Cuomo Avoids PSEG Fight

Opposition continued to mount to an ongoing PSEG Long Island project to install new, taller utlity poles between East Hampton Village and Amagansett. Durell Godfrey

        A campaign to stop PSEG Long Island from completing its installation of 45 to 65-foot-tall poles and high-voltage electrical transmission lines along a six-mile route in East Hampton Town, from a substation at Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton to another at Old Stone Highway in Amagansett, is continuing even though the work is almost done.

       Residents have called for the numerous poles already installed to be removed and for the 33,000-volt lines to be buried underground. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s intervention is seen as key to stopping the project and forcing the utility to work with the village and town on alternatives. A meeting was held yesterday afternoon in Town Hall with PSEG representatives, aides to State Senator Kenneth J. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., and local officials. A story about their discussion appears on The Star’s website.

       The governor was reportedly not sending a representative, and he was not likely to get involved, according to Helene Forst, an organizer of the citizens’ group Save East Hampton: Safe Responsible Energy. In an email on Monday, she said that Scott Martella, the governor’s regional representative, had indicated in a phone call that he did not intend to stop the installation.

       Nevertheless, Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell remained hopeful on Tuesday that Albany might intervene. At an East Hampton Town Board work session, he said Mr. Cuomo’s office was “getting that message” and trying to get PSEG to examine alternatives.

       Members of the East Hampton Town Board had agreed earlier this week to follow letters sent to the governor by Supervisor Cantwell and East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. with one of their own, attached to a “sense of the board” resolution expected to be passed tonight. Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez reported Tuesday that she had made her own call to the governor; she and Mr. Cantwell suggested that all those concerned do the same.

       The poles tower over older, 35-foot-tall poles as well as houses, and the transmission lines have caused concern not only over their visual impact, including the severe tree trimming that has been done, but also about safety, should they fall in a storm, as well as any potential for negative health consequences caused by proximity to the high-tension lines.

       The project is part of an upgrade needed to curtail frequent electrical outages and to make the system more resistant to future storms, PSEG has said.

       The utility presented details at a public meeting in September, and said then that burying the lines was cost-prohibitive.

       Ms. Forst and several others attended a meeting last week of the trustees of the Long Island Power Authority, which handed over control of Long Island’s electrical grid to PSEG early this year. Though one trustee moved to have the East Hampton project suspended for two weeks, he was reminded that PSEG is in charge of the work and that LIPA lacks the authority to suspend it.

       At that meeting, and in a letter to Ralph Suozzi, the LIPA board chairman, Ms. Forst said that the PSEG project is counter to the East Hampton Town Comprehensive Plan, which calls for underground utility lines and the protection of scenic vistas and the environment.

       Historical precedent in East Hampton Town for the placement of electrical lines underground was discovered recently by Kieran Brew, a member of the Amagansett Fire Department, who was doing research about the department. An April 17, 1914, item in The Star reported that the East Hampton Electric Light Company was to begin extending its service to Amagansett and that the cables would be laid in conduits under ground.

       “We commend the progressive spirit of our sister hamlet to the eastward in insisting upon having the electric light wires laid underground,” it said.

       Meanwhile PSEG has announced another increase in the power supply charge on Long Island electric customers’ bills, the sixth hike in that many months of the charge, which accounts for about 50 percent of the bill.