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Updates

 

Report from Prattsburgh

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week "the launching of an investigation into two companies developing and operating wind farms across New York State amid allegations of improper dealings with public officials and anti-competitive practices."

Under investigation is our very own "First Wind", formerly known variously as "UPC" and "Global Winds Harvest". First Wind, as the developer of Windfarm Prattsburgh, has pressed the Prattsburgh Town Board to initiate condemnation proceedings and exercise eminent domain for their benefit. While we are hopeful that that the Attorney General's investigation will lead to proper regulation of windfarms across the state, it is still necessary for us to continue the legal strategies that are underway.

For this reason, Advocates for Prattsburgh is proceeding with its Article 78 to annul the decisions of the Town Board to proceed with eminent domain. As we mentioned earlier in Latest News, the tie-breaking vote was cast by Town Supervisor Harold McConnell, who refused to recues himself, even after admitting he receiving money from First Wind. We are doing as much as is humanly possible to get these projects properly regulated, and we need your financial support for legal fund. Please send your donations to Advocates for Prattsburgh, Box 221, Prattsburgh, NY 14873.

Another pressing concern is that, at the same time that First Wind - owner of Windfarm Prattsburgh - is under investigation, the other windfarm developer operating in Prattsburgh - Ecogen - seems to have stepped up its attempts to acquire easements for transmission lines as well as new sites for towers. People have reported finding four-wheeler tracks as well as surveyor's marks on their property when no permission was granted. In addition, we have been told that the leases that have been offered put significant restrictions on a landowners' use of his own property.

Ron and Lynn Iocono have filed an appeal of the condemnation of their property by the Town to provide an easement for Windfarm Prattsburgh. Three other landowners have joined them in the appeal. Ron and Lynn live in Delaware and were planning to retire here in a few years. He is working overtime as an EMT to help pay for the appeal.

On September 5, our Article 78 will be heard in Bath. We are asking the judge to set aside the vote of the town supervisor on eminent domain because of conflict of interest. This is the second time our case will go to court and it has cost us additional funds. Many of you have been very generous in responding to our most recent appeals and we really wish that taxpayers didn't have to use their own money to see justice done, but that is the system we live with, and we continue to need donations. So please send what you can.

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Problems with Iberdrola

Why are New York Political and Business Leaders putting the interests of Spain-based Iberdrola ahead of the interests of New York’s taxpayers and electric customers? New York’s taxpayers and electric customers are facing a serious threat:

• Iberdrola, the Spanish company that wishes to acquire Energy East and its electric and gas distribution subsidiaries is insisting that it will “walk away from” the deal if it is not permitted to build “wind farms” in New York.
• High-powered New York political, business, labor and media leaders (including Governor Paterson and Senator Schumer) are working to get members of the NY State Public Utility Commission (NYS PSC) to overturn the PSC Staff’s recommendation and the Administrative Law Judge’s conclusion that Iberdrola should not be permitted to own both electric generating capacity (including “wind farms”) and electric distribution companies in NY.
• These NY “leaders” are striving in favor of Iberdrola despite the demonstrable negative impacts that Iberdrola’s proposal would have on New York’s taxpayers, electric customers, and state economy.

This brief, researched and written by Glenn R. Shleede:

• Provides details on the financial reason that apparently underlies Iberdrola’s insistence on the right to own “wind farms” in NY. That is, huge tax breaks available for “wind farms” could permit Iberdrola to sharply reduce or eliminate liability for paying federal or state tax income tax on profits from Energy East Companies’ electricity and gas distribution operations.
• Speculates about the reasons why NY “leaders” are working so hard on behalf of Iberdrola – and against the interests of NY taxpayers and electric customers – and the state’s economy.

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Whistle blown on wind power


Corruption allegations swirl around push for wind power

At first there were sporadic complaints last year to the office of Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne. Then the outcry grew. North Country residents alleged that undue influence was being put on local leaders to approve multimillion-dollar wind farms, with turbines 200 feet or taller, in their rural communities near the Canadian border.

To Champagne's dismay, he thought some of the public officials approving the contracts were also leasing their own land to the wind developers. Champagne found as many as seven town board members in Franklin County who had apparent conflicts of interest.

"These elected officials (who had lease agreements with wind developers) were the same ones who would have to pass the appropriate local legislation to allow them to be constructed," Champagne said last week at his office in Malone. "And they would do it."

As New York seeks to produce 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2013, the push by developers and the state to expand wind farms is creating unintended results: bitterly divided communities, accusations of corruption and complaints of poor state oversight for a new type of energy.

Champagne calls it New York's version of a "gold rush" and said it could be the next Enron scandal in the making. He sent out a memo to every town board in his county, urging them to adopt stronger ethical codes.

Some critics question whether the wind farms will produce adequate electricity or instead are being built to tap into public subsidies and sell wind-energy credits on the open market to offset pollution from other industries.

Michael Lawrence, supervisor of Brandon in Franklin County, said the battle over whether to have a wind farm "has created devastation in the community."

Champagne has turned over his cardboard box of documents on cases across the state to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Last week, Cuomo issued subpoenas to two of New York's major wind-farm developers, saying that "if dirty tricks are used to facilitate even clean-energy projects, my office will put a stop to it."

Click here to read the whole front page story by Joseph Spector, Albany bureau, published in today's Democrat & Chronicle.

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A Better Perspective

The modern concern about the environment, and the very development of the science of ecology, began in the middle of the nineteenth century when human power over creation began to expand rapidly. As we might expect, good and evil were inextricably mixed in this development. On the one hand, industrialization and modern agriculture have enabled more people to live – and live a more fully human life – than ever before. After a difficult transition period, for instance, manual laborers in advanced economies achieved a security and sense of dignity never before seen in any society. Advances in technology have made famine – which was a regular scourge to humanity around the globe before modern times – a thing of the past, except in places where political tyranny or turmoil prevent intelligent development. Advances in medicine have all but eliminated diseases such as smallpox, tuberculosis, and malaria, and have made formerly life-threatening maladies such as measles, mumps, and others, relatively minor nuisances. All of this was achieved by the slow and patient accumulation of human knowledge and the creation of free institutions that enabled the fruits of that knowledge to be shared by even larger numbers of people.

On the other hand, industrialization also had its negative effects. Early industrialization polluted cities, disrupted agricultural communities, and challenged modern nations to find ways to integrate growing urban masses. However, these were largely transitional problems. Today, it is precisely industrialization, new forms of agriculture, and other human advances that are making it possible for humans to increasingly live well and in proper relation to the earth. Even in difficult cases, such as the increase in greenhouse gases, we want to be wary of taking too narrow a view of the matter that neglects a broader perspective on the goods of development. Fossil fuels, which come from beneath the earth, have made it possible for us to forego the far more destructive, inefficient, and polluting use of wood and other so-called natural fuels that must be harvested from the earth’s surface. Paradoxically, fossil fuels may have even helped save whales from extinction. Prior to learning how to use petroleum, humans had few alternatives to whale oil for generating heat and light.

Moreover, fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, have also had far-reaching positive environmental effects that a good steward should wish to consider in drawing up the global balance sheet. The first effect is to make it possible for farmers to replace beasts of burden with machines and, therefore, to cultivate land more efficiently. (Much of the developing world is now beginning to undergo this process of agricultural modernization today.) Second, fossil fuels have been turned into fertilizers that, together with new pesticides, other means of preventing spoilage, and advances in new plant species – the so-called Green Revolution – have produced so much more food per acre that large amounts of land have now been spared from cultivation altogether. For example, America’s forests, contrary to popular perception, have been growing steadily for the past fifty years and are actually larger than they were one hundred years ago. Even in the heavily populated coastal areas, small farms have returned to forestland. The result of all this is that despite its vast fossil-fuel consumption, North America currently shows a net minus in the amount of carbon dioxide it puts into the atmosphere. In other words, North America absorbs more carbon dioxide through plants and forests than it emits through industry. No one intentionally set out to produce these consequences, but human ingenuity, aimed at doing better with greater cost efficiency and lower amounts of raw materials, seems here to reflect a providential convergence of man and nature. Now that we are conscious of the effects of our activity on nature, we can set out to do even better.

If other countries in the world could imitate such ingenuity and efficiency, we would not see an exhaustion and despoliation of natural resources. Instead, we would see their enhancement and protection. Agricultural scientists have estimated that if the rest of the world could achieve the level of efficiency and care for the land exhibited by the average farmer in the developed world, then ten billion people – which is almost twice the current world population, and is a larger figure than is now expected when the population levels off in the middle of the century – could be fed on half the land. Put into concrete terms, this means that an area the size of India could simply be left untouched worldwide in spite of population growth. It is a modern scandal, then, that out of a misguided concern for the earth, some philanthropic foundations and environmental groups from developed countries, and some international agencies as well, have discouraged, or even refused to support so-called "unsustainable" agricultural practices. These practices are, in fact, necessary for saving and improving the lives of the world’s poor and hungry.

Excerpted from "The Catholic Church and Stewardship of Creation" recently published by The Acton Institute.

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AG Investigating UPC Wind

Cuomo Probing Conduct Of Wind Power Companies

ALBANY—The Attorney General’s office has launched an investigation into two companies developing and operating wind farms across New York state amid allegations of improper dealings with public officials and anti-competitive practices.

Wind farms are clusters of large electricity-generating turbines powered by wind and connected to the electric grid.

Subpoenas were served on Newton, Massachusetts-based First Wind (formerly known as UPC Wind) and Essex, Connecticut-based Noble Environmental Power, LLC. They are part of an investigation into whether companies developing wind farms improperly sought or obtained land-use agreements with citizens and public officials; whether improper benefits were given to public officials to influence their actions, and whether they entered into anti-competitive agreements or practices.

In recent months, the Office of the Attorney General has received numerous complaints regarding the two companies from citizens, groups and public officials in eight counties alleging improper relations between the companies and local officials and other improper practices.

“The use of wind power, like all renewable energy sources, should be encouraged to help clean our air and end our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. “However, public integrity remains a top priority of my office and if dirty tricks are used to facilitate even clean-energy projects, my office will put a stop to it.”

The Attorney General’s subpoenas seek, among other things:

–All documents concerning any benefits conferred on any individual or entity in connection with wind farm activity.
–All agreements, easements or contracts with individuals regarding placement of wind turbines.
–Agreements between wind companies that may indicate anti-competitive practices.
–All documents pertaining to any payments or benefits received from local, state or federal agencies.

First Wind has three operational wind farms and 48 others in development across the country, according to its web site. First Wind developed the Steel Winds wind farm in Erie County and has wind farms in development in Steuben, Chautauqua, Genesee and Wyoming (GenWY Wind) counties.

Noble Environmental Power, LLC, has three active wind farms and five in development in Allegany, Chautauqua, Clinton, Franklin and Wyoming Counties.

The investigation is being led by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Heffner of the Syracuse Regional Office under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General Ellen Biben, who oversees the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau. Assisting in the case are Investigators Thomas Wolf, David Bruce and Andrea Burnham.

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Ball Girl Makes the Play

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