BREAKING NEWS: Testimony reveals Wainscott route does not meet Public Service Commission rules; identifies ‘minimum adverse environmental impact’ alternative routes

We hope you and your families continue to be safe and that fall has started well for everyone. We wanted to provide you a detailed update on several important developments related to the South Fork Wind Farm.

  • We are now more confident than ever in making the case, before the Public Service Commission (P.S.C.), that Wainscott will not satisfy New York State law for an appropriate landfall site. We filed expert testimony today with the P.S.C. that shows Ørsted cannot meet the legal burden that developers must pursue a route with ‘minimum adverse environmental impact’ (Public Service Law §126-1). Indeed, we identified and then developed 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. 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 windfarm in New York; the Town’s and the Trustees’ have relied solely on the Applicant’s self-interested word.

Several actions need your immediate attention to ‘do the right thing, the right way.’

FURTHER DETAILS

THE WAINSCOTT LANDING SITE DOES NOT MEET NEW YORK STATE LAW REQUIREMENTS 

As a reminder, New York requires developers pursue routes with ‘minimum adverse environmental impact’ (Public Service Law §126-1). It also requires developers to provide viable alternatives. Ørsted did neither: It proposed a Wainscott route that maximized its profits and offered a poison pill Hither Hills ‘alternative,’ which appeared designed to steer the decision towards Wainscott. Their so-called ‘alternative’ was never serious, as it would run the export cable 11.6 miles on state and local roads, primarily on Montauk Highway from Napeague through the middle of the Village of East Hampton, and, laughably, make 73 road crossings.

This process has just begun, as the P.S.C. testimony and hearings have only now started, and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management must separately approve this process.

The detailed P.S.C. testimony (spanning 535 pages) from our team of expert environmental, civil, public safety and electrical engineers shows that:

  • Wainscott route proven to endanger public safety. A landing site on the narrow Beach Lane, unlike the alternatives we have developed, would violate five State fire and building safety code provisions and present a clear danger to residents and community members (New York State Building Code Reference Sections 3301.2 and 3306.1 as well as Fire Code Reference Sections 503.2.1, 503.2.3 and 503.2.5). This alone should make Beach Lane an unacceptable alternative.
  • Wainscott route does not comply with State policy. The Beach Lane route does not utilize established commercial corridors and utility easements to the maximum extent possible, and instead creates a new, unnecessary power transmission corridor which is contrary to the P.S.C.’s and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s goal of minimizing new corridors.
  • A proposed additional substation in another residential community on the outskirts of the Village of East Hampton is completely unnecessary. Ørsted planned to build an additional major electrical substation in another residential neighborhood in East Hampton. In the absence of any independent engineering research other than that commissioned by us, our engineers found that the new 4.5-acre substation was unnecessary. We did the necessary work to identify that there is no need to disturb 114 homes in the Dune Alpin community (just outside the Village of East Hampton) that would be within 1,000 feet of Ørsted’s proposed new substation.
  • One of the three alternative routes independently developed (Atlantic Avenue) eliminates and/or significantly reduces nearly all issues. (Click here to see a comparison table). That route, which is materially wider and more accessible, represents the required ‘minimum adverse environmental’ route because it:
    • Eliminates the need for new electrical rights of way by 65 percent, consistent with P.S.C. policy initiatives (0.8 miles versus 2.3 miles with Wainscott);
    • Reduces use of state and local roads by 60 percent (0.8 miles versus 2.0 miles);
    • Limits local road crossings by 79 percent (3 versus 14);
    • Reduces the number of residential properties impacted by 62 percent (8.1 acres of residential property within 100 feet versus 21.6 acres);
    • Eliminates completely the violation of the five State fire and building safety codes caused by a Wainscott Beach landfall site;
    • Removes the need for an entirely new electrical substation outside the Village of East Hampton;
    • Allows the infrastructure built for an Atlantic Avenue route to be accessed in the future to strengthen transmission, sub-transmission, and distribution delivery systems;
    • Reduces disturbance of the seabed by 10 percent (55.4 versus 61.4 miles); and
    • Shortens the total length of the route, and associated electrical losses, from the offshore windfarm by 8 percent.

If the decision were to avoid a landing in a residential area entirely, other improved alternative routes would land at Hither Hills State Park. A landing site in a non-residential area is typically used for projects of this type (including in Ørsted’s home country, wind pioneer Denmark). Our improved alternative routes (click here for a map) would use existing LIRR rights of way (rather than go on Rt. 27 and through Main Street as proposed by Ørsted as “viable”).

The full testimony is available here.

While the Community Host Package of a nominal $29 million is celebrated, it is actually payable over 25 years and starts out at $875,000. Moreover, the Article VII process is about protecting communities and not maximizing price. Our pastoral heritage is not for sale, particularly by those who do not live here.

As you also likely read, all of the purported benefits of a Wainscott route peddled by Ørsted and its unquestioning allies have, like so many Ørsted promises, melted away in the last 18 months. Do you remember:

  • Ørsted’s written promise to Wainscott (May 30, 2019 letter) to investigate alternative routes: There is no public record of any subsequent action to do so by Ørsted;
  • One ‘shoulder season’ of construction in Wainscott: It became ‘up to 30 months’;
  • Shortest route: Wainscott route is longest sea cable distance and longest onshore route on roads;
  • No impact on beach access: Beach access will be unrecognizable to those who enjoy it now;
  • Money for Wainscott: Unceremoniously struck from the recently updated Community Benefits Plan; and
  • Burying the current overhead electric transmission lines on Beach Lane: (Ironically Ørsted’s propagandist, Win With Wind, said that was one of the major benefits of the Wainscott route.)

Moreover, the alternatives our experts have identified and developed would eliminate the threat of drawn-out litigation that will certainly delay construction.

WE ARE PREPARED TO INITIATE LITIGATION AGAINST THE EAST HAMPTON TOWN BOARD AND TRUSTEES TO PREVENT THEM FROM ACTING ILLEGALLY 

The Town and Trustees are bound by clear legal obligations under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) to wait until the Article VII environmental review is complete. Instead, in seeking payments from Ørsted, both the Town and Trustees have continued to aid and abet the developers.

As we know, neither the Town nor the Trustees undertook any independent investigation and/or analysis. Instead, they have accepted unquestioningly the information Ørsted has chosen to provide it. Now, both the Town Board and the Trustees have signaled their intent to cut corners again. They plan to grant easements for Ørsted to land in Wainscott before the P.S.C. has completed its Article VII environmental review. These reckless and uninformed actions are clearly illegal under SEQRA, the ground-breaking law which has existed since 1975. If the Town and Trustees proceed to grant the easements, we will initiate litigation against their illegal actions. The Town and the Trustees and the developer know this challenge is coming – in the Host Community Agreement, the Town and Trustees agreed to band together with Ørsted to defend lawsuits against them, with Ørsted agreeing to pay the Town’s and Trustee’s legal costs.

Wainscott deserves better: A representative and responsive government that does not act illegally. To put this litigation in context, Ørsted allies (including Win With Wind) encouraged the Town to accelerate granting the easement to end-run Wainscott’s initiative towards self-determination and incorporation. In a July 16, 2020 email (which we obtained via a Freedom of Information request), a member of Win With Wind’s steering committee blithely made the following suggestion to the Town Board:

Am I missing something? Because I cannot, for the life of me, see any advantage to East Hampton were Wainscott to incorporate. I would suggest that granting the easement required for Eversource/Orsted’s Beach Lane cable landing would be a good place to start … Would granting that easement not take some of the wind out of their sails?

This corroborates suspicions that the precipitous decision to undermine the integrity of the Article VII process, despite assurances by the Town Supervisor to the contrary, is motivated by a desire to crush Wainscott’s pursuit of self-determination.

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE NOW

  1. The Public Service Commission is accepting public comments until October 30. Please submit your comments to them via this link:

wainscott.org/psc

  1. Continue your support for the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott Inc. We could not have hired expert advisors without your help. Thank you for your continued support. All amounts make a difference. Checks can be mailed to:

P.O. Box 816
Wainscott, N.Y., 11975

As a reminder, in order to undertake the required actions, Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott Inc. is registered as a 401(c)4 non-profit, and, as such, contributions are not considered tax-deductible by the Internal Revenue Service.

  1. Connect with us to make sure you have the latest contact information. You can also volunteer with us:

Information@wainscott.org

WainscottNY on Instagram

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Fortunately, we have a State process that requires the consideration of all alternative routes and selection based on the merits: Not politics; not hype; not promises; not corporate profits; not personal attacks; but, rather, measurable ‘minimum adverse environmental impact’ based on specific decision criteria. We have facts on our side.

Warmest regards,

Gouri.Edlich@wainscott.org

 

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