Wainscott critics blast town wind agreement
Credit: Michael Wright | Sep 16, 2020 | www.27east.com ~~
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Opponents of plans to land the South Fork Wind Farm power cable in Wainscott excoriated East Hampton Town, and Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc in particular, for pressing ahead on an agreement with the wind farm’s developers.
Following last week’s announcement by East Hampton Town and the East Hampton Town Trustees that they have reached an agreement with offshore wind farm developer Ørsted for a Wainscott landing – in exchange for some $29 million in payments over 25 years – members of the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, blasted the town’s proposal to sign the agreement while New York State is still reviewing the cable landing proposal, rather than waiting until the review process is completed.
“The Town selling out Wainscott for more money has nothing to do with the law’s obligation: choose the best available site based on the merits, not money, not politics,” the group’s co-founder, Gouri Edlich, said in a statement last week. “Supervisor [Peter] Van Scoyoc has now broken yet another promise to Wainscott, as he publicly told the community that he would not grant an easement until the environmental regulatory process was complete.”
The proposal to land the cable at Beach Lane must still be approved as part of the overall application for the portion of the 50-mile long undersea cable that lies within New York State waters and then will run beneath roadways to an electrical substation near East Hampton Village.
The construction of the 15 turbines in the waters south of Block Island is being reviewed by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The state commission will hold ultimate authority over which landing site is the best suited for the project and has held some 20 private meetings over the last 10 months with the dozens of individuals, groups and municipalities that have claimed an interest in the outcome of the cable plans.
Much of those discussions has focused on the cable landing site, including the introduction of a number of options beyond the two that Ørsted – which purchased the South Fork Wind Farm project from Deepwater Wind with its partner company, New England energy company Eversource – included in their proposal.
John Finley, a resident of Beach Lane and another co-founder of the Wainscott opposition group, told members of the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee on Saturday that there has been “extensive analysis” of other possible landing sites by parties other than Ørsted – the details of which can’t be aired until the Public Service Commission publishes the testimony from the private meetings with the “interveners.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc, who participated in Saturday’s online meeting of the Wainscott CAC, defended the proposal to sign the agreement with Ørsted and its partner, Eversource. Signing the agreement, which would bring an almost immediate $500,000 cash payment from the developers, would not legally bind the town to anything and that the easement would not be active until after the PSC has issued its findings.
But Councilman Jeff Bragman, the Town Board liaison to Wainscott, said, “I think when you take $500,000, it’s a little difficult to say you’re not binding yourself to it.”
He also reiterated his objections first voiced last week that the town inking the agreement would send an unfair message to the state regulators reviewing the application that the Wainscott site is the preferred site.
The two agreements, which have not been finalized yet or ratified by either the Town Board or Town Trustees, would grant the developers the rights to drill a 1,500-foot horizontal conduit from the Beach Lane parking lot to an offshore connection site.
The onshore portion would consist of two “vaults,” each the size of school buses, buried beneath the beach parking lot and then the burying of the cable itself beneath about 2.5 miles of roadways between Beach Lane and the Long Island Rail Road tracks.
It has been two years since the Town Board approved, by the narrowest majority, a memorializing resolution voicing its willingness to give Ørsted an easement under the town roadways should the Wainscott landing be approved. At the time, Deepwater Wind was offering about $8 million in compensation to the town, though much of that was not to be direct cash payments.
Opponents said that even after the long negotiations, their fight to stop the town from inking anything with Ørsted was just getting rolling.
“The town, in our view, has done nothing but say yes to Ørsted,” said Alexander Edlich, another co-founder of the CPW, which has been gathering signatures on a petition to incorporate Wainscott as a village, in hopes a new government would be able to reject the wind farm proposal. “But, at best, it’s in the second inning. There’s multiple areas on which to contest the route that was designed by the developer to maximize profits.”
Mr. Edlich called the Ørsted’s single proposed alternative landing site, in Hither Hill State Park, “so ridiculous” as to clearly be little more than a poisoned pill intended to steer sentiment toward the cheaper Wainscott option.
The CPW has collected well more than the number of signatures of village residents that it needs to anchor a valid petition to the town to hold a referendum on incorporation, but has yet to submit the proposal to the town and demand a vote.
Wainscott CAC Chairwoman Carolyn Logan Gluck said at Saturday’s meeting that another citizens group, one that has formed to oppose the village incorporation proposal, will make a presentation to the CAC next month.
Mr. Van Scoyoc pledged that the Town Board would hold a public meeting dedicated solely to discussion and public input on the easement agreement prior to any vote to ratify it.
He also said that the first $500,000 payment from the company would “make us whole” for the legal costs incurred by the town for representation on the application and the negotiations over the last two years.
“I don’t think we have anything to gain by signing it,” Mr. Bragman countered, “other than some money.”
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