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Coalition opposes proposed solar power plant in Shoreham

Long Island Pine Barrens Society executive director Dick

Long Island Pine Barrens Society executive director Dick Amper speaks during a news conference at the Woodhull House on North Country Road in Wading River on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A coalition of lawmakers, civic and environmental groups Monday took aim at a plan to build a solar power plant on woodlands in Shoreham, calling instead for a new state park there.

Opponents gathered near the site of the proposed solar array by National Grid and NextEra to say the latest offer by the developers to set aside 300 acres for preservation and provide a $5 million environmental fund isn’t worth the damage that clearing more than 300 acres near the old Shoreham nuclear plant would cause.

“From our perspective you can’t find a worse site on Long Island,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine, who is requesting the town have a seat at the table in the so-called Article 10 process to review power plant sites. He also hinted at separate legal action.

Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said he has been talking with the developers for months and the $5 million sweetener came just last week.

“We’re turning it down,” he said. “We don’t believe we should tear down woodlands to clear-cut trees to do solar. . . . It’s compromising the environment while proposing to help it.”

Ross Groffman, executive director of LI Solar Generation, the joint partnership developing the project, said in a statement that it would bring “substantial benefits to the Shoreham-Wading River community, without imposing fiscal, traffic, noise, pollution and other burdens that inevitably accompany residential or other development.”

He confirmed that payments in lieu of taxes would exceed $2 million a year, and the company would establish a $5 million fund to support an environment and tree program and invest in “waterfront access enhancements.”

The plant, to be located on about 300 acres of land on the south side of North Country Road in Shoreham near the shuttered nuclear plant, has been offered as part of a LIPA/PSEG Long Island request for proposals for green energy. The 75-megawatt plant would be the state’s largest solar array. The utilities are expected to make a decision by summer.

Among the civic groups opposing the project were the Wading River Civic Association and the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, whose president, MaryAnn Johnston, was among the first vocal opponents of “green-for-green” power developments.

State Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) said he would work to persuade the state to set aside the entire property as a state park. “This is the last large coastal forest on the North Shore,” he said, calling the idea of clear-cutting it “obscene.”

John Turner, policy advocate for the Seatuck Environmental Association, said the property would qualify for preservation under the state’s Open Space Plan, and cited 15 rare plant species and 25 distinct wildlife communities in it as reasons to save it. A half-billion gallons of water pass through it to underground aquifers each year, he said.

Some environmental groups, including the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, have expressed support for the plan, saying the benefits of green energy override the loss of land that might otherwise be used for commercial or residential developments. Much of the total 800-acre property is zoned for 10-acre homes.

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