Cohocton Wind Watch: Wind ethics - Guidelines bring needed transparency
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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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Wind ethics - Guidelines bring needed transparency

State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo has taken the lead at the state level to bring some oversight to the proliferating proposals for wind power developments across the state.

Mr. Cuomo has drafted what is now a voluntary set of ethical guidelines for wind power companies and municipal officials in the wake of a corruption investigation in Franklin County, where wind companies are alleged to have improperly influenced local officials to get permission to build wind towers. Many times, as seen here in Jefferson County, local officials making decisions with long-term consequences reaching beyond their borders face conflicts of interest with leases to allow turbines on their property or that of their families.

Secrecy surrounding lease options only fuels the mistrust and suspicion about officials' motives and actions.

Mr. Cuomo's Wind Industry Ethics Code would eliminate some of that. It would bar wind companies from hiring municipal officials or their relatives. Firms could not give gifts of more than $10 during a one-year period or any other compensation contingent upon government action.

Wind companies cannot solicit or use confidential information from municipal officials.

Those provisions would reduce possible fraud or corruption, but what makes the code effective are the disclosure requirements. The names of municipal officials and family members who have a stake in wind projects would be listed on a Web site maintained by the wind company. The names would also be provided to municipal clerks and published in local newspapers. Wind easements and leases also must be filed with the county clerk.

People will not have to wonder whether an elected official is secretly planning to benefit from a lease. The agreements will be public record.

A first-time code violation can draw a fine of up to $50,000 and double for additional ones.

For now, the only two companies agreeing to the code are those targeted in Mr. Cuomo's investigation: Noble Environmental Power LLC of Essex, Conn., and First Wind of Newton, Mass.

For transparency and open government, wind firms and municipal officials dealing with them should sign on to the code, starting here in Jefferson County.

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