By Mara Certic
Even after PSEG Long Island has agreed to hold a public hearing in East Hampton on its long-range plan, local officials have continued to express frustration over the lack of details in the plan, which has identified the South Fork as “the highest load growth region on Long Island.”
PSEG LI will hold the hearing on Tuesday, August 26, at the East Hampton Village Emergency Services Building at 1 Cedar Street. An informational session will take place at 5 p.m. and the public statement hearing will begin at 6 p.m.
PSEG submitted its Utility 2.0 Long Range Plan to the Long Island Power Authority and the New York State Department of Public Service on July 1. The plan identifies a price tag of $294 million for improvements for the South Fork through the year 2022, without offering specifics.
The cover letter that accompanied the plan said “PSEG Long Island, as the authority’s service provider, is committed to building an industry leading electric company dedicated to provided the people of Long Island and the Rockaways with exceptional customer service, best-in-class reliability and storm response, and a strong level of involvement in the communities in which its customers and employees live and work.”
Last month, East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach Jr. sent PSEG a letter calling for it to hold a public meeting in East Hampton to allow residents to be involved in the process.
“We find the plan severely lacking in details for this work, unlike other projects and goals outlined in the plan, and believe more details concerning the location and basic design of these system improvements should be presented,” the letter read.
“East Hampton has learned first-hand as the result of the 6.5-mile overhead transmission line project controversy that communication and involvement of the public must be an important part of the process,” it added.
Six days after the letter was sent, the Department of Public Services added the East Hampton public hearing. The DPS has a fact sheet about PSEG’s new plan on its website, dps.ny.gov, which explains “Interested members of the public are invited to attend information sessions and public statement hearings to be held before DPS-Long Island staff. At the information session, PSEG Long Island staff will describe the plan, and DPS staff will discuss the review process and respond to questions about the process. Immediately following the information sessions, members of the public may provide their comments for the record.”
In spite of the announcement, local officials are still expressing concern. New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said his biggest problem is the lack of specificity in the plan, “While they identify funding for the South Fork that they feel will need to be spent because of the increase and the demand for power here on the South Fork, there is absolutely no detail at all provided as to how that money will be spent,” he said.
The report stated that $97 million in conventional infrastructure is required by 2017, with an additional $197 million through the year 2022. According to the report, these costs will primarily cover underground transmission lines. “Where do they believe that will be necessary?” Supervisor Cantwell asked last week. “It says ‘primarily underground;’ is any of this work over-ground?”
“They’re talking about additional substation work,” he added. “Which ones? Where are they and what’s the nature of the work that they propose?”
Those are just a few of the questions that Mr. Cantwell plans to ask PSEG during the public hearing in East Hampton. The town issued a stop-work order against PSEG LI at its substation on Old Stone Highway in Amagansett in April. The town board said the project should have been put before the planning board for site-plan review before the work began.
“They need to describe a clearer, more open process for pursuing projects they might propose in the future,” Mr. Cantwell said.
“Obviously my concern is heightened by the problems we’ve had in my district in both East Hampton and also in Shelter Island, where there’s been a lot of public outcry,” Assemblyman Thiele said. Shelter Island residents were up in arms recently over a proposed PSEG power station on the island.
East Hampton residents saw red when PSEG installed 70-foot transmission poles on residential streets earlier this year. A group of town and village residents formed an organization this winter called Save East Hampton: Safe, Responsible Energy, which is dedicated to stopping the installation of the overhead transmission lines along residential, historic and scenic routes in East Hampton.
When potential toxins were thought to be leaching from the new transmission poles and into the ground, a group sued the utility company because it had “failed to disclose the adverse cumulative impact of the project on health, property values and alternatives, and intentionally misrepresented them,” according to a press release issued at the time of the suit.
Mr. Rickenbach repeated the sentiments of other elected officials, adding on August 13, “I think what we would like very much is for PSEG to put on the table a comprehensive plan.”
“There’s a new kid on the block and they’ve inherited a lot of stuff from LIPA,” he said. “In the interest of full disclosure it’s best that they tell local governments and populations what their comprehensive plan is.”
A media representative from PSEG could not be reached for comment by the time of this paper’s publication.