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Babylon puts LIPA on notice: no windfarms in our waters

Despite an announcement a day earlier that LIPA had abandoned its controversial plan to put up a windfarm off of Jones Beach, Babylon Town officials weren’t taking anything for granted. They gathered for a press conference last Thursday saying they were putting the power authority and others on notice that they would block any efforts to resurrect another proposal in the future.

“We will not permit harm to come to our coastline,” said BabylonT own Supervisor Steve Bellone, whose administration has fought the plan between LIPA and Florida Power and Light (FPL), calling it cost prohibitive.

Joining Bellone at the conference were civic leaders from Massapequa who have waged a battle against the wind farm and Amityville Village Mayor Peter Imbert. “It’s a great day for Long Island,” said Imbert commenting on LIPA’s decision. “Amityville stands 100 percent with Steve Bellone.”

Bellone backed up his message with a statement that the Town would take legal action against FPL or any other developers and prevent the installation of transmission cables through the barrier beach and bay bottom, an integral part of the plan. Bellone said the town has authority over those areas, citing centuries old laws supporting its claim, the Nicoll Patent of 1666 and Dongan Patent of 1688.

“We are not taking any chances that someone else will come in and try to do what we have been successful at defeating here,” said Bellone in underscoring the town’s position. “There are many lessons to be learned here, including that we have to be vigilant and involved in any efforts such as this that have dramatic impacts on our coastline, our economy and our energy rates.”

Imbert said that the LIPA-FPL deal raised many questions but offered few answers.

“What if a hurricane hits and damages the windmills, who pays?” he asked. “When they (the windmills) become decommissioned or are no longer needed, who pays?”

The Nicolls Patent, enated in 1666 by Richard Nicolls, Esq, governor general under the Duke of York, outlines ownership rights of land on Long Island “whether from native Indians, proprietors or others” as belonging to the towns, “together with all havens, harbors, creeks, quarries, woodlands….waters, lakes, rivers…and all other profits.”

The LIPA-FPL plan was for a 140 megawatt off- shore Wind Park off Jones Beach. A study completed for the project showed that it would cost $811 million including construction and financing. That is significantly higher than initial estimates of between $200 and $300 million.

Despite that LIPA continues to maintain that the plan was cost effective.

“When compared to the cost of Long Island-based combined cycle natural gas-fired generating plants, the levelized green premium for wind-generated power, when spread over a 20- year period would come to about $66 million a year or about $2.50 per month for the typical residential consumer who uses 775 kilowatt hours per month, the study found.

In addition, the study said that the costs for the proposed offshore wind project “are in line with market expectations for North American offshore projects given the early stage development of such a market and the overall lack of a well-defined national energy policy to support these kinds of projects. LIPA’s Board of Trustees will discuss the proposed wind farm and alternatives at its September 25 meeting.

“Clearly we were heading for a disaster,” said Bellone in commenting on the costs. “The Town of Babylon believes that the shelving of this project is a victory for common sense. It is a victory for ratepayers of Long Island who ultimately would have borne the overwhelming burden of this costly, symbolic project that ultimately would have delivered very little energy.”

The entire episode, controversial almost from its outset, was not without its lessons, however, said Bellone. It brought the community together and helped define the criteria upon which other plans for new energy should be based. Any plan has to protect ratepayers, and include disciplined energy decision making. It should set efficiency and repowering as a priority and develop distributed renewables, said the Supervisor.

Massapequa Civic leaders Wally D’Amato and Phil Healey have fought the project from almost the outset after studying the plan and finding, they said that it would cost ratepayers millions with very little return in terms of new energy.

“This is a great day,” said D’Amato who attended the press conference.”

For environmentalists and beach lovers, the demise of a plan to interrupt the unhindered horizon was also welcomed. Joe Moses, Chairman for The Central Long Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation said, “We want to keep our parks in a natural state,” while Walter Arnold of the Save Jones Beach association drew a poetic picture: “This is the way it should be,” he said. “The land meets the water, and the water meets the sky.”

by Tracy Bongianni

Massapequa Post

29 August 2007