East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell expressed the feelings of many residents this week when he sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo objecting to PSEG Long Island’s ongoing project to run new, high-voltage power lines between East Hampton and Amagansett. We applaud his effort and hope that he is joined by others, such as State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., in calling for a different approach.
PSEG Long Island, a subsidiary of a for-profit New Jersey company, Public Service Enterprise Group, has a 10-year, $5 billion arrangement with the Long Island Power Authority to operate the electric system in Nassau and Suffolk Counties subject to state oversight.
Calling the work a “travesty,” Mr. Cantwell cited the town’s comprehensive plan and inclusion in a statewide scenic areas inventory as ample justification for a halt to the project, in which the utility has been installing tall poles in residential areas. Mr. Cantwell said the new lines should be buried underground and out of sight.
At a meeting in East Hampton Village earlier this year, PSEG Long Island representatives said that burying the lines would be too expensive, but they did not provide dollar estimates to back up the claim. Whether or not this is true, they made clear that they were not going to do it.
Elsewhere, the company has angered Montauk residents by embarking on drastic tree-cutting with scant advance notice. One suspects that such aggressive work would save the company money by increasing the length of time between prunings, hence making things look better for investors and shareholders.
Under the terms of the LIPA deal, PSEG Long Island agreed to a rate freeze through 2015. You don’t have to look too deeply to see that without a way to pass on expenses to its customers, the company is trying to contain costs wherever possible, including by not burying lines despite a community outcry.
Officials should press Mr. Cuomo, who can wield influence with the New York Department of Public Service if he so chooses, to force the issue. An out-of-state company cannot be allowed to run roughshod over East Hampton’s long history of preservation, and then hide behind vague claims that doing the right thing would cost too much money.
Mr. Cuomo, are you listening?