Editorial: The Winds of Change

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That East Hampton Town has chosen to hold a hearing on Deepwater Wind’s proposal to land the power cable from the proposed South Fork Wind Farm at Beach Lane in Wainscott in the cavernous LTV Studios space is indicative of the size of the crowd expected to attend.

A large turnout is anticipated in large part because many people, who might otherwise be expected to support a project that promises to supply a big chunk of the town’s electricity through clean, renewable means, are concerned about it. They are nervous that construction will harm the environment and the creatures who live near the turbines. They worry that the wind farm won’t generate as much power as expected and at higher costs than expected. They fret that the first in what could be a forest of wind turbines over the horizon could spell the end of their livelihood as commercial fishermen.

While these concerns are valid and must be heard through the review process, those expecting to derail the wind farm at tonight’s hearing need to understand that the only thing they can conceivably stop is whether or not Deepwater gets town permission to bring the power cable ashore at Beach Lane and run it underground about two miles away to a substation on the edge of East Hampton Village.

If the town turns down the request, Deepwater will simply ask permission from New York State to bring the cable ashore at Hither Hills State Park in Montauk, and the state has a process in place to make that approval practically automatic. Landing at Hither Hills will be an inconvenience to Deepwater because it will result in a longer run to the substation. More importantly, though, it means the town will lose out on what the company estimates to be an $8.75 million pot of community enhancements, earmarked to provide aid to fishermen, study ways to promote sustainable maritime industries, and pay to bury electric lines along the cable’s route through Wainscott.

This is not to say that the town should simply take the money and run, turning a blind eye toward legitimate environmental concerns being raised about the wind farm. But, given global warming, rising sea levels, and myriad other environmental warning signs that are cropping up all around us, the town and its citizens need to focus on the larger issue at hand. Quite simply, the clock is ticking down on Mother Earth. Failure to take prompt and decisive action to wean ourselves off electricity generated by dirty fossil fuels will have disastrous consequences that will make arguing over where the cable comes ashore meaningless by comparison.

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