The City of Long Beach is “fervently opposed” to the Empire Wind 2 project that proposes a high-voltage power line through its streets and turbines visible from shore, city officials said in a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul this week.
The Monday letter, signed by all five city council members, including president John Bendo, outlined four primary reasons the city stands in “firm opposition” to the project, which Norway-based Equinor proposes to have in service before the end of the decade.
Empire Wind 2 includes a cable that snakes for 3.3 miles through the densely populated city to a newly proposed power substation in Island Park. The council, while expressing support for the state’s transition to green energy, called the cable route through “one of the most densely populated parts of our community … completely unacceptable.”
Equinor, in a statement, said it was “disappointed” by the letter, but said it plans to continue to work with the council and community to provide information and gain support. At the same time, Equinor called out what it called “misinformation” about the project, including impacts of the high-voltage land cable.
Equinor spokeswoman Lauren Shane, in a statement, said that “many of the concerns cited” in the letter have already been addressed, and said the company was “committed to further expanding this dialogue to correct misinformation about the project, some of which, sadly, appears to be deliberate.”
“For example,” she said, “the scientific community has exhaustively studied the type of proposed power cable that would be buried under the street and, like other utility infrastructure located in the same corridor for decades, has found no evidence of negative health impacts.”
A spokesman for Hochul’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. John McNally, a spokesman for the city, said the council was “resolute” in its opposition to the project, and that the letter “speaks for itself.”
Citizens on or near the proposed cable route have been among the most ardent opponents of the project, worried chiefly about the potential health impacts of electromagnetic fields from the cable buried beneath the streets.
Long Beach resident Kelly Martinsen questioned the company’s claim of no health impacts, charging the company is presented outdated data for its claims, while she has presented company officials with studies from as recently as 2022 and 2023 to no avail.
The cable, Martinsen said, is “very much cause for concern if you live here … They want to run a cable on the exact beach where young mothers bring their children to attend camp while they sit on the beach and relax,” she said.
Council members also took exception to the power substation planned for Island Park along Reynold’s Channel, pointing to hundreds of millions of dollars spent making the area more resilient to storms and flooding. The work would be “greatly diminished” by the Equinor projects, they said.
They also took exception to the “visible impact” of the turbines, as near as 15 miles from shore for the Empire 1 phase and more than 20 miles for Empire 2. Empire 1 would send all its energy to Brooklyn via an undersea cable.
Shane of Equinor countered that the “proposed turbine layout was purposely created to minimize visual impact.”
The city council also took aim at Equinor itself, saying the company has done a “dismal job engaging residents and addressing their concerns” about the project. “For months we have implored them to improve their community engagement and their response has been utterly lacking,” the letter said.
Susan Lienau, director of community affairs for Equinor’s Empire 2 project, in an interview said, “It’s always disappointing to hear criticism of our engagement in the community,” noting that the company is has conducted extensive community engagement and is expanding the work.
“It’s a long process to develop a project like this,” she said, adding that Equinor’s strategy “remains to be available to the community, and answer their questions.” More recently the company has employed representatives to reach out in the community, working the Long Beach boardwalk and at events at least four days a week.
The company has proposed a package of benefits and taxes for the regional community that it values at more than $264 million, including property tax payments. Equinor’s Empire Wind 2 project would be located more than 20 miles from the South Shore from Long Beach to points east and south, and provide enough power for up to 700,000 homes when in service later this decade. The cable would make landfall at Long Beach and traverse 3.3 miles to a substation in Island Park, connecting at the E.F. Barrett power plant.
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