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Mar 18, 2014 3:34 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Elected Officials, PSEG Go Head To Head On Cost Of Burying Transmission Line In East Hampton

Mar 18, 2014 3:34 PM

Local and state elected officials sent a letter to PSEG Long Island president David Daly on Monday afternoon, asking the utility company to shoulder half the cost of burying a transmission line from East Hampton to Amagansett.

The transmission line is part of the utility company’s effort to “harden” Long Island’s electrical grid and create a reliable and redundant or backup power system in the event of a major storm. However, the citizen advocacy group Save East Hampton claims the poles are too close to residents’ houses and fears that health hazards may be associated with electromagnetic fields, insisting that the poles be removed and the transmission line buried. The utility company has agreed to bury the line if East Hampton town and village will pay for the entire project.

Monday’s letter, which was signed by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop, East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach Jr., demands that the utility company split the net cost with the town and village, in keeping with the “Southampton precedent.”

Southampton Town helped resolve a similar issue in 2008 after the Long Island Power Authority, which was PSEG Long Island’s predecessor, announced plans to install a 69-kilovolt transmission line from Southampton Village to a substation in Bridgehampton, through back roads in Water Mill. Ultimately the cost of burying the line was split 50-50 between Southampton Town residents east of the Shinnecock Canal and LIPA.

“Ultimately it’s up to the town to determine who benefits from the lines, and how the payment would be split up,” said Mr. Thiele, who helped Southampton in its fight against LIPA. “They determined who benefits, who should pay and how long should the payment period be.”

The letter outlines PSEG’s representations in regard to cost, citing a total of $20 million to bury the transmission line, $6.5 million to complete an overhead project now under way and $2.1 million to modify the overhead project by shortening utility poles—a total of more than $28.6 million. However, the modification of the new poles is eligible for $8.5 million in FEMA money, bringing the total cost back down to $20.1 million.

The letter says PSEG and East Hampton would both pay $10.05 million, and that “PSEG’s share would be paid for by the entire rate base.” East Hampton’s share would be paid for “by a special assessment, on the PSEG bill in the benefited area of East Hampton, or any other method acceptable to the town/village and PSEG,” the letter says.

“They did it in Southampton, it shouldn’t be any different in East Hampton,” Mr. Thiele said on Monday in a telephone interview.

The letter came on the heels of PSEG Long Island’s public letter promising to continue to work with the town and village of East Hampton to find alternatives to the project if East Hampton is willing to foot the bill, and its commitment to completing the current work.

PSEG’s letter was released after a closed-door meeting on March 14 between the utility company, members of Save East Hampton and representatives from local and state government to find a compromise.

In the letter, PSEG reiterates its position that it will “initiate preliminary engineering studies to identify an [alternative] route, develop a conceptual design and construction approach …” for an alternative to the project. However, it says it is still up to the town and village to pay for the “all costs that are incremental to the current 23/22 kV overhead pole-line project.”

Additionally, the letter reaffirms PSEG’s plans to finish its ongoing overhead project by the end of May to ensure the company can meet the heightened demand for power come summer 2014.

PSEG’s position as to the costs of its ongoing project and its plan to continue it remain the same as they did after the private meeting last week and the public meeting the week before, according to PSEG’s director of communications Jeff Weir.

The dedication to finishing prior to the summer stems from a number of issues, said Mr. Weir—one of which was the removal of three diesel generators in Montauk last May.

According to a letter from James Flannery, vice president of power plant operations for National Grid, the three generators “provided energy, capacity, and ancillary services to the Long Island Power Authority” but had to be removed by May 3, 2013, because they were unable to meet “changing environmental requirements.”

“I don’t understand why we can’t just put the generators back,” said Rebecca Singer, the spokesperson for Save East Hampton, in a phone interview on Monday. “It explains why all of a sudden we need all this power during the summer.”

While Mr. Weir acknowledged the retirement of the generators is one factor in the need to upgrade the system, he said it is not the only one.

“Not having those is definitely something that has to be considered,” Mr. Weir said. “That is a component. It’s also a component that … there isn’t a redundant source of power right now.”

The current project is being funded by PSEG as part of its dedication to strengthening the electrical grid on Long Island, and ratepayers are not incurring any additional cost, said Mr. Weir.

As for PSEG’s letter of public promise, Mr. Thiele said it does not exactly express the level of cooperation he sensed during the private meeting on March 14.

“In my opinion, that letter doesn’t reflect where I thought we were headed,” he said. “I thought the meeting was PSEG saying we want to cooperate, where the letter is basically a ‘take it or leave it, this is our position.’”

All parties are scheduled to sit down to continue working on a compromise at the end of March.

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I don't know how PSEG took over LIPA so quickly but I'm sure it was politics. Bridgehampton had the same issue, and people didn't fight hard enough to stop this, and guess who is paying for this. The ratepayers. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO EAST HAMPTON.
By rvs (106), sag harbor on Mar 18, 14 8:53 PM
What happened in Southampton should be setting a precedent in East Hampton. Southampton residents was lucky enough to see the new poles laying down along the proposed route and they called LIPA on it. East Hamptoners were not so fortunate. The poles were hidden away, kept out of sight and none of us knew what was happening until they started going up at a back-breaking speed. There are places where new poles are needed for certain - where older, decrepit LILCO/LIPA poles were falling down - but ...more
By Sarah Minardi (1), East Hampton on Mar 19, 14 3:42 PM