Would You Rather They Built McMansions?

Mon, 18 Aug 2008 17:35:33 +0000

The New York Times reports today about some possible corruption in the race to introduce wind power in rural communities in upstate New York:

Lured by state subsidies and buoyed by high oil prices, the wind industry has arrived in force in upstate New York, promising to bring jobs, tax revenue and cutting-edge energy to the long-struggling region. But in town after town, some residents say, the companies have delivered something else: an epidemic of corruption and intimidation, as they rush to acquire enough land to make the wind farms a reality.

“It really is renewable energy gone wrong,” said the Franklin County district attorney, Derek P. Champagne, who began a criminal inquiry into the Burke Town Board last spring and was quickly inundated with complaints from all over the state about the wind companies. Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo agreed this year to take over the investigation.

“It’s a modern-day gold rush,” Mr. Champagne said.

Mr. Cuomo is investigating whether wind companies improperly influenced local officials to get permission to build wind towers, as well as whether different companies colluded to divide up territory and avoid bidding against one another for the same land.

There is no excuse for the corrupt business practices, but overall I think of the article as a hopeful sign. The rest of the article goes on to describe the economic challenges facing this rural area. What do rural landowners typically do when the farming economy withers? It's a good thing to have other opportunities. It would be much better if the legal structures protected them in their dealings with the wind power companies.