The East Hampton Town Board voted Thursday to approve an agreement that will allow the South Fork Wind Farm to construct a land cable from the Atlantic Ocean through the town to a LIPA substation.
The 4-1 vote came after years of negotiations and after developers Orsted and Eversource offered a considerably larger package of benefits to the town valued at nearly $28.9 million over 25 years. The original package was $8.4 million.
The 15-turbine South Fork Wind Farm was commissioned by LIPA in 2017 to deliver power to the constrained South Fork, with an in-service date by the end of 2022. The project, to be built in federal waters, still requires state and federal permits to proceed, and has been delayed until at least 2023 due in part to delays in federal approvals.
The project was originally awarded to Deepwater Wind as a 90-megawatt wind farm. The company was later bought by Danish energy giant Orsted, which expanded it to 130-megawatts, enough to power 70,000 homes, the developers said. It could cost about $2 billion and will raise rates around $1.57 a month for average homeowners, LIPA said.
The East Hampton portion of the project, which deals only with the 4.1 mile-cable as it moves from state waters to 30 feet beneath a beach in Wainscott, then to a power substation in East Hampton Village, generated years of public debate and continues to rile a group of residents in Wainscott who object to potential impacts. The civic group Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott has threatened to sue to stop the cable project, and to incorporate as a new village to block it.
The East Hampton decision authorizes Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc to execute an agreement with the developer to provide easements through the town to connect the 138,000-volt cable at a LIPA substation on Buell Lane. It includes a range of protections for the town and area residents limiting construction and assuring minimal disruptions in noise, beach access and visual impacts. In the end, Van Scoyoc said in voting to approve the easements and agreement, the residents would encounter only a series of manhole covers on area streets when the work is complete.
Most board members spoke favorably of the project and the local approval, saying it would help address urgent issues of climate change while making East Hampton a leader in New York to address it.
Only one board member, Jeffrey Bragman, voted against it. In explaining one vote against and one abstention on two resolutions for the project, Bragman suggested the board wait until the Public Service Commission approves the cable project and issues a needed certificate to go forward.
He argued the town was giving up essential leverage on matters that another board member, David Lys, said remained unresolved on the larger project in federal waters, including a fishermen’s compensation program to help those who may be impacted.
But Lys, after raising some of the lingering issues, said, "I’m very comfortable with information I’ve received in the last two years to move forward" with the project.
Board member Kathee Burke-Gonzalez accused Bragman of "deliberately confusing people and mixing and matching things" that related to the cable and the larger offshore turbine in federal waters, which is being reviewed by the federal government.
Van Scoyoc said he took exception to the idea that the board’s vote was "some sort of willy-nilly knee-jerk response" to climate change, and argued the larger federal questions were "beyond our jurisdiction. We’ve been focused on the direct impacts to East Hampton."
A spokesman for the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott said the town's "illegal and reckless action is the latest example of the town board’s appeasement of Orsted to grab for dollars and indulge their ego," adding the "struggle to protect Wainscott will continue."