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Jul 26, 2017 10:34 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Brookhaven Town Sues PSEG, LIPA Over Utility Pole Installation

The Town of Brookhaven filed a lawsuit against PSEG and LIPA last week. GREG WEHNER
Jul 26, 2017 10:56 AM

Brookhaven Town officials are suing the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG Long Island, challenging a determination by LIPA—the lead agency for the project—that the installation of new towering metal utility poles along both County Road 51 and Eastport Manor Road between Riverside and Eastport would not have a “significant adverse impact on the environment.”

The ruling allowed the project to advance without a study leading to the preparation of a draft environmental impact statement.

An examination of the work under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, also was completed by LIPA’s consultant, GEI Consultants PC, and it likewise resulted in a “negative declaration” in March, which allowed the project to proceed. The lawsuit notes that the study identified the location of the transmission line upgrade project as within the towns of Riverhead and Southampton, ignoring the Town of Brookhaven.

A description of the project also incorrectly states its ends at the intersection of Eastport Manor Road and Sunrise Highway in Eastport, though the work extends nearly a mile south of Sunrise Highway and into the hamlet’s historic district, most of which falls within Brookhaven Town.

In the lawsuit, Emily Pines, an attorney working on behalf of Brookhaven Town, said town officials were denied the opportunity to participate or offer an opinion on the project because LIPA and PSEG failed to notify them. Most residents along both corridors also said they received no advance notice of the work, with some noting that they only learned of the upgrades when crews began digging in their front yards.

“LIPA’s environmental review did not comply with SEQRA and should be annulled as being arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion,” reads the lawsuit, which was filed last week by Brookhaven Town in State Supreme Court.

When asked about the omission of Brookhaven Town from the SEQRA process, Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman for PSEG, said: “PSEG doesn’t comment on pending litigation.”

Representatives of GEI Consultants PC, whose corporate office is located in Woburn, Massachusetts, could not be immediately reached this week.

The lawsuit notes that Brookhaven Town officials submitted a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law for a copy of the SEQRA from LIPA, and that the authority never responded. Town officials secured the copy of the review from a newspaper, according to the litigation.

Brookhaven Town is seeking a mandatory injunction that requires further work on the project to cease, and a proper SEQRA review be conducted that includes input from previously unsolicited parties, namely Brookhaven Town and Eastport residents. Town officials also want the court to require that the utility consider alternatives to the poles, such as the undergrounding of the transmission lines.

Ongoing upgrades in Eastport, as well as along County Road 51 to the north, are part of a $513 million initiative that is intended to address growing demands for electricity on the South Fork. As part of that work, PSEG installed an estimated 175 metal poles between substations in Riverhead and Eastport. Nearly all of the close to 200 residents who attended a meeting at the Eastport Firehouse on July 12 demanded that PSEG bury the lines and remove the large poles, which, according to the SEQRA declaration, range from 65 feet tall to 110 feet tall in some areas.

According to the lawsuit, “There is not a single comment or reference within the entire SEQRA document to any alternatives to the use of unsightly large steel poles, including the option of undergrounding the [electric lines].”

The day after the community meeting, PSEG officials met with local and state legislators to come up with a solution, and, according to Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico, PSEG officials stated that they are committed to coming up with plans to bury the lines between Montauk Highway and Sunrise Highway along Eastport Manor Road. Between those two points are nearly 40 metal poles, crammed into a short distance of less than a mile, leading to the substation on the south side of Montauk Highway. It is also the section of road that was completely omitted from documents filed by PSEG.

PSEG officials have still not confirmed that they have agreed to bury the lines between these two points, however.

Mr. Panico did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the lawsuit.

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Funny how Southampton Town has been unusually quiet considering the majority of the poles are actually in Southampton Town! Thanks for the solid representation in a forgotten Hamlet! God forbid the Board make waves with the utilities who serve the Estate Districts. I bet those lines get buried further East.
By Mouthampton (417), Southampton on Jul 27, 17 9:44 AM