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State agency to review request to reconsider PSEG pole project

A PSEG Long Island crew is seen at

A PSEG Long Island crew is seen at work on July 10, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The state Department of Public Service is reviewing a request by two state lawmakers and Brookhaven Town to examine whether PSEG Long Island skirted department rules by installing 175 tall steel poles on roadways in Eastport without public hearings and consideration of aesthetic impacts.

The state department, which has review and recommend oversight of LIPA and PSEG, previously said it did not apply the standards it enacted for such big-pole projects to the latest PSEG installation because PSEG told the agency it was not “a project with substantial visual and aesthetic impacts.”

But in an email to Newsday, DPS spokesman James Denn said the agency was “reviewing the request” by lawmakers to reconsider that finding in light of public protest about the project, which has installed steel poles of up to 110 feet high on roadways near homes, businesses and preserved wooded land. The agency “will respond once the review is complete,” Denn said.

He was responding to a letter sent to the PSC last month by state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) noting public outcry to a similar tall-pole project in East Hampton that prompted new state requirements for notification and community involvement in siting such projects.

Then-PSC chairwoman Audrey Zibelman wrote that the agency would work with PSEG to ensure that future projects “demonstrate a thoughtful approach to aesthetics and provide adequate advance notice,” while the outreach process is “sufficient for the affected communities to fully understand the magnitude of the project, be aware of alternatives and have a meaningful opportunity to provide input.”

Despite those promises, the lawmakers wrote, “we are again now confronted with the same situation in the hamlet of Eastport.” They pointed to 6 miles of new transmission lines on steel poles of 80-feet to 110-feet-high “through populated residential areas, a portion of the central business district, an historic district, farm fields and the Central Pine Barrens.”

The state lawmakers aren’t the only ones complaining. Brookhaven Town supervisor Ed Romaine and Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico also wrote to new PSC chairman John Rhodes, saying the project was “approved without any written notifications to the town and clearly without any serious consideration for the aesthetic and visual impacts . . . ”

It noted that the town was “prohibited” from participating in the approval process for the project, and never received copies of an environmental review conducted by a PSEG contractor until it sued LIPA and PSEG two weeks ago.

PSEG has declined to comment on lawmakers’ claims about the Zibelman letter, and to discuss the lawsuit filed by Brookhaven Town against LIPA and PSEG over the environmental approvals for the pole project.

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