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Brookhaven accepts environmental statement for Caithness

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. Credit: Doug Kuntz

The Brookhaven Town Board voted Tuesday to accept an environmental impact statement for the Caithness II power plant in Yaphank, amid support from labor unions that want to build it and opposition from those concerned it will displace an older plant in Port Jefferson.

Without discussing the matter, the board voted 6-1 to accept the statement, opening the door to a series of permit approvals in the future. The statement will undergo a review period of at least 10 days before a vote to adopt it.

Nearly all of the dozen residents who spoke about the plant at a public comment period were in opposition. Afterward, Port Jefferson resident Molly Mason called the vote "a farce," in "blatant disregard for the public and ratepayers," who will foot the bill.

Caithness Energy president Ross Ain said in an interview the plant will save ratepayers $1.4 billion in fuel costs over its 20-year contract with the Long Island Power Authority because it will be considerably more efficient than older local plants.

The 752-megawatt plant will cost $1.09 billion to build and equip, and is estimated to cost ratepayers more than $3 billion over its anticipated 20-year contract with the Long Island Power Authority. Caithness and LIPA have declined to comment on those cost estimates.

LIPA says the plant, which will sit on an 81-acre site at the end of Zorn Boulevard in Yaphank, adjacent to an existing 350-megawatt Caithness plant, is needed to meet a projected capacity shortfall of up to 1,200 megawatts by 2023 or sooner, but opponents point to LIPA's surplus capacity in saying the plant isn't needed.

At the board meeting Tuesday, Port Jefferson village trustee Bruce D'Abramo said he was opposed to the plant because "it will obviate the need for a repowered Port Jefferson plant." The village is concerned the new plant would vastly reduce the need for an overhaul of the Port Jefferson plant and could end annual payments by LIPA of around $29 million to the local school district, village and other entities.

Edward Enders, a regional representative for the Northeast Council of Carpenters, drew cheers from the 70 or so construction workers when he said he supported the plant."

PSEG Long Island is conducting an analysis of the plant's cost and necessity, and its impact on rates. It's expected to be completed by year's end.

Brookhaven Town's approval is the latest step in moving the project toward its expected 2018 completion date. It still requires town board approval of a special permit to allow construction at the site, as well as building and other town permits, and must be approved by the state Public Service Commission.

The Caithness II plant, when combined with the existing plant, would create an 1,100-megawatt power facility, enough to power hundreds of thousands of Long Island homes.

Progress in constructing the plant comes as New York State pursues a fundamental change in the delivery and management of energy. Under an effort being led by the PSC, the state will pursue technologies and methods to better manage and reduce peak demand, through energy efficiency measures, low-energy appliances, renewable energy such as solar, and distributed power resources that lessen the need for big central plants.


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