Oceanside, Island Park rally against turbines, cables


Long Beach, Island Park and Oceanside community residents have been speaking their minds about offshore wind for nearly two years. For or against it, they have made their voices heard — at village board and City Council meetings, at public forums, on social media.

Last Sunday, they gathered on the Long Beach Boardwalk, at Riverside Boulevard, to make known their opinions about Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed Renewable Action Through Project Interconnection and Deployment, or RAPID Act, meant to lead the state’s transition to clean energy.

“The RAPID Act removes checks and balances in our government by removing the voice of the local municipalities in the development of infrastructure,” Long Beach resident Christina Kramer said. “The RAPID Act is just a streamlined process that expedites the process and does not take into account the will of the people, and very little input from the municipalities or the environmental agencies that have been protecting our quality of life up until this moment.”

Kramer has been outspoken in her opposition to the offshore wind projects off Long Beach at many meetings, and started a Facebook group called Protect Our Coast LINY, made up of like-minded community members.

The RAPID Act, according to the governor’s website, would create a one-stop shop for the environmental review and permitting of major renewable energy and transmission facilities in the Office of Renewable Energy Siting. The permitting process would balance transparency and environmental protection with the need for fast decision-making, while continuing to be responsive to community feedback and environmental considerations.

“Equinor shares New York’s commitment to offshore wind and to the importance of regularly engaging with stakeholders, including residents, elected leaders and government officials,” said David Schoetz, a spokesman for Equinor, the Norwegian energy company whose proposed wind power project in the waters off Long Beach is now on hold. “We are proud of the support Empire Wind 1 has earned in the community and throughout the state … We will continue to build on those relationships as we break ground at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal this spring, creating jobs and economic activity on the path to delivering reliable renewable power to half a million New York homes.”

Federal, state and local officials also turned out on Sunday. U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, State Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick, Assemblyman Ari Brown, Nassau County Legislator Patrick Mullaney, Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty, Long Beach City Council members Brendan Finn, Mike Reinhart and Chris Fiumara, and Long Beach City Manager Dan Creighton all attended.

“What we need to focus on here on the barrier island is to keep these decisions local,” D’Esposito said. “We need to make sure that there’s a process (so) that individuals like all of you here today, and those at home, have the ability to give their input on decisions that can change the landscape of our communities forever. I’m also not saying that I am against all forms of renewable energy. What I am against are companies coming into our communities and trying to hold us hostage.”

Equinor planned two projects, Empire Wind 1 and 2, with 147 wind turbines, each standing 886 feet tall, as well as the stations housing the cables that transfer energy from the turbines to land, all 15 to 35 miles offshore. The plans also included cables that would run under Long Beach to an Island Park substation. The proposal created quite the stir at City Council meetings last year, before newly elected members Finn, Reinhart and Fiumara took their seats in January.

“We should be able to live the way we want to live and not directed by people 150 or 300 miles away, or even 24 miles away in New York City,” Finn told to the crowd on Sunday. “The RAPID Act will change the way these kinds of projects are approved. Do we want someone from Buffalo telling us how we should live down here in Long Beach or the barrier island? No. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”

The governor “is focused on putting this through and will not stop it,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said. “We’re not against clean energy. I want us to have a clean environment. I want us to have the jobs that come with new forms of energy. That’s not what this is about. But jamming things down our throat without our input is not acceptable under any circumstances.”

“This turnout today is just proof that we don’t want it, and we will continue to keep fighting it,” Mullaney said. “This fight is nowhere near over. It’s up to every single one of us to get out and talk to people.”

Equinor and Empire Wind have had a bumpy ride on the barrier island, to say the least. In January, Equinor and BP announced an agreement with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to terminate the Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Certificate Agreement for the project. In a statement explaining the termination, Equinor cited rising inflation, higher borrowing costs, and supply chain issues.

In November, the state announced new energy guidelines that will allow companies that petition the state for financial relief, as BP and Equinor did, to cancel old contracts and re-offer projects at higher prices.

Then, late last month, the federal government granted final approval for the construction and operation plan of the Empire Wind projects, marking a significant milestone despite challenges in the offshore wind industry.

With this key permitting action by the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Empire Wind is on track to begin construction in its federal lease area off the southern coast of Long Island later this year. Already well advanced in planning and development, Empire Wind 1 could deliver power to New Yorkers by 2026. Empire Wind projects would see turbines starting 12 miles off the South Shore at Long Beach.

“With bold actions to deploy renewable energy swiftly and transition away from fossil fuels, we are not only charting the course for a cleaner and healthier New York State, but we are making important changes that will reduce costs for our most vulnerable New Yorkers,” Hochul stated in a news release. “Energy affordability will continue to be a top priority of my climate agenda because we need to combat climate change and protect all New Yorkers.”