East Hampton Village Mayer Paul Rickenbach mailed a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday, requesting that Mr. Cuomo assist the village in halting the instillation of high voltage utility poles and a transmission line on McGuirk Street and neighboring roads until village and town officials sit down with PSEG to review the project.
PSEG, the utility company carrying out the electrical project, is open to meeting with members of the community and municipal officials, said Jeffery Weir, director of communications at PSEG, during a phone interview on Tuesday. However, given Monday’s holiday and schools being off this week, said Mr. Weir, a definite date for a meeting has not yet been determined.
Mr. Rickenbach’s effort comes on the heels of a similar letter to Mr. Cuomo from East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who requested “immediate intervention” from the governor’s office and asked that the state’s federal funding from Hurricane Sandy be used to bury the lines.
“I think the letter meets the parallel correspondence that the supervisor sent,” said Mr. Rickenbach. “We feel that the governor’s office should be aware of what’s happening out here.”
Mr. Rickenbach, who hosted a meeting in September between Village Trustees, PSEG, and residents who would be affected by the new transmission poles, said the village tried “in good faith to be transparent,” but the residents’ concerns were understandable and he would work toward meeting their needs.
Similarly, State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. sent a letter to New York State Public Service Commissioner Diane Burman, asking for a dialogue about alternatives to PSEG’s current plan.
A group of East Hampton Village residents trying to force the removal of high-voltage utility poles and a transmission line from McGuirk Street and neighboring roads, as well as local elected leaders, are asking to meet with utility company representatives sometime this week to discuss the possibility of burying the lines or rerouting them.
Representatives of Save East Hampton—Safe, Responsible Energy, as well as East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach and East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, said they hope to meet with officials from the Public Service Enterprise Group, or PSEG, to discuss options.
Jeffrey Weir, the director of communications at PSEG, said earlier this week that he is uncertain when the meeting would take place.
Community group members, who argue that the new utility poles are safety and health hazards, and have already harmed their property values, have requested that PSEG let them know the cost of the project and the cost of burying the lines. They also want to know what areas are being served by the East Hampton to Amagansett lines.
“The concern is obviously that the route…is six miles long, but it’s only four miles long had they gone along the railroad tracks,” said Terri Rauch, a spokesperson for Save East Hampton. “It seems very short-sighted for a company that’s supposed to be improving and updating the current system.”
Save East Hampton hired Tarbet & Lester, a law firm in Amagansett, on February 5 to look into any legal standing the group might have in forcing PSEG to remove the poles. Attorney Jon Tarbet said he has been working with both the village attorney, Linda Riley, and the town attorney, Elizabeth Vail, to further explore if either municipality can take legal action against PSEG.
“As Larry called it, PSEG is like the fox guarding the hen house,” Ms. Rauch said. “Yes, they did the SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] and all the things they were required to do, but the environmental assessment was self-serving.”
The state law requires that applicants complete environmental assessments that examine specific issues, like public safety and aesthetics, and issue a finding, before they can legally proceed with a project.
Mr. Weir said AKRF, a third party, conducted an environmental analysis on the project and issued a negative declaration, which was signed off by LIPA on September 25. PSEG held a public meeting on September 12 and East Hampton Village signed off on the document as well.
“As far as I can tell, this document was never subject to public scrutiny,” said Mr. Cantwell, who added that the environmental review process allows the town a four-month objection period, which has “unfortunately passed.”
“We researched that,” Mr. Cantwell said. “Otherwise, frankly, the Town Board would have considered legal action under SEQRA.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Cantwell mailed a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking for federal funding from Albany from Hurricane Sandy be used to bury the lines.