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Online Front Opens in Wind War

Thu, 12/19/2019 - 12:32

Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott launch a Facebook advertising blitz

Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, a group that formed to oppose the landing of the South Fork Wind Farm’s export cable at the ocean beach at the end of Beach Lane in that hamlet, is mounting an online campaign urging people to tell the New York State Public Service Commission to reject the proposed 130-megawatt installation to be situated approximately 35 miles off Montauk.     

The campaign comes amid unconfirmed reports that the ongoing settlement negotiations conducted by the commission point toward approval of the Beach Lane landing site. The commission is reviewing the wind farm’s application to install the export cable in state waters and on a subterranean path to a Long Island Power Authority substation in the confidential negotiations.     

Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott launched a Facebook advertising blitz with batches of similar ads on Dec. 5, 10, and 11, following the Nov. 15 creation of a Facebook page called Truth About Orsted. Between Dec. 9 and Sunday, the group had spent $7,672 on Facebook and Instagram advertisements, according to Facebook’s Ad Library.     

One ad states, “A foreign company called ORSTED struck a sweetheart deal with New York State to build a South Fork wind farm, which will produce electricity that costs nearly double any other offshore wind farm in NY.” Another asserts that “billion-dollar foreign corporation ORSTED profits while Long Island families struggle to make ends meet.”     

A third links to a Newsday article that refers to the wind farm’s cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour versus those of the much larger proposed Sunrise Wind and Empire Wind projects, both recently awarded state contracts to develop offshore wind farms that will jointly generate 1,700 megawatts of electricity. Yet another states that Orsted has “broken its promises, broken our trust,” and “broken our wallets.”     

Clicking on any of the ads takes the user to a related website, truth­about­, where the homepage restates the charge that a “foreign company called Orsted struck a sweetheart deal” and directs visitors to sign a petition.     The South Fork Wind Farm was initially proposed by Deepwater Wind, a Rhode Island company, before its 2018 acquisition by the Danish Company Orsted. Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind, as Deepwater Wind has since been rebranded, and Eversource Energy, a Connecticut company, are now partners in the South Fork Wind Farm and other proposed installations, including Sunrise Wind.     

Members of Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott have expressed support for alternative energy, at least in the abstract. They “support green energy, particularly wind energy, as much as you do,” Alex Edlich wrote, in comments directed at East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, in a February letter to The Star. He signed the letter as chairman of Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott. 

Mr. Edlich said on Monday that he is not a spokesman for the group, and referred a request for comment to Michael McKeon. Mr. McKeon defended the ads on Tuesday, arguing that the group “tried to work with Orsted for months to try to find a solution that would protect Wainscott and move the project forward.”     

Orsted’s chief executive officer, Mr. McKeon said, had promised a good-faith investigation of alternative cable landing sites, and privately asked in return that the group not engage in public opposition that could undercut Orsted’s bid for a state contract for Sunrise Wind, which it was awarded earlier this year. There is no evidence, Mr. McKeon said, that Orsted seriously considered Hither Hills as a cable landing site. “We now know their public promises and private commitments were a sham.”     

“From the first meeting with those people, we asked them to address the fire safety issues: How are fire trucks going to get to Beach Lane during construction? They’ve never done it,” he said.     

Mr. McKeon, who said he does not live in Wainscott, charged that the electricity produced by the 15-turbine South Fork Wind Farm would be unduly expensive. The cost of the wind farm’s electricity will average 14.1 cents per kilowatt-hour, the Long Island Power Authority’s chief executive officer announced in October, a figure significantly higher than the 8 cents per kilowatt-hour cost of the much larger Sunrise Wind project but less than half the 37.6 cents per kilowatt-hour cost of the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm, the nation’s first offshore wind farm, which was developed by Deepwater Wind.     

Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott remains a supporter of renewable energy, Mr. McKeon said, “but that doesn’t mean taking action without regard to the consequences.”     

Meaghan Wims, a spokeswoman for Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind, said in an email on Tuesday that residents of East Hampton Town “overwhelmingly support the South Fork Wind Farm,” which she said will help the town meet its renewable energy and resiliency goals. She called it “part of the most affordable solution” to the South Fork’s future energy needs. “It’s also clear that the preferred transmission cable route in Wainscott would have the shortest and least impact to East Hampton roadways.”     

Residents can contact Orsted officials or visit “if they have any questions about the facts about the wind farm,” she said. 

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