Statement from Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. to the Town of East Hampton Regarding the Deepwater Wind Project

January 24, 2019

In late May 2018, I issued a statement with regard to the Deepwater Wind Project, which was before the Town of East Hampton seeking to utilize public property for its project. In that statement I reiterated my long held position on energy issues. I have been a major supporter of renewable energy, including solar power and wind power. I have been an opponent of nuclear energy, as well as the continued reliance on fossil fuels. I have also opposed the construction of unsightly, above-ground transmission lines to deliver power to our scenic and historic communities from outside the region.

I indicated that because of our thriving local economy, our energy needs have increased. Further, we are confronted with the undeniable facts that climate change and sea level rise are real. We are already facing the adverse impacts of climate change. We must promote both energy conservation and the production of clean energy to reverse climate change.

Through legislation, capital investment, and public statements, I have demonstrated support for a clean energy future for eastern Long Island and New York State that is based upon renewable energy. I have also supported producing and conserving energy locally to avoid the need for more above-ground transmission lines to import power to our communities.

Consistent with my vision for our energy future, I have generally supported the goal of the State of New York’s REV (Reforming the Energy Vision) for the development of renewable energy, including off-shore wind.

In May, I stated that my support of off-shore wind power should not be construed as a rubberstamp for every off-shore wind project that is proposed. We must look at the merits of each project to insure it meets the goals of our energy policy and that the project avoids unacceptable adverse environmental impacts to our community. The public is right to demand the strictest review of this project. State and federal review should move forward cautiously so that all of these issues can be addressed. 

In particular, I support the concerns of the commercial fishing industry regarding the Deepwater project. I have worked with the commercial fishing industry to address their legitimate and too-often ignored concerns about federal quotas and state licensing regulations, which have stifled the health of the industry. Most recently, the State of New York has finally initiated a legal action challenging these unfair federal quotas.  We are also awaiting a consultant report with recommendation for licensing reform. The potential impacts to the fishing industry from off-shore wind must be identified, addressed, and avoided.

Since my statement in May, two important changes have occurred. First, I have read that Deepwater Wind has been bought by Danish energy giant Orsted. 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% increase.

This is the classic “bait and switch”. What we were originally told about the project and its goals are no longer true. 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% 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.

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.   

Finally, I continue to be concerned by LIPA’s ill-considered policy of denying public access to the Deepwater agreement under the guise of confidentiality. There is no legitimate basis for this policy. The procurement process is over. The public has every right to review this agreement, just as it has every right to review real estate appraisals under the CPF program once an agreement has been reached. The change in ownership and the 44% increase make it even more imperative that the agreement be made public now.

While there is no viable reason under current law to deny public access to this information, I will introduce legislation during the 2019 legislative session making it clear that these kinds of agreements are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). LIPA can either make the agreement public now or be compelled to make it public when my bill is enacted into law.