Cohocton Wind Watch: Noble liens snare landowners
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Noble liens snare landowners

March 18, 2009 by Darcy Fargo in Malone Telegram

Noble Environmental, the company along with upc/first wind, that was investigated by NY AG Cuomo is being sued for not paying an electrical contractor, who has placed liens on the property owners leasing land to Noble for the Chateaugay Windpark.

Several property owners who entered easement agreements with an arm of Noble Environmental Power now find themselves with mechanic liens on their land after the company reportedly failed to pay a bill to an electrical company.

On March 11, three separate mechanics liens were filed in the Franklin County Clerk¹s office in connection with properties used by Noble for development of the Noble Chateaugay Windpark.

The liens, filed by electrical contractor Stuart C. Irby Company of Jackson, Miss., indicate that Noble has not paid $784,692.88 for electrical materials and equipment and related services in connection with the construction and installation of a wind turbine project known as "Noble Chateaugay Windpark, LLC" in the State of New York.

While the lien documents are filed as a liability on Noble Chateaugay Windpark LLC's interest, they also include the property owners. One property is owned by Michael Garrow of Chateaugay; another is owned by Alonso Domingo of West Orange, N.J.; and the other is owned by Marjorie Cornell of Pawling, and Gary Cornell of York, Pa.

Officials in the county clerk¹s office explained that the liens would be recorded against the property owners, as well as against Noble Chateaugay
Windpark.

Having a lien on a property ­in addition to potentially damaging credit scores ­ renders the owner unable to obtain a clear title to the property.
It can also impact the owners' ability to obtain loans and lines of credit. When reached for comment Tuesday, Gary Cornell said he was not yet familiar with the terms of the lien.

"I don't know enough about it to have an opinion," he said. "The property's not worth $700,000 ­ I can tell you that. If you know someone who's interested in buying it, I think I'd be happy to sell it."

Numbers listed for Garrow and Marjorie Cornell were out of service. Domingo did not return a call for comment Tuesday.

When reached Tuesday at the company's Connecticut headquarters, Noble Environmental Power Communications Associate Maggie Wisniewski would not comment on the liens.

"We can't comment on these matters, so I guess I have to say "no comment," Wisniewski said.

Noble Environmental Power entered into easement agreements with more than 50 area landowners in Franklin County for use of land for wind turbine development. The agreements specific to the liens were entered into by property owners and Noble Chateaugay Windpark LLC ­ one of many Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) operated under Noble¹s umbrella.

Documents on file in the county clerk's office show at least 11 different LLCs under Noble¹s umbrella: Noble Bellmont Windpark LLC, Noble Burke Windpark LLC, Noble Chateaugay Windpark LLC, Noble Chateaugay II Windpark LLC, Noble Chateaugay LLC, Noble Chateaugay Windpark II LLC, Noble Cherry Hill Windpark LLC, Noble Clinton Windpark I LLC, Noble Development LLC, Noble Environmental Power LLC and Noble Environmental Power 2008 LLC. The LLCs are based in Delaware, according to the New York Department of State.

More than a handful of documents transferring easement rights between the different LLCs are signed by the same person on behalf of two different Noble LLCs.

Jim O'Connor, senior counsel of the legal team at Noble Environmental Power's headquarters, did not return a message seeking an explanation for the creation of the numerous LLCs.

Several local attorneys consulted on the matter, but not familiar with Noble specifically, said a company may form multiple LLCs if it has multiple projects and wishes to keep the funding and liability for those projects separate.

One attorney, who asked not to be named, said each LLC would be "insulated from the others in terms of liens and liabilities."

"The Limited Liability Corporation is a form of corporation set up for a specific use or purpose," the attorney said. "Generally, it's meant to isolate and insulate assets and liabilities."

According to documents filed with the state, Noble Environmental Power sells the output of its facilities exclusively at wholesale in the spot markets administered by the New York Independent System Operator, or neighboring control areas. The company also sells environmental attributes or renewable energy credits ­ to purchasers such as green energy marketers, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) or other customers.

According to NYSERDA's procurement contract report filed in spring 2007, the government agency has a contract with Noble to pay the company $65.3 million for the Noble Chateaugay Windpark under the Renewable Portfolio program, which administers the renewable energy credits. Further details about that contract were not immediately available.

Noble earned renewable energy credits, which it could then sell, for the Chateaugay park for the calendar year 2008, though the project wasn't completely online until late December of that year.

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