Trying to explain the whys of Long Island wind farms


A group of experts attempted to explain to a large crowd at Long Beach’s City Hall last Wednesday the need for a plan by New York State to construct a wind farm off Long Island’s South Shore.

The plan has generated considerable controversy in Long Beach and Oceanside, over health issues generated by cables stretching from the wind turbines to the E.F. Barrett Power Plant in Island Park.

But the experts were not always successful.

The presentation was organized by the Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) led by its executive director, Adrienne Esposito.

Topics included the basics of the Offshore Wind project, the dangers of electromagnetic fields (EMFs), how the project will affect marine life and the benefit for local labor and jobs.

Esposito explained what the Offshore Wind project is and why the state is moving along with the project. She said that, in order for the project to operate, the turbines must be connected to a cable that will run underneath Long Beach’s streets.

Esposito said New York’s lost over $100 billion amid 31 extreme weather events that occurred in the 2010s, highlighted by Super storm Sandy in 2012. Esposito also pointed towards tornadoes hitting Long Island last September as well.

Esposito said that, according to a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2017, the ocean may rise up towards Merrick Road in Oceanside, effectively capsizing the entirety of the barrier island. 

At times, when opponents shouted at Esposito during her presentation, she responded that,  “These are just the facts, and either you accept them, or you don’t I’m just telling you the facts, I can’t change them.”

Dr. Ben Cotts, a principal engineer at Menlo Park, Calif.-based Exponent, Inc., was brought to the presentation as an expert on EMFs and the potential harm that be done to the community.

Cotts emphasized that EMFs were not harmful to the Long Beach community, and will not interrupt the community differently than other normal day-to-day objects.

However, midway through Cotts’ presentation, contention arose from the opposition. “Where do you live?” a resident shouted at Cotts. “Do you and your family live in Long Beach?”

After Cotts concluded, a presentation on marine life from Rob DiGiovanni of the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society was offered, explaining that despite the fact that whales are going through what NOAA says is an “unusual mortality event,” these are more often than not caused by vessel strikes off the coast, according to their necropsies.

On the labor side, presenters wanted to make it very clear that abandoning this project would have large ramifications.

“I just ask that you consider the people sitting to your left and right,” said Ryan Stanton, the executive director of the Long Island Federation of Labor. “The people to your left and right have to provide for their families, and I have to advocate for them. If they don’t advocate for their work, their work doesn’t move forward, and they can’t provide for their families.”

After the panel spoke, the conference turned to a question and answer, and the most prevalent topic was on EMFs.

Long Beach resident Kelly Martinsen raised questions to Cotts on a study recently published by the National Library of Medicine. The study, published in May 2021, concluded that “...significant associations were observed between exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields and childhood leukemia.”

In response, Cotts clarified that, according to classes from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (ICRC), EMFs were classified as a Class 2B, or “...possibly carcinogenic.”

“I think the most important part is that they’re putting a cable through such a densely-populated community, especially [a cable] where [Cotts] said that the data on what EMFs can do to humans is inconclusive,” reacted Christopher Fry, 43, of Long Beach.

“The fact that we couldn’t get a conclusive answer to most of our questions across the board, it leads me to believe they don’t have the answers,” added Fry.

“Or, in a worse way- they do.”