Cohocton Wind Watch: In N.Y., local officials shouldn't be handcuffed by restriction
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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Monday, March 02, 2009

In N.Y., local officials shouldn't be handcuffed by restriction

Developing wind power in New York state is the compellingly correct thing to do.

Wayne R. Hunt, member of the Cohocton Town Board idea of ethics and conflict of interest. Seems that Mr. Hunt wants legal protection for corrupt town officials.

If we continue to develop wind power in the United States at the present rate, by 2030 our wind-powered output of electricity will equal our present-day production from nuclear energy.

We probably would not be able to get one new nuclear plant approved, built and commissioned by 2030 let alone enough new plants to double present nuclear production. A worthy goal would be for New York to develop enough wind farms to equal New York's nuclear production by 2030.

I believe the state was wise to put the responsibility for siting and developing wind farms in the hands of town governments. Those governments are directly responsible to their residents.

Typically, wind farms are being proposed and sited in towns with 2,000 residents or less. Typically, every town official attends church, belongs to Rotary or Lions clubs, goes to fire department fundraisers, coaches youth sports, buys magazines from local high school students and so on. We interact with each other on a daily basis.

Typically, from one to four of those small-town board members are the farmers who make up the majority of the business operators in rural New York. These are the very people who have the greatest interest in the welfare of their towns, yet they are immediately disqualified from fulfilling their representative role in their town government if a wind power proposition comes along.

The dilemma is this: Towns have the responsibility to site wind farms while their boards can be compromised or rendered unable to deal with this vital issue because of imposed ethical regulations.

The latest development in this ongoing saga is the Code of Ethics for Wind Farms that was established by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office last fall. It requires that no wind developer may spend more than $10 per year on any town official. Additionally, the regulation requires that no wind developer or operator may hire any town official or any of their relatives before, during or after a wind farm is built.

If we applied those same standards to all other commercial development, we'd be requiring that all potential employees must be imported from far enough away that there could be no connection to our town officials.

I can't believe that this is the intention of state government or the attorney general's office. If we truly want New York state to return to its rightful place as the Empire State, we must find ways to work together to make it happen, not pile more millstone regulations around our necks and make the job nearly impossible.

I'm calling on Gov. David Paterson to appoint a task force to investigate the seven operating wind farms in New York state.

The task force should visit every town that was involved in siting the farms. Every town official who had anything to do with the entire process should be interviewed. At least one, well- publicized, public hearing should be held in every town so all aspects of those developments can be scrutinized.

After this is completed, recommendations should be made to clarify the process. It should be made clear that towns may continue with the responsibility by a means that is above suspicion and able to be forwarded without delays, innuendo or questions about the character of officials.

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