Service investigation in July revealed dozens of allegations from residents in small towns in which wind-farm companies were accused of running roughshod over ill-prepared town boards and specifically entering agreements with town officials to grease the process.
“Wind power is an exciting industry for the state that will be a cornerstone of our energy future,” Cuomo said. “But it is important to make sure that this alternative energy sector develops in a way that maintains the public’s confidence.”
New York is seeking to produce 25 percent of its energy through renewable sources by 2013, but the effort has led wind companies to push for development with little government oversight or statewide regulations.
As a result, some companies – including Noble and First Wind — have been accused of entering lease agreements with public officials for the construction of wind turbines on their properties. Then the public officials vote to approve the projects, some local residents have alleged.
Even with Cuomo’s ethics code, the state still lacks a comprehensive strategy to determine where and how wind farms should be developed, officials said.
But Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne, who was first to investigate corruption charges in his North Country county, said the agreement will hopefully “ensure clean energy isn’t tainted by backroom dealings and improper relationships between elected officials and the companies involved.”
Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green, who attended the news conference in Albany, said his office has received numerous complaints about wind-farm developments.
He said wind energy is a great asset, but “it has to be handled in a way that does not erode the confidence in either the system or the energy industry.”
Cuomo said that investigations underway by district attorneys into some cases may still continue. But he said his office has no plans to prosecute complaints that had been brought to his attention.
Noble, based in Essex, Conn., has three active wind farms in Clinton and Wyoming counties. First Wind, based in Newton, Mass., has a farm in Erie County. Both have other ones in development.
“Noble has always been fully committed to the ethical and transparent development of renewable resources,” said Walter Howard, the company’s CEO, said during the news conference.
He declined to answer further questions after the event.
Other parts of the ethics code include:
# Preventing wind companies from soliciting or using confidential information acquired by a municipal officer.
# Requires wind companies to submit in writing to the municipal clerk for public inspection and to publish in the local newspaper the nature and scope of the municipal officer’s financial interest.
# Mandates that all wind easements and leases be in writing and filed with the county clerk.
# Dictates that within 30 days of signing the Wind Industry Ethics Code, companies must conduct a seminar for employees about identifying and preventing conflicts of interest when working with municipal employees.
By Joseph Spector
Gannett News Service