Cohocton Wind Watch: Wind firm hit by legal, financial troubles
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Wind firm hit by legal, financial troubles

Noble Environmental Power is having financial and legal difficulties, but it was unclear Thursday what that will mean for the proposed wind farm at Grandpa's Knob.

New York media reported Thursday that Noble had laid off employees and stopped work at two planned wind farms there, linking the development to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, one of the company's chief backers.

Meanwhile, the New York Attorney General's Office announced in July it would subpoena Noble and another company developing wind farms in upstate New York as part of an investigation into a variety of allegations against the companies, including bribery and anticompetitive practices.

Noble's office in Rutland appeared to still be operational — papers were visible on a desk through the office's Center Street window — but nobody could be found there Thursday, and project manager Brad King did not return phone calls.

Calls to Noble's corporate headquarters in Connecticut were a little more productive. A spokeswoman said she was unable to answer specific questions, but offered to send a statement provided to other media outlets and to relay questions about Grandpa's Knob up the chain of command.

As of 5 p.m., the Herald had not received any statement or phone call from anyone else in Noble.

Representatives from Noble began floating the idea of a wind farm at the Grandpa's Knob ridgeline with local officials in early 2007. In meetings with the Select Boards of Castleton, Hubbardton, West Rutland and Pittsford, the company said it believed it could build the largest wind farm in the state at the site.

The company began testing the site in January, erecting two meteorological towers to measure wind speed, wind direction and temperature. At the time, the company said data-gathering would take a minimum of six months and could take as long as five years.

Castleton Town Manager Charles Jacien said he met informally with King on Sept. 24 and got the impression the project was going forward.

"Brad laid out that various studies are being concluded and public hearings are probably starting some time next year," he said, adding that King said the company planned to propose 19 turbines along a 6-mile stretch of ridgeline. "What I understand from their proposed schedule, it's only a few months off."

District 1 Environmental Coordinator William Burke said his office has not received an Act 250 application for the project.

According to a statement released in July, the New York Attorney General's Office received numerous complaints about Noble and Massachusetts-based First Wind from residents, organizations and public officials.

Complaints included that the companies improperly sought land-use agreements, gave improper benefits to public officials to influence their actions and entered into anticompetitive agreements or practices.

Nobody involved with the investigation could be reached Thursday to comment on its status.

"You would think that clean and green energy would be of the highest ethical standard," Pittsford Town Manager John Haverstock said. "We'll try not to jump to conclusions."

Haverstock said he had an informal meeting with company representatives when he took over as town manager in June, but had not heard from Noble since. He said the project was not at the forefront of local discussion, so it was hard to gauge support for it in the community.

Jacien said he had only seen support for the proposal in Castleton.

"If you look at the back bumpers of all kinds of different vehicles, you'll see a whole lot of support," he said.


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