Thiele Sounds a Warning Blast at Deepwater Wind

Orsted is looking to build a wind farm similar to this one off Block Island. Peter Boody photo

Making it clear to the world that he is no booster for Deepwater Wind’s proposed South Fork Wind Farm, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. last week issued a statement branding the project a “bait and switch” because a foreign company has acquired its Rhode Island-based owner and increased the project’s proposed power output from 90 to 130 megawatts.

“What we were originally told about the project and its goals are no longer true,” Mr. Thiele said in the statement, released by his office on January 24. “A project originally proposed by an American company to address the growing energy needs of eastern Long Island now is to be part of the portfolio of an international energy giant, whose first decision was a 44-percent increase in the size of the project. We are left to imagine what other changes might be made or what other projects might show up on our doorstep in the future.”

Mr. Thiele noted in the statement that he has long been a “major supporter of renewable energy.” He also said he has made clear before “that my support of off-shore wind power should not be construed as a rubberstamp for every off-shore wind project that is proposed.”

Mr. Thiele’s blast took aback Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, which has been one of many environmental groups supporting the plan.

“I admire Fred Thiele because he has done a lot of good things for our community and I’m very surprised by his statement on the South Fork Wind Farm because it is an exception to the rule,” he commented.

“The project is now undergoing a thorough environmental and regulatory review process and we should not jump to conclusions before we’ve examined all the facts,” Mr. Raacke added. “I hope that some of the concerns raised by Fred Thiele can be clarified and addressed.”

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Thiele said some of the “nuance” of his statement got lost in the news coverage it initially generated last week, with on-line headlines proclaiming he had withdrawn his support for Deepwater Wind.

He said he has always felt, and still believes, the Deepwater proposal deserves to be vetted via a rigorous environmental review process. But “Deepwater’s been telling everybody I support their project,” he said, and that’s not correct.

Deepwater has an application pending before the New York State Public Service Commission to build a 15-turbine wind farm about 35 miles east of Montauk, well beyond the site of its first project, a five-turbine wind farm that serves Block Island and sends excess energy to the New England mainland. The proposed South Fork Wind Farm could power 50,000 average homes, according to the company website.

The Town of East Hampton, following a 3-2 vote on the Town Board last year authorizing the negotiations, is in talks with the company to provide an easement that would allow the undersea transmission cable from the wind farm to come ashore underground in Wainscott.

“I have read that Deepwater Wind has been bought by Danish energy
giant Orsted,” Mr. Thiele said in his statement. “Second, shortly after acquisition by Orsted, I have read that the project would utilize larger turbines and that the size of the project would increase from 90 megawatts to 130 megawatts, or a 44-percent increase. This is the classic ‘bait and switch’ …”

“We need renewable energy on eastern Long Island, including wind
power. We also need to trust that the company who will be constructing these
facilities in our community will be a good steward of the natural resources
we have worked for decades to protect.

“Because of the ‘bait and switch’ tactics of Deepwater/Orsted, I cannot trust
them with my community’s future. Local government should also consider these
unethical tactics before it makes any more decisions about this project.”

State’s ‘Dream Act’ Awaits Signature

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced Monday that he had backed the Jose Peralta New York State Dream Act to help the children of undocumented immigrants attend college. The legislation is named in honor of the late State Senator Jose Peralta, who championed the bill. He died in November.

The bill is expected to be submitted to the governor for his signature. The Democratically-led Assembly has passed it every year since 2013. With the Senate’s change to a Democratic majority this year, the bill has now passed both houses of the legislature.

“They may not have been born here, but ‘dreamers’ are New Yorkers through and through,” said Mr. Thiele. “They grew up here, went to school here and they deserve the same opportunities to succeed as everyone else. New York is standing up for our immigrant communities, promoting equality and investing in our future. With new leadership in the state Senate, this is the year the Dream Act becomes a dream come true.”

The legislation would allow undocumented college-bound students who meet certain eligibility requirements — such as attending high school in New York — to access the state Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and other assistance programs, including the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), Education Opportunity Program (EOP), Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP) and similar programs at community colleges.