PSEG on the Carpet

Big turnout expected at Tuesday meeting

East Hampton residents are gearing up for a meeting Tuesday with officials of PSEG Long Island, the town’s electrical utility. The meeting was called to discuss PSEG’s long-range plan to meet energy needs, but will likely also become a forum on its installation here of a backup electrical transmission line running over six miles from East Hampton Village to Amagansett.

Objections to the project have spurred the creation of two citizens groups, one of which, Long Island Businesses for Responsible Energy, has sued PSEG, alleging negative environmental and health impacts stemming from the high-voltage wires and from a toxic chemical applied to the utility poles. Both groups demand that the new lines be placed underground.

The meeting, at East Hampton Village’s Emergency Services Building on Cedar Street, will begin with a presentation at 5 p.m., followed by a comment period at 6.

Renewable Energy Long Island, an East Hampton-based organization, mounted a letter-writing campaign this week to raise awareness of the utility’s long-range plan, called Utility 2.0. Part of the plan, the organization said in an email, “is to install several polluting, oil-burning power plants in East Hampton Township.”

“East Hampton does not need these power plants,” the mailing said. “There are alternative proposals to provide the same power need through renewable energy and battery storage technology.”

By unanimous vote, the town board recently set a goal of meeting all of East Hampton’s electricity needs with renewable energy by 2020, and all of its energy needs by 2030. The board has approved several proposed solar plant installations on town properties, which would be created through a utility company program; they are being reviewed by the sponsor.

Renewable Energy Long Islando tell PSEG “that we deserve a real utility of the future — one that is serious about renewable energy usage and climate-change mitigation.”

Save East Hampton has also called for residents to turn out for the meeting, and to “demand that the lines be buried.”

“Our lives and livelihoods depend on it,” the group said. The large new utility poles, carrying 33,000-volt transmission lines through residential areas, are “dangerous, unsightly, and will require expensive, long-term, constant repairs,” it said. Save East Hampton also claimed in a release to have found an underground electrical line constructed in 1903 along Route 114 and Montauk Highway in East Hampton, which, it said, has provided uninterrupted power ever since.

Federal Emergency Management Agency money earmarked for utility system upgrades to prevent damage in future storms should be used to pay for placing the new lines underground, said the group.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach, along with State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who have criticized PSEG’s Utility 2.0 plan for a lack of specifics as to future projects here, were instrumental in the utility’s agreeing to hold a public information session locally.

In its lawsuit against PSEG, Long Island Businesses for Responsible Energy cites potential harm from pentachlorothenol, a chemical applied to utility poles, as well as from the effects of electromagnetic fields emanating from the high-voltage wires. PSEG recently moved to dismiss the suit, calling those claims speculative. The utility also argued that the lawsuit was filed too late, saying that a four-month window during which, under law, PSEG’s conclusion that the project had little potential to do environmental harm could be challenged, had closed.

LIBFRE has proposed a settlement under which the lines would be buried or rerouted and the cost covered by the federal FEMA funding. It suggests that the court broker the settlement, with terms to cover not only paying for the underground installation, but also future “alternative means of energy generation, energy efficiency, conservation, and renewables, and protection of the health, property values, and the environment.”

An action against PSEG Long Island by East Hampton Town, which issued a stop-work order curtailing the utility’s work on an Amagansett substation because site plan approval had not been obtained, is also before the court.