Cantwell Appeals to Cuomo on PSEG Pole Project

East Hampton supervisor asks governor to halt the utility's installation of new electrical transmission lines
New poles have already gone up next to existing, shorter ones on much of the route, including on Town Lane in East Hampton Carissa Katz

The Town of East Hampton is taking a stand against PSEG Long Island's ongoing project to upgrade its transmission lines in East Hampton and Amagansett, a project that has angered and galvanized many residents who oppose it.

Supervisor Larry Cantwell has sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging his "immediate intervention" to halt the utility's installation of new, taller poles and transmission lines.

Mr. Cantwell's letter, dated Feb. 18, states that the transmission lines should be buried underground and that federal money allocated for Hurricane Sandy relief should be directed to that end.

"I am appealing for your help to correct a travesty in my community," Mr. Cantwell wrote to the governor. "This project is taking place in small residential neighborhoods where some homes are but 20 feet from transmission lines and poles."

Residents of McGuirk and nearby streets in East Hampton Village, many of whom said they had not been notified of a public hearing the village held with representatives of the utility in September, have been agitating for help in their efforts to stop and reroute the project. They have attended village and town board meetings and a Feb. 10 meeting of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee, and are circulating a petition demanding a halt to the project until their concerns are addressed.

Many residents fear negative health consequences associated with the electromagnetic fields produced by the high-voltage electrical transmission lines. The new transmission lines carry a higher voltage than the utility's existing infrastructure.

Residents are also dismayed by the aesthetic impact the poles -- some as tall as 61 feet -- would have on their neighborhood, as well as a negative effect on their property values.

In his letter, Mr. Cantwell noted the historic houses and scenic farm vistas in proximity to the poles and transmission lines and stated that "the project is contrary to the Town of East Hampton Comprehensive Plan and contradicts the New York State approved and locally designated Scenic Areas of Statewide Significance."

Mr. Cantwell's letter also recounts the Long Island Power Authority's preparation of an environmental assessment for the project and filing of a negative declaration pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act in October. "There was no public review of these documents and no public participation in the process," he wrote.

He explained to the governor that the previous administration had issued a road-opening permit for the project, but that "the lack of public participation and consideration of this project would cause the Town of East Hampton to consider legal remedies," if not for the expiration of the four-month span in which the environmental assessment could have been challenged. At the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, Mr. Cantwell had expressed frustration that such a challenge was no longer "one of the hooks we could have used legally" to halt the project.

Officials of PSEG Long Island, which assumed management of Long Island's electrical grid from LIPA on Jan. 1, have stated that the upgrade is necessary for its transmission infrastructure to withstand extreme weather, including winds of up to 130 miles per hour. They have asserted that routing the poles in proximity to existing lines along the Long Island Rail Road's corridor is unwise because falling poles could result in a regionwide power outage, and that burying the lines would be too expensive.

"This project should be built underground where the electric power serving our citizens will have the highest resiliency," Mr. Cantwell wrote.