Caithness Long Island can continue pursuing a plan to build a 600-megawatt power plant in Yaphank after the Brookhaven Town Board on Thursday lifted restrictions on the project.
The board voted 6-0, with one abstention, to repeal a 2015 covenant that limited the types of power-producing equipment the Manhattan-based company can use to build Caithness II, a gas-fired plant that would be built alongside an existing Caithness plant that opened in 2009.
Caithness still must obtain approvals from the town planning board and permits from state agencies before the new plant can be built.
Caithness officials have said the plant would supply electricity to power grids statewide and serve as a backup to existing and planned solar and wind farms. The facility also would help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and save Long Island Power Authority ratepayers about $75 million a year, company officials said.
“We are pleased that the town board repealed the restrictive covenant related to the previously approved Caithness II power project,” Caithness Long Island president Ross D. Ain said in a statement. “We now look forward to consideration and approval of the site plan filed with the planning board for what will be the region’s cleanest, most fuel-efficient, and most water-conserving power plant.”
Critics have questioned whether a new energy plant is needed and have said the Caithness facility would harm Long Island's air and water quality.
After the town board vote, civic activist Jeff Kagan told board members, "I think you need to review your environmental badges."
The town board in 2014 had granted a special permit for Caithness to build a 750-megawatt version of Caithness II. The following year, the board added the covenant restricting the types of equipment the plant could use.
Caithness officials this year asked Brookhaven officials to modify the covenant to allow the use of turbines that they said would be more efficient than older equipment approved in 2015. Instead of modifying the covenant, the town board voted to rescind it, saying the restrictions were unnecessary in the first place.
Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said the planning board would address questions about power equipment when it considers approval of a site plan for the plant.
"We're going to leave the planning to the planning board," she said in an interview.
Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, who abstained from the vote, said the town board had failed to act on Caithness' request to change the covenant. "The resolution should either be approval or denial, and not repealing the restrictive covenant," she said.
She said she believed the special permit approved in July 2014 had "effectively expired" this month because the plant had not been built. Eaderesto said town officials were reviewing whether the permit had expired.