BP's Tatics in Cape Vincent Ny

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Public Service Commissions Response to Supervisor Hirschey's Concerns

Honorable Urban C. Hirschey
Supervisor  Town of Cape Vincent
1964 NYS Route  12E
Cape Vincent, NY  13618
Re: Case  12-F-041 0

Dear Supervisor Hirschey:
Thank you  for  your  letter dated  December  12, 2012  regarding the  Public  Involvement  Plan ("PIP") filed  by  Cape Vincent Wind  Power and  your concern  about possible conflicts of interest.  You state in  your letter that  Cape Vincent Wind  offered  charitable donations 'to  service groups  in  the Town  of Cape Vincent,  an  activity  which  is  not reflected in  the PIP.  You also expressed concern  about a  possible conflict of interest because the  attorney  for  the  project, John  Harris,  is  married  to  Commissioner  Maureen  Harris,  a  member  of the  Public Service Commission ("Commission").  I hope the following responds to your concerns.

As  you know, the New York State Board on  Electric Generation Siting and the Environment ("Siting Board")  is  empowered  to  issue  Certificates  of  Environmental  Compatibility  and  Public  Need  authorizing  the
construction  and operation of major electric generating facilities in New York State,  pursuant to Article  10  of  the Public Service Law. 
The statute and the Siting Board's regulations require a project developer to submit its proposed PIP to the staff of the Department of Public Service ("Department staff') for review and comment.

The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that the developer has an adequate plan  in  place to inform affected  communities  about  the  project  and  to  facilitate  the  public's  participation  in  the  Article  10  process.  
Cape Vincent Wind submitted  its  proposed  PIP  on  September  17,2012.  Department staff found  that the  proposed  PIP  was  inadequate  and  provided  suggestions  as  to  how  Cape  Vincent Wind  could  Improve  its  plan.  The  company submitted a revised PIP on November 16, 2012.

You  are  correct  that  providing  donations  to  community  groups  is  not  an  activity  listed  in  the  PIP. Notwithstanding  your  concerns,  the  fact  that  the  PIP  does  not  discuss  charitable  donations  to  local  service groups  does  not make  the  plan inadequate  or preclude  the  involvement  of any sector of the Cape Vincent community from participating in the Article 10 process.

Furthermore, you are correct that John Harris is married to Commissioner Maureen Harris, who is a member of  the Commission, and that Department staff serve as staff of the Siting Board in the Article  10 process.  You  stated in your letter that the community is very sensitive to conflict of interest issues.  I can assure you that the Siting Board,  the Department,  and the Commission  are very aware  of concerns  about potential  conflicts of interest.

First, the  Siting Board,  and not the Commission, will review  any Article  10  application submitted by Cape Vincent wind.  Commissioner Harris is not a member of the Siting Board and therefore Commissioner Harris will  not have  any role  in  that review.  While  it does not appear at this  point that there will  be any matters  related to the Cape Vincent project that are statutorily required to come before the Commission, Commissioner  Harris will be informed that this matter is pending before the Siting Board.

Second, Department Staff will ensure that Commissioner Harris does not receive any documentary information  pertaining to the Cape Vincent project and will be instructed, once an application is filed,  not to discuss this  matter with her.  Should an issue arise in the future  that requires Commission review, Commissioner Harris  will be required to disclose her relationship with her husband and to recuse herself from any consideration of  the matter.  The process of disclosure and recusal  is  consistent with the policies set forth  by the predecessor agencies to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (see, for example, Advisory Opinion No. 95-35).

By statute, there  is a  distinction  between the Commission and the Department of Public  Service.  The chief executive officer of the. Department of Public Service is the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, not  the Commissioners, as defined in Public Service Law Section 3. Furthermore, the Commission .is  a separate  body within the Department, as defined in Public Service Law Section 4. As such, please be advised that staff  assigned to facilitate the stipulation process under Public Service Law 163 (5) do not report to and do not share information with any Commissioner other than the Chairman of the Department of Public Service,  as noted  above. Department Staff provide information to the Commissioners. pertaining only to matters that are within  the Commission's statutory powers and duties to consider.

I  hope that this  letter  provides you  with  a  greater' understanding of the  review  process regarding the Cape Vincent project, and all Article  10 projects. The Siting Board will make its decisions on the record developed in the review proceeding, assuming Cape Vincent Wind files  an Article  10 application.  Please contact me if  you have any further questions.

 Very truly yours  ,
Jeffery C. Cohen

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This letter certainly should give the town and its residents, the "assurance" the town board requested from the PSC regarding any conflict of interest or undue influence that John Harris might inflict on the ART. X process.

I will sleep like a baby tonight,comforted in the knowledge that Albany can be completely trusted with our community's future!

You'll notice that Mr. Cohen emphasized that they are very aware of concerns about potential conflicts of interests. Does this mean they would have recognized and addressed this potential conflict without notification from the Town of cape Vincent?

I am reminded of a famous saying recently quoted by a wise local blogger-

"How many Cape vincent citizens just fell off a turnip truck, of fell with last night's rain?"