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State attorney general releases information on updated code of conduct for wind farms

YATES – On Thursday, the New York State Attorney General’s office issued a press release detailing the revised code of conduct for the wind industry in the state.

According to the press release, the new code of conduct:

• Bans wind companies from hiring municipal employees or their relatives, giving gifts of more than $15 during a one-year period, or providing any other form of compensation that is contingent on any action before a municipal agency;

• Prevents wind companies from soliciting, using or knowingly receiving confidential information acquired by a municipal officer in the course of his or her officials duties;

• Requires wind companies to establish and maintain a public website to disclose the names of all municipal officers or their relatives who have a financial stake in wind farm development;

• 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; and

• Dictates that within 90 days of signing the code of conduct, companies must conduct a seminar for employees about identifying and preventing conflicts of interest when working municipal employees.

“Public officials throughout New York should encourage the growth of a strong, sustainable wind industry for the public good and not for their own private financial gain,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “The revised code of conduct announced today will help ensure greater transparency and limit the potential for corruption and unfair outside influence, thereby fostering the growth of a responsible renewable energy industry throughout our state.”

The original New York State code of conduct for Wind Farm Development was signed by many wind companies in 2009 – prior to the enactment of New York state’s comprehensive energy bill known as the “Power NY Act of 2011.” The Power NY Act of 2011 established a centralized process for the siting of electric generating facilities and re-powering projects. This Act included a new version of Article 10 of the Public Service Law and created a multi-agency Siting Board that is charged with streamlining the permitting process for power plants of 25 megawatts (MW) or greater.

“Lighthouse Wind signed the updated 2016 New York State Code of Conduct for Wind Farm Development on March 15, 2016. We’ve also signed for two other projects in New York,” said Cat Mosley, public affairs manager for Apex Clean Energy. “The attorney general’s office provided Lighthouse Wind, along with other wind developers in New York, with the updated Code of Conduct agreement to review in February. Lighthouse Wind is eagerly exercising our due diligence and providing all necessary information as requested, and we are confident that the tasks that we have performed to date make us well prepared for compliance. The same is true for our other NY projects.”

The first wind companies to sign the code of conduct were all subsidiaries of Apex Clean Energy: Lighthouse Wind LLC, has a proposed wind power project in Somerset (Niagara County) and Yates (Orleans County), Galloo Island Wind LLC, has a proposed wind power project in Jefferson County and Stockbridge Wind LLC, has a proposed wind power project in Madison County.

Save Ontario Shores said it asked Lighthouse Winds to sign the code of conduct well over a year ago.

“This is a positive step forward, but we’re reserving judgement for now,” said Kate Kremer, vice president of SOS. “We haven’t seen them comply with the code of conduct yet.”

While Save Ontario Shores feels this is a positive step forward, the updated code of conduct failed to address some other concerns the group had. This includes, but is not limited to: Apex leases which contain clauses that may be overly burdensome to the local landowners, mailings with inaccurate or misleading information in an effort to encourage landowners to sign leases including one in March that used the present tense when speaking of the project and failing to mention that it has not been approved, and Apex’s ongoing failure to provide details of the project and include the public in the process.