Residents of Wainscott and Sierra Club activists were the most vocal of attendees at public hearings June 11 on the cable connection for the South Fork Wind Farm, a 15-turbine project proposed 35 miles off the coast of Montauk.
The original developers, Deepwater Wind, now a partnership between Danish energy company Ørsted and New England power distributor Eversource, are planning to connect the power from the wind farm to the electric grid at a Long Island Power Authority substation just east of East Hampton Village.
The developers’ proposal to bring the cable ashore at Beach Lane in Wainscott has raised the hackles of neighbors of the proposed route, who are pushing for an alternate landing site at Hither Hills State Park in Napeague.
The on-land route from Beach Lane to the substation is about 4 miles and could be completed in one off-season between Labor Day and Memorial Day, while the 12-mile route from Hither Hills would take two seasons, said representatives from Ørsted at the hearing.
The two hearings, with one afternoon and one evening session, were part of the New York State Public Service Commission’s Article VII approval process, which covers the portion of the route within state waters up to three miles offshore, and the on-land portion of the cable route. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will handle the permitting requirements for the actual wind farm, which is in federal waters.
Many residents of Wainscott spoke at the hearing, saying they are unconvinced that the construction will not disturb their use of the beach and the country roads in Wainscott, and urging the developers to chose the Hither Hills site.
Brandon Cook spoke of the “iconic beach and farm community” where his two young children play on the beach. He advocated for the Hither Hills site, and added that people in Wainscott rely on rental income from their houses, and asked if they would be compensated if they couldn’t rent their houses due to the work.
Simon Kinsella, who has been a vocal opponent of the Beach Lane landing site, works as a financial auditor. He said he believes the cost of the project has been underestimated by about one sixth of the actual cost and is “possibly the largest capital works project ever undertook on the East End of Long Island.”
He added that the public should be told the pricing details of Deepwater/Ørsted’s power purchase agreement from LIPA, which have been kept secret.
“Deepwater is corrupting and manipulating the process by denying the public the pricing information,” he said, adding that he may initiate a lawsuit to force New York State to disclose the pricing information.
Jonathan Stern said that there are “a significant number of residential dwellings” along the Wainscott route, while he said there were zero residential dwelling along the Hither Hills route. He added that the Wainscott route is in a FEMA-designated floodplain, with “New York State certified agricultural district lands with active working farms.”
Marshall Gluck of Wainscott said he enjoys driving around seeing the farmland in Wainscott.
“Luckily there is an alternative, and a very viable alternative,” he said, urging the use of the Hither Hills site.
Mary Anne Lindbergh of Wainscott said that “climate change influences my actions and thoughts multiple times a day,” but added that she is concerned by news of a cable from Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm was exposed on the beach there.
Representatives from Deepwater/Ørsted said they are using a different cable-laying method for the South Fork Wind Farm, 30 feet below ground, that would not be in danger of being exposed on the beach.
Frank Dalene, who serves on the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee and East Hampton Town’s Energy Sustainability Committee, said that the Wainscott CAC “fully supported offshore wind up until the day the cable might come ashore at Wainscott.”
“One member said ‘I know it’s NIMBYism. So what,” he said. “
Mr. Dalene added that after contamination with perfluorinated chemicals was found in some wells in Wainscott, no one complained when East Hampton Town and the Suffolk County Water Authority dug up roads all over Wainscott to install new public water mains, including one on Beach Lane.
“The height of hypocrisy is astounding,” he said.
Don Mattheisen laid out several recent dire reports on climate change about the urgency of reducing carbon emissions.
“That’s not local idiot Don Mattheisen saying that. It’s the 600 scientists of the International Panel on Climate Change, who looked at 6,000 studies evaluated by their peers,” he said. “We’re standing at the rail of a sinking ship in our tuxedos, looking at the lifeboat and saying ‘does it have a bathroom? Does it have an outboard motor? Can I take my suitcase? It’s time to stop dithering and build this thing.”
Several young Sierra Club activists also spoke – they’d gathered for a rally at the Hook Mill windmill at the foot of North Main Street before traipsing up the street for the public hearing at the East Hampton Village Emergency Services Building.
“I’m 23 years old, so obviously I haven’t lived here for 70 years like a lot of you people, but I’d like to, eventually,” said David Bassoon. “With climate disruption, I don’t think that would be possible without making offshore wind possible.”
“The Sierra Club urges the commission to keep on schedule, get this project built and ensure robust environmental protections throughout all phases,” said Adam Heller, a volunteer for the Sierra Club in Suffolk County. “It cannot be delayed. We’re counting on it to ensure Long Island’s cleaner and better future.”
“As a millennial, I feel it is my responsibility to speak up on issues affecting myself and my generation,” said Ashley Flores. “As a Long Island resident, I have an opportunity now to set a new and high standard for clean energy.”
As she often does, Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito didn’t mince words.
“I don’t mean to be flippant, but how exactly do you think you get your electricity now?” she asked. “There are cables all over… This is not something that’s new. It’s used all over the globe to transport electrical power.”
She added that East Hampton is considering options for moving Montauk’s downtown inland to protect it from rising seas, Freeport is looking at seagates that could cost $120 million, and the federal government is buying out homeowners on low-lying land in Mastic/Shirley.
“All of those actions, all of them, are to mitigate climate change and not one of them addresses the root cause of climate change,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy, and you might have to make a sacrifice… We have one future and we’ve got to get it right, or we’re not going to have another generation that gets to live here.”
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who is charged with implementing the town’s ambitious renewable energy goals, said the town is committed to “ensuring potential adverse impacts are comprehensively evaluated and mitigated,” and added that the town has not made any decisions yet on whether to grant the use of the town roads or the beach access for the Wainscott route.
But, on a personal note, he added, “what are you doing to reduce consumption, to add electricity to the grid? How are you being a part of the solution? We’ve created this demand that we have to fill.”
He added that he recently installed rooftop solar panels on his house, which are producing 164 percent of the power he consumes.
“So I’m covering half of one of ya,” he said. “Offshore wind is the way to meet our renewable demand. The alternatives are bleak.”
Written comments to the Commission are being accepted through July 12, referencing “Case 18-T-0604 – Deepwater,” by email to email@example.com; through the website at www.dps.ny.gov, by searching using the case number for the “Post Comments” button, or by mail to Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary, Public Service Commission, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350.
Comments may also be left on the Commission’s opinion line at 1.800.335.2120, where they will be summarized and provided to the Commission.
The wind farm application to the Commission can be viewed at www.dps.ny.gov, using the case reference number 18-T-0604, or at the East Hampton, Springs, Amagansett, or Bridgehampton Libraries.
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