April 13, 2010
County to implement state wind code
Legislature would require developers of wind farms to follow Wind Industry Ethics Code
Legislators on the county’s environmental committee endorsed new state regulations last week that require more disclosure on the part of public officials and developers of wind farms.
Any developer hoping to work in the county would have to abide by the Wind Industry Ethics Code, which the attorney general developed in October 2009.
Legislators on the Agriculture, Planning and Environment Committee unanimously approved a resolution that would require developers to follow the code. The Legislature will vote on the resolution at its April 22 session.
The wind ethics code establishes transparency that will deter any improper relationships between wind development companies and local government officials, according to the attorney general. It would require public officials to disclose any leases with wind companies.
A task force composed of district attorneys from Franklin, Wyoming and Monroe counties, a representative from the New York State Association of Counties and a wind company representative will monitor whether wind companies and officials comply with the code. Violations are passed onto the Attorney General’s office for investigation and a penalty of up to $50,000 may be brought against the company for the first violation and a penalty of up to $100,000 may be assessed for subsequent violations.
“I think in any dealings like this, we need to ensure that everything is transparent and there is no conflict of interest and the public needs to know if there are conflicts of interest,” said Legislator Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton).
The code would apply to the United Kingdom-based wind company TCI Renewables, which has proposed building 45 2-megawatt wind turbines on county and private land in the area surrounding the county landfill north of Route 41 and in Homer, Solon, Truxton and Cortlandville.
Development manager for TCI, Gareth McDonald, said the company would be “very willing to sign up to the code of conduct.”
McDonald said the company already applies most of the rules of conduct internally.
The company is collecting wind data in Solon, and McDonald said he hopes that over the summer the company will have drafted more precise locations for wind turbine placements.
The county and towns are still working on drafting a local law that would govern all aspects of the construction of a wind turbine project.
The Cortland County Wind Project Technical Review Committee formed in 2008 to draft the wind ordinance and members have proposed different setback distances between turbines and residences.
Truxton officials favor a 3,000-foot setback while Homer and Solon town officials have said that distance is too prohibitive.
TCI proposed a 1,642-foot setback between turbines and residences.
“We are hoping a local law will be passed and once it is passed it will give us the basis to work from,” McDonald said, adding that the 3,000-foot setback could prohibit the project because it “would not give a lot of areas for turbine placement.”
McDonald said he will meet with town supervisors within a few weeks to discuss the setbacks.
Legislator Sandy Price (D-Harford and Virgil) said the wind ethics resolution will ensure everything is “above board and transparent.”
Price said enacting the code is not a reflection of any concern about impropriety on the part of TCI.“As far as I know, it’s an upstanding company,” she said. “This is just a code of conduct used in other places and we thought it would be good in Cortland County.”
A spokesperson for the state Attorney General’s Office did not return a phone call for comment by press time.
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