The much-ballyhooed Deepwater Wind project took a step forward when the East Hampton Town Board, as expected, by a 3-2 vote on Thursday, July 19, signaled its desire to approve an easement with Deepwater allowing it to bring a cable ashore in Wainscott, but fell short of actually doing so.
The board issued a “memorializing agreement” that indicates it is in favor of the plan, subject to certain concerns that must still be flushed out.
“It’s not a check you can take to the bank and cash,” said East Hampton Town Attorney Mike Sendlenski. As part of its approval, the town hired an outside law firm to review the proposed contract with Deepwater. “We’re not doing anything else right now,” Sendlenski added.
“The town recognizes that there are serious and substantial issues with the project that must be addressed and mitigated through the [Public Service Commission] Article VII review,” the board’s resolution stated. That review is conducted by the state. The town also asserted its right “to be an intervenor in the Article VII review and may be entitled to receive funding from the project to aide in the town’s intervention efforts.”
Attorney John Wagner and the firm of Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman LLP are to be hired for “all issues relating to the project, including the drafting and negotiation of the grant of access and utility easement, lease, and community benefits package,” stated a second resolution.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said after the outside attorney reviews the documents in question, the board will hold another public meeting at which the public can comment again.
There have been three recent, spirited meetings about the Deepwater application, two in the last three days. On July 19 at town hall about two dozen speakers weighed in, equally split for and against the South Fork Wind project, Deepwater’s plan to build 15 wind turbines 25 to 30 miles off the coast of Montauk.
Two days earlier a schism between the board members appeared. The two newest, Jeff Bragman and David Lys, announced they were not in favor of entering into the easement agreement. Bragman, an attorney, revealed that he had a conversation with state legal officials and was told Deepwater does not need the town’s easement approval to enter into the Section VII process; Deepwater officials have repeatedly said it was a legal necessity.
Bragman said Deepwater deliberately misled the town, hoping to get the lease agreement and then present it to state reviewers as an indication that the town supported the wind farm. Lys and Bragman voted against the memorializing lease Thursday. Van Scoyoc, Councilwomen Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, and Sylvia Overby voting in favor.
The East Hampton Town Trustees must also sign off on plans to use the Wainscott beach to bring the cable ashore.
Despite the board’s split decision, Deepwater CEO Jeffrey Grybowski thanked the town board for its action in a prepared statement. “The East Hampton Town Board’s support for the South Fork Wind Farm proves yet again that they are true champions of the environment and clean energy, and actively working toward their 100 percent renewable energy goal,” he said.
“We’re ready to fulfill our promise to bring more than $8 million in community benefits to East Hampton from New York’s first offshore wind farm, and to deliver a project that reflects extensive input from local stakeholders.”