Several New York State agencies have signed on to a joint proposal backing the South Fork Wind Farm’s proposed cable route through Wainscott to a substation in East Hampton.
On Oct. 8, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Department of Transportation; Department of Public Service; Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation and Department of State signed on to the proposal to run 3.5 miles of transmission cable from the wind farm through state waters to the ocean beach at Beach Lane in Wainscott, and then along 4.1 miles of roads in East Hampton Town to the substation.
The joint proposal was initially submitted by the Danish wind power giant Ørsted to the state’s Public Service Commission in mid-September, after months of settlement negotiations before the commission.
When originally submitted, it also had the backing of PSEG-Long Island, the wind advocacy group Win With Wind, Concerned Citizens of Montauk, Group for the East End and the group Montauk United.
The wind farm itself, a 130 megawatt, 15-turbine project to be located about 35 miles off of Montauk Point and the first of several offshore wind farms in the works off the eastern seaboard, has the backing of numerous environmental groups, and offshore wind is seen by New York as critical to weening the state off of fossil fuels in the push toward using carbon-free electricity to stave off climate change.
But residents of Wainscott are not happy that the transmission cable is slated to be placed under their back roads.
The group Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott has been actively engaged in the hearings before the Public Service Commission, and on Oct. 9 the commission heard testimony from the group’s environmental consultant, John Conrad, a geologist who argued that the “applicant’s preferred cable landing at Wainscott Beach and Beach Lane clearly does not satisfy the PSC’s “least adverse impact” requirement. Furthermore, the applicant’s “viable alternative” landing and route, known as “Hither Hills Route B, is so flawed that it seemed designed to guarantee that its preferred Beach Lane Route would be selected.”
Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott later described Mr. Conrad’s testimony in a message to the supporters as detailing “a fully engineered route, along with additional alternatives, that would facilitate offshore wind energy on the East End, while significantly minimizing unprecedented impacts on multiple residential communities.”
“We are poised to initiate litigation against both the East Hampton Town Board and the Trustees to stop their plan to shortcut New York State law by granting easements prior to the conclusion of the New York State Article VII process,” they added. “Both governments have been motivated by Ørsted’s cash as they dismiss our fact-based concerns with a shrug. Indeed, neither of them have hired any independent expert at any point. Said differently, no one has independently evaluated a proper route for a first-ever, $1.6+ billion offshore wind farm in New York; the Town’s and the Trustees’ have relied solely on the Applicant’s self-interested word.”
The East Hampton Town Trustees voted Sept. 28 to sign on to the joint proposal, with East Hampton Town receiving a “community benefits package” totaling nearly $29 million over the next 25 years, in exchange for the use of easements on town property where the cable will be buried.
“We’re grateful for the East Hampton Town Trustees’ unanimous support of the Joint Proposal conditions for South Fork Wind’s transmission cable route from Wainscott Beach,” said South Fork Wind in a Sept. 29 statement. “The Joint Proposal reflects collaborative discussions between a wide range of stakeholders over the last 10 months, including extensive input from the Trustees themselves. Their support is just another example of the continued consensus in East Hampton and across New York about the importance of advancing this project.”
The Public Service Commission is now accepting written testimony from parties to the proceeding.
On Tuesday, Oct. 13, the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association submitted numerous exhibits to the Public Service Commission.
LICFA’s Executive Director, Bonnie Brady, submitted a letter along with the exhibits stating that current standards are not adequate for measuring electromagnetic field impacts on fish, and have not been tested in an underwater environment.
She added that the developer’s plans to compensate fishermen for removing their gear during survey work are inadequate.
“Gear loss programs that do not allow for compensation during the survey work so that gear loss doesn’t happen in the first place are ridiculous, and only those not familiar with fishing would think that was adequate,” she wrote.
Beach Lane residents Michael and Pamela Mahoney also submitted testimony Oct. 13 to the Public Service Commission stating that “we will be unusually affected by construction noise and equipment exhaust fumes from generators and heavy equipment due to the proximity of our property to the main construction site and the intention of Ørsted/Eversource to perform construction work from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. with town approved exceptions for 24 hour work.”
“Wainscott is perceived by many, including Ørsted/Eversource and proponents of South Fork Wind, as a predominantly summer community, the perfect, “elegant” location for off season construction,” they added.
“However, there are year-round residents with children who would be negatively affected with a large scale, inappropriate construction project to navigate. As we all know, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, an ever-increasing number of families are choosing to remain in Wainscott year-round.”
The New York League of Conservation Voters supported the state agencies signing on to the joint proposal – the environmental advocacy group has long been a supporter of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious goal to power the state’s electric grid entirely from renewable sources by the year 2040, which hinges on the use of offshore wind.
The South Fork Wind Farm would be the first offshore wind farm to provide power to New York State. An earlier, five-turbine project now provides power to Block Island, which is in Rhode Island waters – it was built by Deepwater Wind, the company which initially received a power purchase agreement from LIPA for the South Fork Wind Farm before Deepwater Wind was purchased by Ørsted.
“We applaud Governor Cuomo and the state agencies for advancing South Fork Wind and continuing to put New York on the path to a clean energy future,” said New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe,after the additional state agencies signed on to the joint proposal Oct 9. “Whether it’s the hundreds of good-paying green economy jobs that will be created, the 70,000 homes and businesses that will be powered or the major boost we will get to move away from fossil fuels to fight the climate crisis, South Fork Wind is a transformative project at the center of New York’s clean energy portfolio. We are proud to play a role in its progress and look forward to seeing its completion and the many economic and environmental benefits it will yield for Long Island and the entire state of New York.”
The New York Offshore Wind Alliance also applauded the state agencies for signing on to the joint statement.
“Governor Cuomo has been a champion of this project from its inception, recognizing the imperative of addressing climate change and the need to jumpstart the development of offshore wind in New York,” said Alliance Director Joe Martens. “This is an important milestone in advancing a project that will bring clean energy to Long Island, create jobs and spur investments in ports and other vital infrastructure.”
The Public Service Commission is expected to make its final decision on the proposal in the first quarter of 2021.
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