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October 17, 2008

Wind-farm workers laid off

Wind-farm firm struggles

BELLMONT — Noble Environmental Power has stopped work at its Bellmont and Chateaugay wind-energy projects and laid off its workers.

And it appears the bankruptcy of one of its major financial backers may have played a part.

"Due to conditions in the financial markets, Noble Environmental Power has had to scale back its development plans for 2009," Noble Chief Executive Officer Walter Howard said in a written statement.

No specifics were given as far as the number of workers let go and how long a layoff might last.

But published reports indicate the work may not restart at either wind park until next summer.

"We deeply regret this unfortunate situation," Howard said. "These decisions have been extremely difficult for me, our company founders and others in management.

"We value all of our employees, and we appreciate their hard work and dedication to Noble."

Anna Giovinetto, who had been vice president of public affairs, said Wednesday she could not comment further on the company's situation because she was one of the people laid off.

The work stoppage and layoffs could also be connected to the ongoing investigation Attorney General Andrew Cuomo launched in July against Noble and another wind-energy company, First Wind of Massachusetts.

He issued subpoenas to both firms requesting all paperwork associated with the land agreements and easements that each received from property owners and public officials.

Cuomo's office is investigating whether the officials were unduly influenced or bribed to make deals.

News of the investigation came just a few months after Noble filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in May for permission to offer stock to the public in hopes of raising $375 million.

On Sept. 2, the company said it would be offering about 24.4 million common shares and trade under the NASDAQ ticker symbol NEPI.

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