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Wind Farm Critics Step Up Efforts

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 22:14
While Judith Hope co-founds Win With Wind to correct ‘misinformation’
Main Street in Wainscott, where individuals opposed to an underground cable that would supply electricity to Long Island, crossing the hamlet, have begun an effort to encourage more part-time residents to register to vote.

As offshore wind moves toward reality along the Mid-Atlantic and New England coastline, its critics have stepped up the effort to prevent or at least alter its implementation. 

In the Town of East Hampton’s easternmost hamlet, Montauk commercial fishermen say the proposed South Fork Wind Farm may destroy their livelihood, citing potential disruptions to fish populations and migration patterns as well as the danger to navigation represented by its 15 turbines, each of them hundreds of feet tall and driven deep into the ocean floor. 

At the other end of the town, many Wainscott residents are upset that Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind has identified the ocean beach at the end of Beach Lane as the preferred site to land the wind farm’s export cable. A group called Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott has launched a website, wainscott.org, which lays out a mission statement, action plan, and petition opposing the site. 

“We strongly believe in alternative energy sources, including wind and solar,” the petition states. But a cable landing at Beach Lane will permanently alter “our sole, undivided community beach,” which is already prone to erosion. Wainscott already bears a disproportionate burden in the town, it says, including contaminated water that was discovered in many private wells in 2017 and noise and disturbance from East Hampton Airport, while multiple viable alternative sites to land the wind farm’s cable exist. 

On the other side of the argument, another group, Win With Wind, has recently formed. In an advertisement in last week’s issue of The Star, the group said that its mission is “to produce fact-based information regarding the benefits of renewable offshore wind energy.” The climate crisis, it said, “threatens our environment, our fisheries, the world’s oceans, our health, our safety from violent weather events, our food supply, and ultimately, we believe, human life on earth.” Its website is at winwithwind.org. 

“We decided that we needed a voice in the community expressing support for offshore wind as a partial solution to climate change,” said Judith Hope, a former town supervisor, who is a founder of Win With Wind. One of its goals, she said, “is to correct the huge amounts of misinformation being circulated” about the South Fork Wind Farm. “We will try hard to give the public hard facts about the proposal.” 

Ms. Hope said that she is sympathetic to Wainscott residents’ concerns and that stringent oversight must be applied to any landing site for the wind farm’s export cable. Likewise, “the commercial fishing industry should be compensated for any losses. . . . They should be protected. I feel strongly about it and think it’s a reasonable position. But I would add that it is in the long-term best interest of the fishing industry that we protect the oceans from the acidification and other devastation of continuing to burn fossil fuels.” 

The cable landing will be controversial regardless of where it is situated, Ms. Hope said, “because we are East Hampton, and that’s what we do best — oppose things. That’s who we are, it’s a part of our DNA.” 

Meaghan Wims, an Orsted spokeswoman, said in an email yesterday that the federal and state review processes for the South Fork Wind Farm are continuing. These include the Article VII public review process under the state public service law for an application to construct and operate a major electric transmission facility, in which Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind identified the Wainscott cable landing and a subterranean route from there to a Long Island Power Authority substation in East Hampton as its preferred option. 

The company lists state-owned land at Hither Hills as an alternative, which Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott would obviously prefer. “In the meantime,” Ms. Wims said, “we’re continuing to have constructive dialog with the community and all project stakeholders.” 

The Public Service Commission of the State Department of Public Service has scheduled a June 11 informational forum and public statement hearing on the South Fork Wind Farm’s Article VII application, to be held at the Emergency Services Building in East Hampton. Information forums will be at 2 and 6 p.m., each to be followed by a public statement hearing at 3 and 7. 

Orsted had requested a temporary halt to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s review process in order to update the Construction and Operations Plan with information that officials said could be relevant to the bureau’s draft environmental impact statement. As it had indicated, Orsted filed an amended Construction and Operations Plan on Friday, Ms. Wims said.