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Shoreham residents file suit over proposed solar farm

Google Earth image of the sod farm in

Google Earth image of the sod farm in Shoreham. Credit: Google Earth

Shoreham residents have filed a lawsuit against LIPA, PSEG Long Island, Brookhaven Town and the developer of a large solar array planned for their neighborhood, saying the 60-acre project lacked proper environmental reviews and that its power contract was invalid.

The suit, filed in state Supreme Court in Riverhead, seeks an immediate halt to development and any power production at the site, which is on a sod farm behind a residential neighborhood and along Route 25A in Shoreham.

The suit has been expected since residents learned of plans for the 50,000-panel solar array this summer.

Many residents, including two LIPA trustees who live in Shoreham, said they were surprised to learn of the project only months before construction was to begin. Residents packed town board meetings seeking to block approvals for the project, but Brookhaven's planning board provided the needed approvals last month.

Opponents of the project say they fear it will depress home values and obscure rural views. Proponents say they prefer a solar array to a mixed development that was planned for the site, but rejected.

The suit says the utilities, the town and the solar project developer failed to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which requires a thorough study of certain projects' environmental impact. The suit also says the project violates the Brookhaven Town code, Pine Barrens guidelines and "LIPA's own standards for power purchase agreements."

The suit seeks a court-ordered injunction to prevent Brookhaven from issuing any needed permits, block LIPA from entering into a contract before it has completed the proper environmental reviews and stop any further activity to develop the project until the court has ruled on its requests.

Fred Eisenbud, the attorney for eight named residents and a group called the Shoreham Wading River Advocates for Justice, said the defendants improperly "allowed the largest solar project"in LIPA's green-energy program "to go forward in a residential neighborhood without doing an environmental review." He also said the Brookhaven Town planning board "ignored significant portions of the law."

Michael Deering, a LIPA spokesman, said the authority hadn't seen the suit and added, "We will review any litigation papers if and when received."

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir also said the company had not seen the suit and declined to comment.

A Brookhaven Town spokesman declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for sPower, the project's Salt Lake City developer, didn't respond to a request seeking comment.

The suit also names Brookhaven's Planning Board, its Zoning Board of Appeals and two entities tied to sPower: Leavenworth Greenworks and Richwood Greenworks. It also names TED Land Holding.

The Shoreham solar farm was broached briefly during a public hearing on LIPA's 2015 budget. Jeffrey Kagan of Farmingville, the only ratepayer to speak during a day of hearings, urged LIPA to consider solar projects that use rooftops and brownfields rather than farmland or undeveloped woods.

"We'd appreciate if LIPA and PSEG would consider that before allowing these contracts to go through," Kagan said.

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