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East Hampton residents protest PSEG LI plan to install taller power lines

East Hampton residents rally against the use of

East Hampton residents rally against the use of utility poles for electrical wiring in their town on Saturday, April 5, 2014. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

East Hampton's battle to bury new high-voltage transmission lines escalated, with the town issuing a stop-work order and threatening to sue PSEG Long Island.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the order seeking to halt part of the project, at an Amagansett substation, was issued Friday.

"Our attorneys determined they needed a site-plan approval," he said.

State Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) said at a Saturday afternoon rally held at Hook Mill that a lawsuit is a "last resort."

"We want to come to a negotiated solution that everybody is going to be amenable to," he said.

A couple of hundred residents gathered to assail the utility for recently installing 62-foot-high utility poles along residential streets despite their health and safety concerns.

Michael Brown, 50, said his children could have been injured had the new pole outside his McGuirk Street home been carrying high-voltage power when it was recently struck by lightning. "The kids ran out of the house; they jumped over the line," he said.

PSEG LI has so far installed about 260 of the poles, which will carry electricity 6 miles between substations in East Hampton and Amagansett, said utility spokesman Jeff Weir. The new system, he said, is a safeguard against outages that also will help meet the resort area's peak summer demand.

Putting the transmission lines underground would cost significantly more, Weir said. The utility has said that East Hampton must pay the additional costs in order to avoid burdening other ratepayers.

East Hampton officials argue that burying the lines will be safer and reduce maintenance costs. Citizen activists have been raising money to help cover the added costs.

Weir said Saturday afternoon that the utility had yet to receive the stop-work order.

He faulted Cantwell for continuing to fight "a needed energy infrastructure project that he himself was involved with during the approval process as village administrator."

Cantwell said he and other officials discussed their concerns with state Public Service Commission chairwoman Audrey Zibelman, who oversees energy planning, at a meeting Friday.

"She said she would respond to us in the next two weeks in writing," he said.

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