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Wind farm developer boosts East Hampton benefit package to $29M

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said the full town board hopes to vote on Orsted's proposal this month or next.    Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The developer of a wind farm that will provide energy for the South Fork has boosted a benefits package it proposes to pay to the Town of East Hampton to just under $29 million in cash over 25 years, town officials said Wednesday.

The so-called host-community benefits package to be paid to the town by Danish wind-farm developer Orsted will include two payments of $500,000 before the facility begins operation, and continuing annual payments of $870,000 for 25 years (with a 2% annual increase) for a total of just under $29 million, officials said at a town workshop.

That’s a “significant” increase from the $8.5 million Orsted’s predecessor, Deepwater Wind, offered the town in 2018, said Peter Van Scoyoc, the town supervisor. The agreement would be with both the town and Town Trustees, who have oversight of certain properties 

The proposed agreement, which still requires approval of the Public Service Commission, would require Orsted to appoint a fisheries representative to act as liaison between the company and the fisheries community. It would also require the company to "attempt" to locate a "suitable property" to house a turbine maintenance and crew transport facility in Montauk. The company already has an option on a property at Inlet Seafood marina in Montauk, negotiated with commercial fishermen who own the facility. 

Orsted-Eversource spokeswoman Meaghan Wims, in a written statement, said: “Our goal from the outset has been to deliver a project that best fits the community by minimizing impacts, in addition to providing meaningful benefits. Today’s presentation at the Town Board work session is a positive sign of the progress made towards this critical goal.”

The company’s offshore wind farm, under contract to LIPA, will provide energy for up to 70,000 homes, Orsted said, and cost average LIPA ratepayers across Long Island about $1.58 a month.

The decision is almost certain to face opposition in Wainscott, where the cable is to make land at Beach Lane, a narrow paved road leading to a quiet public beach. Residents there have vowed to fight the cable landing path by incorporating as a village and taking legal action.   

Gouri Edlich, who heads the group Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, said in a statement: "The town selling out Wainscott for more money has nothing to do with the law's obligation: Choose the best available site based on the merits. Not money. Not politics."

She charged Van Scoyoc has "now broken yet another promise to Wainscott as he publicly told the community that he would not grant an easement until the environmental regulatory process was complete."

Van Scoyoc, in an interview, said the town was finalizing the proposed agreement, and expected to set a vote by the full town board sometime later in September or October, after all documents had been made public.

He said of the Wainscott group’s opposition, “From my standpoint there’s been plenty of environmental review” of the cable, which will run up to 2.5 miles through Wainscott before traversing along an LIRR right of way.

“If they don’t happen to agree, they’re entitled to their opinion,” he said, noting that there was also considerable support in Wainscott for the project. “I don’t think anyone has put forth a better alternative in terms of lower environmental impact,” Van Scoyoc said.

The agreement would give Orsted an easement to lay the cable from the Wainscott beach to the Cove Hollow substation in East Hampton, granting easements to use town roads and trustee property over 25 years, while setting forth wildlife and wetlands protections, and other requirements by Orsted. The town would enforce the agreement and have the ability to revoke it for violations of the contract.

A PSC spokesman declined to comment on the ongoing settlement talks.

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