As the Southampton Town Board deals with a slew of amendments to the green energy codes they adopted back in July in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, they are also facing an issue of how to pay for the burial of the LIPA transmission lines which were installed in the town this summer to bring more power to the area.
Ed Dumas, Vice President of Communications for LIPA, said in an interview on Monday that for two years, LIPA has worked with the community to meet the power requirements for the East End. At first, LIPA proposed to bury only a portion of a large transmission line, and run the rest overhead. But after public outcry and many discussions with the town, LIPA agreed to bury the lines completely with the additional $8 million price tag being picked up by LIPA rate-payers in the town. The last remaining hurdle in this project was for tariff amendments, which were discussed at a LIPA meeting in Hauppauge last week. Representatives of Southampton Town, Southampton Village and area residents were in attendance. At issue is whether the surcharge should be collected based on power usage, or a flat rate. Some residents and business owners are concerned with the usage based component.
Bob Schepps, president of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce says he is in favor of burying the lines, but says the usage-based fee “makes no rational sense.” Schepps said, “I agree we bury the lines to protect our vistas but I disagree with the way the town has offered to pay for them.” He further argued that, “doing this on a usage basis, unfairly puts the burden on businesses, schools, hospitals, churches, and year-round residents.”
He argues that everyone is benefiting from the visual benefits and there should be a flat fee.
“On the face [a usage-based fee]Â does seem like a good idea,” Schepps said, “but within this idea are now caught businesses, a small percentage of the population, who will have to pass this charge onto their customers.” Schepps added that the hospital will have to pay $17,000 a year and may have to cut back on the services provided.
Â “A deal was made that if LIPA buried the line, the residents who benefit would cover the cost,” Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said Tuesday. “But if LIPA’s trustees back out, the whole town will be stuck with an $8 million bill.”
The residents that would be affected by a surcharge are those in the Village of Southampton, portions of Water Mill, Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor. Excluded from the surcharge district are residents of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation, Tuckahoe and all areas west of the Shinnecock Canal.
Dumas said on Monday, “Concerns are being heard very late in the game.”
Assemblyman, Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said, “Certainly I was supportive of burying those lines through the heart of farm country, but the issue is really how to pay for it,” he added, “The Town of Southampton had to make a determination, which I believe is fair.”
Town councilman, Chris Nuzzi, who attended the LIPA meeting last week, said on Tuesday, “I always thought that it should be LIPA’s responsibility to pay for the lines,” but he adds when it was up to the town to come up with a solution, “We couldn’t figure out a fairer way – this is the fairest way.” He added that by doing this, the town also will be encouraging energy conservation.
Â Schepps said he did not believe that the usage-based charge will help get people to conserve energy, and said that the local businesses will have to pass this fee onto their customers.
”We had to find a creative way to deal with the energy problem, and a creative way to pay for them,” Nuzzi said on Tuesday.Â
According to Nuzzi, with the usage-based fee, residents would pay off the cost of the 69 volt transmission lines in approximately 20 years.
“Everything will be heard,” Dumas said on Monday, “every voice will be considered.”
But he added, “It’s very late to suspect there will be any change.”
On October 23, LIPA’s board of trustees will meet in Hauppauge to determine if the tariff will be enacted and whether the usage based fee will be used.