Editorial: Lawyerly Advice

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Recent developments have supported Councilman Jeff Bragman’s argument that the Town of East Hampton should be doing nothing to assist, support or even cooperate with the developer of the South Fork Wind Farm while it is awaiting the completion of a review of the project’s impacts by the New York State Public Service Commission.

No matter how much reasonable people dread global warming’s catastrophic impacts and want green energy and sustainable resources to eliminate the need to burn fossil fuels, extreme caution is still required when a foreign corporation is pushing to build a $1.6-billion-plus, 15-turbine, 130-megawatt offshore facility to generate power at a profit for the South Fork.

That’s why Mr. Bragman called it “a big deal” when Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, speaking at a meeting of the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee on Saturday, acknowledged “there have been a lot of changes” in the project in recent months and that he was “no longer sure” that it was unnecessary to wait for the PSC’s review to be completed before granting the developer an easement to bring the project’s transmission cable ashore at Beach Lane.

“We think that process will probably complete before we sign any agreement,” he said.

Mr. Van Scoyoc and Town Board members Sylvia Overby and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez have argued since last year there is no harm, or commitment implied, in negotiating an easement with in exchange for a multi-million-dollar corporate goodie-bag package for the town. Last year they voted to begin those discussions with the developer.

The same three-person majority also voted just last month to allow the developer — formerly Deepwater Wind, now Denmark-based Orsted and its New England-based partner, Eversource — to conduct test borings of the substrata at Beach Lane.

Voting no were Mr. Bragman and David Lys, who has said he’s concerned about the project’s impact on the commercial fishing community.

Mr. Bragman has made a career as an attorney challenging development projects on environmental grounds. He’s good at it. With flair if not high drama, he knows how to chip away at the arguments of lumbering applicants with a pick axe of environmental righteousness. But as someone newly elected to the Town Board with a job to do — getting important things done for East Hampton Town, including energy independence — his vehement and vocal opposition to doing anything to assist Deepwater (now Orsted) came across as bomb-throwing political grandstanding.

Then, with Deepwater’s abrupt sale last year, a foreign owner suddenly became the town’s adversary in any talks. Just as suddenly, the wind farm’s planned energy output rose last year from 90 to 130 megawatts. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the obvious point man for any project affecting the entire South Fork region, couldn’t schedule a meeting with Orsted and had to read about the company plans in the press. Last month he publicly blasted Orsted for its lack of transparency and honesty.

Mr. Bragman’s argument that the town should isolate itself from the project until the PSC’s “Article 7” impact review is complete now sounds like reasonable, lawyerly advice.

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