An attorney representing opponents to the Alle-Catt Wind Farm said Tuesday the developer violated the state Attorney General’s Code of Conduct in failing to publicize potential conflicts of interest among municipal officials and their relatives with wind contracts.
Ginger Schroder, an attorney from Farmersville who represents residents opposed to the proposed 600-foot wind turbines, said Invenergy was fined $25,000 for violating the Code of Conduct which is designed to prevent “even the appearance of conflicts of interests.”
Schroder said residents — in Farmersville and other towns the company planned to site the wind turbines at — complained that some municipal officials or their immediate relatives had wind leases with Invenergy. Only one, Richard Westfall, a Farmersville town councilman, was listed on the Invenergy website. Later last year, that number increased to 13 from Farmersville, Freedom, Rushford, Centerville and Arcade.
Mark Heberling, president of Farmersville United, said Westfall actively participated in drafting the Farmerville wind law. He also suggested increasing the decibel level “from 42 decibels which was under Board consideration to 50 decibels, the level that Invenergy wanted.” Heberling is challenging Westfall in the upcoming election.
Great Valley attorney Gary Abraham, who represents several groups opposed to Alle-Catt, said the findings of the Attorney General’s Office “also supports the conclusion that Invenergy has violated the state power plant siting law, also known as Article 10 of the Public Service Law.”
“Article 10 requires Invenergy to promote public involvement in the review of the project’s impacts,” Abraham said. “Here, Invenergy has been caught doing the opposite: cultivating a small group of supporters and disregarding everyone else.”
Schroder, who spoke at a public hearing by the Public Service Commission Tuesday night at Pioneer Central School, said she was asked to contact the Attorney General’s Office to make their complaints about Invenergy’s apparent violations of the Code of Conduct.
Schroder said, “Following a telephone call with two attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office, I was asked to provide evidence concerning Invenergy’s misconduct. On Oct. 10, 2018, I submitted a lengthy e-mail, with relevant documents and links to websites and videos on YouTube.”
During the investigation, Schroder said, “Invenergy first accused the complaining residents of raising ‘false claims of inappropriate conflicts’ and then Invenergy stated that the same attorneys made similar claims in other communities.”
Upon receipt of the initial findings of code violations, Schroder said, “Invenergy changed its tune and claimed that the ‘sheer magnitude of its activities in New York’ and ‘the burden that places on our development staff’ was to blame for its shortfalls and stated that it ‘resulted in not fully documenting and notifying the public as required … it is simply the reality of the situation — we missed some things.’”
Valessa Souter-Kline, Alle-Catt project development manager, said the violation of the Attorney General’s Code of Conduct for Wind Developers stemmed from not updating the Alle Catt disclosure list.
“Invenergy remains committed to the highest standards of transparency and accountability in project development. As soon as we were notified of a perceived issue, we took immediate corrective action to the satisfaction of the Attorney General’s office,” she stated.
Souter-Kline added: “We will continue to work with all stakeholders to advance this project which will inject more than $7 million in annual revenue to the local economy, create over 400 good-paying jobs, and generate American-made energy for Western New York.”
The company emphasized that the fine, which was negotiated down to $15,000, did not involve any violation of state law. The Code of Conduct for Wind Developers is a voluntary arrangement with which Invenergy agreed to abide.
Freedom United President Stephanie Milks thanked the Attorney General’s Office “for vindicating our concerns and for penalizing Invenergy. They are a bad actor and should be denied a permit to build this project.”