Caithness II Yaphank plant gets key permit approvals from town

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 proposed Caithness II power plant in Yaphank has received a pair of key approvals from Brookhaven Town.

The town board on Tuesday voted 5-2 to approve a special permit to build the 752-megawatt plant next to an existing 350-megawatt Caithness plant near the Sills Road exit of the Long Island Expressway.

The Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency voted 7-0 Wednesday in favor of a $62 million tax-break package for the plant. The package includes waivers from state and Suffolk County sales taxes on construction materials and an agreement on payments in lieu of taxes to be made by the Long Island Power Authority and the plant's owners.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright voted against the special permit after about 20 opponents expressed concerns about the plant.

"I do not believe there is a demonstrated need for a 750-megawatt fossil fuel plant, and I do not believe this should be approved," Cartright said. Romaine did not discuss his vote.

Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who represents Yaphank and voted for the measure, said Caithness II would be "a highly efficient plant."

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"It will help clean up the air quality in the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County as a whole," Kepert said.

Opponents questioned the need for the plant and said it would harm the environment.

Civic activist MaryAnn Johnston said the board should reject the plant because neither LIPA nor PSEG has shown the need for it.

Eric Hulse, 33, of Middle Island, said he opposed Caithness II because the plant would threaten northern long-eared bats, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to list as an endangered species.

The bats "have been found both on the Brookhaven National Lab grounds and on the Carmans River," about 1 mile away from the Caithness II property, Hulse said.

But Ross Ain, president of Caithness Long Island LLC, the company that built Caithness I and would build Caithness II, said concerns about the plant had been addressed by an environmental study authorized by the town, which found the plant posed no threat to the environment.

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