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Yaphank power plant permit should still be valid, Brookhaven councilman says

Councilman Kevin LaValle has asked town to rescind its letter from last week saying a permit for the Caithness II plan had expired.

A Brookhaven councilman has called on town officials to retract a letter released last week saying a permit for a power plant proposed in Yaphank had expired.

Republican Kevin LaValle said Wednesday he believes Caithness Long Island's permit to build the 600-megawatt gas-fired plant is still valid while a site plan application is under review by town planning officials.

Town Planning Commissioner Tullio Bertoli, in a July 16 letter to Caithness officials, said the permit had expired on July 15 and could not be renewed.

LaValle said in an interview he had asked town planning officials to rescind Bertoli's letter.

“Whether it was an oversight or what have you in the planning department . . . I think we should allow Caithness to move ahead with their plan and get this power plant built,” LaValle said. “With Long Island’s energy independence at stake now, it would be a real shame to slow down this project right now, to say the least.”

Caithness has proposed building the plant, to be called Caithness II, alongside an existing plant that opened in 2009. The Brookhaven Town Board had voted 5-2 in 2014 to approve a permit to build a larger, 750-megawatt version of Caithness II, which was not built.

The board voted 6-0 on July 12 to suspend a 2015 covenant that imposed construction restrictions on the plant. Democratic Councilwoman Valerie Cartright abstained from the vote.

Supporters of Caithness II said the facility would be more energy-efficient than older Long Island power plants. Caithness officials have said the plant would save Long Island Power Authority ratepayers $75 million a year.

Opponents have questioned whether the plant is needed and have said it would harm air and water quality. 

"The Town of Brookhaven should not shackle Long Island to more polluting fossil fuels but instead should be supporting solar and wind projects," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said in a statement Wednesday.

LaValle said Bertoli's letter should be rescinded because town law allows building permits to remain in effect if a site plan has been submitted. Caithness applied earlier this year for site plan approval of Caithness II, town officials said.

But Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said Wednesday the permit expired because town planners have not completed their review of the site plan application.

“The way we read that section, it has to be an approved site plan,” Eaderesto said, adding Caithness' original two-year permit had been extended twice before it expired. 

Caithness president Ross D. Ain said in a statement he "appreciates Councilman LaValle’s support," adding Bertoli's letter "ignores a section of the town code that maintains the effectiveness of a special permit or variance" while planners consider the site plan.

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