May 10, 2010
Just when you thought you’d seen the last of Hinckley & Quirke—they’re back! No kidding! Same two guys. New gig. Different wheels. (We hope they bring back the Hummer. Made them real easy to spot. They were worth keeping track of.)
Charles “Chuck” Hinckley, lately of “Noble Environmental LLC”
They call themselves American Wind Capital. Check it out.
If you can figure out what these guys are up to this time, you’re smarter than we are.
We read their website, then changed glasses and re-read their website, then contacted Franklin County DA Derek Champagne and NYS Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the NY Department of State, to see if they could decipher this. And monitor it.
You too, dear reader, would be well advised to monitor this.
The following is from their website; see if you can figure this out. Apply the old “follow the money” principle.
How It Works
American Wind Capital seeks to add wind, geothermal or other alternative energy lease/easement rights to its nationwide portfolio. We contact landowners, or they contact us. During an initial consultation with you, the landowner, we ask for documentation of your lease and royalty payments to make sure you qualify for our program. Following this review, a formal transaction takes place whereupon an offer is made, an agreement is reached, legal documents are filed and a cash payment is made.
After you receive your lump sum, American Wind collects all the royalty payments that are outlined in our landowner agreement with you and we then assume all ongoing risks of lease termination, pricing fluctuations and rent reduction.
In short, they’re buying your lease or easement. (An “easement” refers to a contract with a wind company which has yet to build turbines on your property.) American Wind Capital gives you one lump sum, instead of your getting annual royalty payments from the wind developer. This is where you want to have an attorney read over your lease very carefully, to know what you’re assigning (losing) to these people—because once you sign on the dotted line, my friend, you have lost all control over whatever that lease says can be done on, or under, or above your property.
If the charming Miss Dumas drives up to your door, you’d better start dialing 1-800-LAWYER. Our reading of these lease agreements raised zillions of red flags. (Many of these lease agreements, locally, were drawn up by Noble Environmental, which these guys founded. Remember that!) The leases are heavily biased in favor of the wind company. Is American Wind Capital’s financial game tantamount to the wind company owning your lease? Does this mean American Wind Capital (AWC), once it’s managed to separate you from that lease, can then arrange to install more turbines on your property?
This is unclear. If this is their objective, AWC can then collect rents (royalties) for these additional turbines—and you, dear farmer, get zero. (When dealing with wind energy companies, keep in mind the analogy of “musical chairs”: companies shifting ownership and creating and dissolving and re-creating themselves into innumerable new and murky identities. Shape-shifting is their stock in trade.)
In other words, is this an ingenious way to pack more turbines into existing “wind farms”? Remember, by owning your lease or easement, AWC can negotiate with any wind company—or whatever enterprise the lease allows (your lease allows plenty: read it!)—to do whatever AWC wishes it to do.
For instance, does your lease allow natural gas drilling? That might not matter here in the North Country, but south of the Adirondack Park, in the Marcellus Shale region, where natural gas exploration is going like gang-busters, this would indeed matter. On that subject, you had better read about “hydro fracking” and what it does to well water and surface water, and what the pumping stations do to your nerves and sleep.
What in fact does your lease allow? Do you really know? You, the land owner, own the property—that’s true, but irrelevant when you surrender your usage rights to that property.
Smelling something fishy? (Derek, are you reading this? Mr. Cuomo, are you?)
On that note, the following ad appeared in this week’s Free Trader (p. 14).
And this from their website . . .
Let’s have a show of hands! How many thought you’d seen the last of these guys?