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Brookhaven Town sues PSEGLI, LIPA over controversial power poles

Contractors work on new PSEG poles that were

Contractors work on new PSEG poles that were installed in Eastport, much to the communities staunch opposition, June 6 2017. Credit: Johnny Milano

Brookhaven Town has filed suit against PSEG Long Island and LIPA over a hotly contested $31 million project to install tall steel poles in Eastport, claiming the town was left out of a flawed environmental permitting procedure.

The town argues that a state Environmental Quality Review Act filing for the project was prepared “without written or any truthful or appropriate notice” to the town, and that LIPA’s declaration that there would be no “significant adverse environmental impact” was “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion” by LIPA.

PSEG spokesman Jeffrey Weir said the utility “cannot comment on pending litigation,” but has previously said town officials were told of the project in four separate meetings. A town official called that claim “an outright lie.”

The project, begun in the spring and now largely complete, replaced 175 smaller wooden utility poles with taller, thicker steel poles up to 110 feet high along a four-mile stretch of Country Road 51 in Brookhaven and Southampton, and through the hamlet of Eastport.

“The fact that these poles were clearly constructed on a secretive and expedited basis directly in front of residences, open space, core Pine Barrens, farmland and historic district property, within the town without any notices to the town board or its residents, demonstrates the faulty and significantly misleading statements made” by PSEG and LIPA, the suit charges.

PSEG has said the project was needed to provide more resiliency to the grid around Eastport and Moriches, but also was the start of a plan to bring more power to the energy-starved South Fork.

Brookhaven and state officials, and hundreds of local residents, say PSEG failed to follow newly implemented state Department of Public Service rules requiring that the utility consider the aesthetic impact of projects, and provide advance notice to residents, including in public hearings. State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) have lodged a complaint with the state. PSEG has not held any public hearings but attended one when the work was largely complete earlier this month.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in state Supreme Court in Riverhead, asks that LIPA’s finding of no environmental impact be found null and void, and requests that any remaining construction stop until a proper review is filed. Is also requests consideration of alternatives to the project, including undergrounding the 69,000-volt power line, which includes several miles of new lines through woodlands off the roadway.

PSEG has said doing so would add $10 million to $30 million to the cost.

LIPA’s finding that the project wouldn’t have a significant adverse environmental impact, the suit says, was “clearly based on failure to properly conduct an appropriate SEQRA analysis, as well as to properly consider the significant environmental and visual impacts” of the project.

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