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March 12, 2014

PSEG Says: You Pay, We Bury


After two meetings with East Hampton town and village officials last week, PSEG honchos agreed to bury the power lines that have been a source of passionate opposition for area residents.

Last Thursday the town board unanimously approved a memorializing resolution seeking Governor Andrew Cuomo's "financial assistance and intervention" in requiring PSEG to bury lines the utility is currently installing along a six mile route from the village to Amagansett.

Thursday night's resolution was bookended by meetings with PSEG officials, Supervisor Larry Cantwell, Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach and community members held on Wednesday and Friday.

Although the first work session was not designed to include public input, signs stating "bury the lines" posted throughout a standing room only town hall got the message across. At Wednesday's meeting PSEG president and Chief Operating Officer David Daly agreed to consider alternatives to the project currently underway. Community members are exorcised about the installation of giant, 65-foot poles for high voltage electrical transmission lines along a route through densely populated neighborhoods.

While he agreed to consider a different route, and burying the lines, Daly said he would not halt the ongoing work. The current project, estimated at $7 million, has already seen some 250 of 266 poles installed. PSEG's plan is to complete the project and work on reviewing the alternative at the same time.

By Friday, after a private meeting with Cantwell, Rickenbach, as well as Senator Ken LaValle, Assemblyman Fred Thiele and representatives of the community group, Save East Hampton: Safe, Responsible Energy, Daly promised to remove the big poles and install new transmission lines under ground within 16 months of the approval of project financing.

With a cost of burial at between $2 million and $4 million per mile, who pays is the multimillion dollar question. Last month Cantwell suggested seeking FEMA money dedicated to post Superstorm Sandy repairs, but in published reports, PSEG officials said they weren't sure the money is applicable in East Hampton's situation. Pressed, Daly said this week, further exploration of the option could be attempted. So, too, could pursuit of state grants.

Lacking federal or state funding, it could be up to local residents to foot the bill. Sunday, at the Empty Bowls fundraiser in East Hampton, Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc mused that, if the financing falls on local shoulders, he'd want to hold a town wide referendum vote on the matter.

Reporting on the private meeting on their Facebook page, Save East Hampton reps said PSEG will have a presentation of alternate routes available in the coming months, with a summary of funding sources compiled within four weeks' time.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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