State Lawmakers Lay Groundwork To Bury Electrical Grid


A new governmental entity was created by the state Legislature late last month: The “Underground Utility Improvement District.”

As lawmakers in Albany rushed to pass hundreds of bills before heading into the long summer recess, they established the legal mechanism necessary to provide underground PSEG transmission lines in the Town of East Hampton with legislation setting up new utility districts.

The bill allows the town to charter legal entities empowered to enter into contractual agreements with public utility companies to construct underground utility facilities, or convert existing above-grade utilities to below-grade facilities. The new structures could include telephone lines, cable lines and electrical transmission and distribution lines.

An Underground Utility Improvement District could operate with the same procedures and governance as other special districts created for water and sewer facilities, according to a June 28 release from state Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who co-sponsored the bill in their respective houses.

“We need to protect our energy system, and a great way to do that is by selectively undergrounding our utility infrastructure,” said Mr. Thiele, who noted how often the area is hit by hurricanes, tropical storms and nor’easters.

“It’s another tool to safeguard the electrical infrastructure from future storm damage — and to share costs or spread them out over time,” said Mr. LaValle.

The bill needs the signature of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo before becoming law.