New York investigation into alleged improper dealings results in ethics code

No wind companies, their staff, or local officials have been prosecuted in New York following an investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo into allegations of improper dealings between wind companies and local public officials (Windpower Monthly, September 2008). But following the investigation, the Attorney General's office has announced a new wind industry ethics code to establish guidelines for wind development in New York that will be monitored by an ongoing advisory task force. The investigation specifically targeted two wind developers, Massachusetts-based First Wind (formerly known as UPC Wind) and Noble Environmental Power in Connecticut. Cuomo's office said it received numerous complaints about the two firms from citizens, groups and public officials in eight counties, alleging improper relations between the companies and local officials and other improper practices. An investigation by the New York Times provided examples of alleged bribes, alleged interests held in projects by public decision makers and other purported improper activities. Cuomo's office did not provide a public confirmation of any specific findings of either its own investigation or those conducted by local media. "Both Noble and First Wind fully cooperated in the inquiry and their assistance was instrumental in developing the code of conduct that is being announced," says the Attorney General's office, which adds that the two companies were the first to sign it. The code has a number of provisions designed to prevent conflicts of interest and requires wind companies to put all their development related staff through a seminar on how to stay within the code.