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Group sues to block wind farm cable in Wainscott

Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the East Hampton Town Board, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, and South Fork Wind in an effort to block the town board’s Jan. 21 approval of an easement that would permit the developers of the proposed South Fork Wind farm to land an export cable at the Beach Lane beach and to bury it under town-owned roads on its way to a Long Island Power Authority substation in East Hampton.

Tuesday’s move by the group, a well-funded effort to thwart the cable’s landing in Wainscott, follows its Dec. 30 delivery of a petition seeking formation of an incorporated village. The supervisor has scheduled a public hearing on Friday, as required under state law, to determine the legal sufficiency of the petition.

The suit charges that the town “improperly rushed the grant of easement prior to the completion of the environmental and regulatory process,” according to a statement from the group. The statement further charges that the town board’s approval of an easement and host-community agreement, which would see the town and the town trustees sharing around $29 million over the project’s 25-year lifespan, was “a grab for money” intended “to end-run the Wainscott community’s effort to incorporate as a village.”

The town board voted 4 to 1 in favor of granting the easement, and 4 to 0 in favor of the host-community agreement. Councilman Jeff Bragman voted against the easement agreement and abstained from voting on the host community agreement, arguing that the town would maintain leverage and therefore its ability to influence the project by waiting until state and federal reviews are completed. The proposed wind farm is under review by the New York State Public Service Commission and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Mr. Bragman also argued that many pertinent questions as to environmental review and the installation’s potential impact on the commercial fishing industry remain unanswered.

The trustees voted unanimously on Jan. 25 to grant a lease and accept the host community agreement.

The lawsuit, according to the statement from Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, repeats a litany of criticisms of the plan to land the export cable in Wainscott. The group claims that installation will take 30 months, far more than has been indicated by the developers, Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind and Eversource Energy. The hamlet will be subject to “invasive maintenance work over 25 years” and fire and building safety will be compromised by construction on narrow Beach Lane, the group alleges. It says that diesel fumes, hazardous chemicals, noise, and disturbance from drilling and other construction will beset residents and farms adjoining Beach Lane, Wainscott Main Street, Sayres Path, Wainscott Stone Road, and Wainscott Northwest Road. The buried cable, the statement adds, will present risk of “electrical fires, water contamination, and electromagnetic fields.”

The group’s statement further claims that trenching on Wainscott Northwest Road “will be adjacent to the Wainscott Sand and Gravel site and just south of the East Hampton Airport, which is where 47 acres were recently designated as a New York State Superfund site” due to contamination with perfluorinated chemicals. Excavation within a contaminated plume “could become a pathway for movement” of contaminated groundwater, contaminating new areas, the group says.

The group claims support for renewable energy in the abstract, and has suggested the wind farm’s cable land at Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett instead of at Beach Lane. The lawsuit “focuses solely on the cable landing route” and substation, according to the statement, and “does not seek to stop the already-delayed wind farm project itself.”

“We all support renewable energy,” Gouri Edlich, the group’s chairwoman, said in the statement, “and we want to see that goal completed. But there are better ways to accomplish this important goal.”

Mr. Van Scoyoc said on Tuesday morning that a lawsuit from the citizens group was not a surprise. “They’ve been threatening this for some time,” he said. “I don’t know based on what parts of the law they think they have a case, if you will. We’ll certainly look at it and prepare to vigorously defend” the town.