New York State Sets Wind Industry Ethics Code

ALBANY, New York, October 31, 2008 (ENS) - As the result of a state investigation into possible improper relationships between wind energy developers and New York state officials, the State of New York Thursday established a new Wind Industry Ethics Code.

Developed by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the new code sets forth guidelines to facilitate the development of wind power in New York state while assuring the public that the industry is acting properly and within the law.

The code calls for new oversight through a multi-agency task force, and establishes unprecedented transparency that will deter any improper relationships between wind development companies and local government officials.

"Wind power is an exciting industry for the state that will be a cornerstone of our energy future. But it is important to make sure that this alternative energy sector develops in a way that maintains the public's confidence, and that is what this new Code of Conduct does," said Attorney General Cuomo.

The first companies to sign the attorney general's Wind Industry Ethics Code are Noble Environmental Power based in Essex, Connecticut; and First Wind, formerly known as UPC Wind, based in Newton, Massachusetts.

Both companies currently operate wind farms in New York and have several others in development.

"I commend Noble and First Wind for taking the lead by adopting this code, and we fully expect other companies that want to develop wind farms in New York to follow suit," Cuomo said.

Both Noble and First Wind fully cooperated in the inquiry and their assistance was instrumental in developing the new Code of Conduct, Cuomo said.

Walter Howard, Noble's president and chief executive, said, "Noble has always been fully committed to the ethical and transparent development of renewable resources, and has supported the work of the attorney general and his staff in the development of the new Wind Industry Ethics Code. We are gratified that going forward there will be clear guidelines with respect to ethical behavior and conflict of interest, and are committed to continuing to operate in conformity with the principles laid out today in this Code."

Paul Gaynor, president and chief executive of First Wind said, "We have always held ourselves to high standards, and we hope that other firms will join us in signing on to this Code of Conduct. We believe it is good for us, good for the industry and good for New York."

The Code:

  • Bans wind companies from hiring municipal employees or their relatives, giving gifts of more than $10 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
  • Dictates that within thirty days of signing the Wind Industry Ethics Code, companies must conduct a seminar for employees about identifying and preventing conflicts of interest when working with municipal employees

Attorney General Cuomo is creating a new task force that will monitor wind companies to ensure they are in compliance with the code of conduct.

Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, is on the seven-member task force. "Good ethics requirements helps build a better business climate," he said. "Companies that play by the rules should never be put at a competitive disadvantage. And the public should know that private-public deals are made in the public's best interest. This code will help ensure that this important industry grows and prospers in New York."

A representative from the Office of the Attorney General will sit on the task force, which also includes district attorneys from Franklin, Monroe and Wyoming counties, and the executive directors of the New York State associations of counties and towns.

"Local governments have taken the lead in siting wind energy generating facilities, which provide essential renewable energy into the electrical grid," said New York State Association of Counties Executive Director Stephen Acquario.

"Simultaneously, county ethics boards continue to take their role in policing conflicts of interest pertaining to the siting of wind power very seriously," said Acquario. "Attorney General Cuomo's Code of Conduct is an important step in helping make sure public confidence remains strong as this burgeoning industry develops across our counties." {Photo: The 100 megawatt Noble Bliss Windpark in Bliss, Wyoming County, New York (Photo courtesy Noble Environmental Power)}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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