Brookhaven approves environmental plan for Caithness II in Yaphank

An aerial photo of LIPA's Caithness facility in An aerial photo of LIPA's Caithness facility in Yaphank shows the large rectangular parcel about the same size as the plant directly adjacent to the now operating facility on June 6, 2013. Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

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The Brookhaven Town Board has approved an assessment of the proposed Caithness II power plant that found the Yaphank facility would not cause significant environmental harm.

The board voted 6-1 on Tuesday to adopt a "findings statement" on plans to build the 752-megawatt plant next to an existing 350-megawatt Caithness plant. The vote clears the way for town approval of a special permit for the plant.

The board voted as about two dozen Caithness II opponents held signs and voiced objections to the plant.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, who cast the dissenting vote, unsuccessfully sought to postpone the vote because the 39-page statement was posted on the town website less than five hours before the meeting.

"I have not, as a councilwoman, had an opportunity to review it," she said. "This is not only a problem as far as how the Town of Brookhaven is functioning . . . but it is probably a violation of the open meetings law."

Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said the vote was legal because the town board had held public hearings and other public discussions of Caithness earlier this year. She said the statement was posted shortly after town planning officials completed it on Tuesday.

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The state Open Meetings Law says documents related to board votes "shall be made available . . . to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or the department, prior to or at the meeting during which the records will be discussed."

The statement, prepared as part of the state environmental quality review process, found that Caithness II "will not result in significant adverse environmental impacts."

Opponents at the meeting said the plant wasn't needed and called on the board to pressure LIPA to shift its focus to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.

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Molly Mason, of Port Jefferson, called Caithness II "Shoreham II," a reference to the mothballed $5 billion nuclear plant, and said building the plant would "wipe out" the need to overhaul an existing National Grid-owned plant in Port Jefferson.

Councilwoman Connie Kepert said she supported Caithness II, saying it would be "highly efficient" and better for the environment than aging LIPA plants.

"Unfortunately, we cannot meet the energy needs of Long Island just on alternative energy," said Kepert, who represents Yaphank.

With Mark Harrington

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