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New York regulators reject more subsidies for Equinor’s offshore wind projects


A coalition of environmental groups rallied Wednesday in support of Equinor’s offshore wind project, Empire Wind 2 — off the coast of Long Beach, N.Y. The pro-wind rally emphasized the importance of state support in offshore wind projects to meet New York’s climate goals and grow new green industries.

“Let's face it — here on Long Island, we are at the front lines of climate change,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “You don’t have to tell us about the perils before us, because we live it.”

The rally was held an hour before state Public Service Commission (PSC) hearings on Oct. 12, where the groups planned to testify in support of approving an “inflation adjustment” for four offshore wind projects, including Empire Wind 2, and 86 on-land community projects. As part of the approval process, the PSC has to look at the impact of cable connections both offshore and on land.

On Thursday, New York regulators rejected a slew of subsidies sought by energy companies who have threatened to end their work without more state financial aid.

That includes subsidies for Equinor and BP’s Empire 1 and 2, as well as Beacon Wind, and Orsted and Eversource for the Sunrise Wind projects.

Lost at sea

Empire Wind 2 was created by Equinor, an international energy company based in Norway. They specialize in oil and gas, renewables and low carbon solutions, and aim to be a net-zero company by 2050. The $3 billion project would consist of two parts:

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  • Phase 1 would supply power to the Brooklyn area.
  • Phase 2 would deliver power to the electric grid in Nassau County — connecting to the E.F Barrett Power Station in Island Park. The project would generate 1,260 megawatts of electricity — enough to power more than 600,000 homes on Long Island.

Matthew Aracich, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, said supporting the offshore wind industry will not only support a cleaner future, but also create clean jobs and new industries for Long Island.
“The Empire State is deep in the process and must complete the vision of offshore wind,” Aracich said. “The prospect of constructing ports that will service the wind farms is a crucial component in ensuring our competitiveness in the region.”

Aracich also said the workforce can be retrained and new apprenticeship programs created to prepare people for the transition.

Opponents of the project from Island Park and Long Beach are concerned about the high-voltage transmission lines that Equinor plans to bury underground.

The cables meet land at Riverside Boulevard in Long Beach and run to a substation on Railroad Place in Island Park. From Railroad Place, the lines would run north alongside the Long Island Rail Road tracks to the E. F. Barrett Power Station, and then finally power the electric grid.

For months, some residents voiced fears of the health risks associated with living near high-voltage lines — and whether this would drive people away from buying property in the area. Worse, residents said they aren’t being heard by Equinor.

“I have participated in numerous meetings and discussions with local elected officials and representatives from Equinor in an attempt to gain answers to our questions and the lack of transparency shown from Equinor has quite frankly been abysmal,” State Sen. Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick (R-Valley Stream) said in a statement. “Their failure to communicate is startling.”

Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said while she does support New York’s efforts to pursue a cleaner energy future, to implement those goals, companies have to maintain transparency with local communities.

At the rally, Rob Weltner, president of Operation SPLASH, which cleans up pollution from the local bays, demonstrated how the transmission equipment works: Electromagnetic fields (EMF) are shielded to reduce harmful outputs.

As a 20-year electrician, Weltner said he is confident that the project wouldn’t negatively impact marine life or affect the health of residents.

“There are dozens of cables coming to shore. That’s how Long Beach gets its power, from an undersea cable coming up into a switchyard in Long Beach,” Weltner said. “So there’s nothing new that we’re doing here, but it is safe for our marine life and for our citizens.”

The decision

Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick commended the ruling. She said in a statement that Empire Wind “made an outrageous request to modify their agreement with the state, which would have put more money in their pockets at the expense of Long Island ratepayers.”

Molly Morris, president of Equinor Renewables Americas, said without higher subsidies, the company and its partner BP would have to re-evaluate.

"These projects must be financially sustainable to proceed,” Morris said in a statement.

Esposito said the state needs to uphold its promises to create a green future.

“If the PSC denies the petitions, they must find an expeditious, reasonable path forward,” Esposito said. “A path that allows us to not lose the momentum for the jobs, and the businesses, and the supply chain, that we have spent and worked our hearts out over the last years creating.”

She said she hopes Governor Kathy Hochul doesn’t halt the progress the state has already made.

Hochul said the ruling was necessary to maintain affordability and preserve the competitive process.

“Make no mistake: my commitment to building a clean energy economy is as strong as ever,” she said in a statement.

Rory Christian, the commission chair, said during the hearing Thursday that it will be the decision of the energy companies to cancel their contracts — not the state.

“They’re one part of our portfolio, and as with any portfolio, different assets produce different results,” Christian said.

“These projects are not everything,” he added. “They do not represent the entirety of our efforts to fight climate change.”

Sara McGiff is a news intern at WSHU for the fall of 2023.