New York probes Mass. wind-power developer

Posted Oct. 02, 2008, at 10:53 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:18 a.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — As First Wind of Massachusetts finishes building a wind farm on Stetson Mountain and prepares applications for another on Rollins Mountain, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo continues probing allegations that the company dealt improperly with public officials in upstate New York.

Begun in July, Cuomo’s investigation probes whether First Wind and another company based in Connecticut improperly sought or obtained land-use agreements with residents and public officials; whether public officials received improper benefits to influence their actions; and whether they entered into anti-competitive agreements or 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,” Cuomo said in a statement released in July. “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 investigation is continuing, said Cuomo’s spokesman, John Milgrim. He declined to comment further.

First Wind is cooperating fully with the investigation, company spokesman John Lamontagne said. The company denies any wrongdoing. In fact, it tries to be a good neighbor, occasionally assisting community relief efforts.

This week, First Wind split a $30,000 donation among four county-based community programs to help Maine residents handle home heating costs this winter.

The four programs receiving donations are: Aroostook County Action Program Inc.; Community Concepts; Penquis Keep ME Warm Fund; and the Washington Hancock Community Agency THAW Fund. All of the programs are members of the Maine Community Action Association Inc.

“First Wind strives to be a good corporate citizen in all of the communities in which we work. Part of that is giving back to these communities,” LaMontagne said Thursday.

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

First Wind has seven wind farms operating, in development or under construction in New York, according to its Web site, www.firstwind.com.

Steel Winds I, a 20-megawatt farm of eight 2.5-megawatt Clipper Liberty wind turbines, generates enough to power about 9,000 New York homes in Lackawanna, on the shore of Lake Erie. A 125-megawatt farm, Cohocton I, is under construction in Cohocton, N.Y.

In Maine, First Wind has the 42-megawatt Mars Hill farm operational and a 57-megawatt wind farm on Stetson Mountain in Washington County under construction.

Another 25-megawatt farm for Stetson Mountain is being planned, as is the 60-megawatt Rollins Mountain farm, which is slated to be built in Burlington, Lee, Lincoln and Winn if approved. The megawatt listings represent peak outputs.

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