(Update 1:10 p.m.) A resolution to adopt a local law establishing battery energy storage systems as an allowed use in the Town of Riverhead, and regulating their placement and operation, has been pulled from today’s Town Board meeting agenda.
The resolutions were taken out of the resolution packet sometime between 11:52 a.m. — when an updated resolution packet including the battery energy storage resolution was last distributed by email to the press — and 12:50 p.m..
RiverheadLOCAL reported this morning that the board was scheduled to vote on the resolutions today. The board did not publicly discuss the proposed law during last week’s work session, when resolutions scheduled for the subsequent week’s regular meeting’s are usually discussed. It was not put on the agenda until yesterday.
It isn’t clear what went into the decision to not hold a vote. Supervisor Yvette Aguiar was not immediately available for comment.
The Town Board received one correspondence on the issue this morning from resident Kathy McGraw of Northville, who called the resolution’s inclusion “stealthy and secretive,” due to the scheduled vote not being disclosed 24 hours before the meeting.
(Original story): The Town Board is scheduled to vote today on a resolution adopting a local law to establish battery energy storage systems as an allowed use in the Town of Riverhead and regulate their placement and operation.
Today’s action follows a contentious Dec. 20 public hearing on the proposed law and the subsequent retention of an outside consultant to handle the assessment of environmental impacts of the law for Town Board.
The board has not publicly discussed the proposed law or the planning consultant’s environmental review since authorizing, on Jan. 18, a $10,000 contract with BFJ Planning to complete the Full Environmental Impact Form (FEAF) required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
The resolution to adopt the proposed law was not in the packet of resolutions reviewed by the board and made available to the press for the board’s work session on Thursday. It was added to the agenda distributed late yesterday afternoon by the town clerk and posted to town website.
According to the resolution on today’s agenda, the Town Board has considered the Full Environmental Assessment Form and the SEQRA record, and determined that the local law “will not result in any significant adverse environmental impacts.”
A copy of the local law to be acted on by the Town Board today was not attached to the resolution adopting it.
Editor’s note: Subsequent to publication of this article, RiverheadLOCAL obtained a copy of the local law this morning through a Freedom of Information Law request to the town this morning. See copy below.
A Notice of Adoption attached to the resolution and to be subsequently published in the town’s official newspaper for legal notices, incorrectly states that the law was adopted at the Town Board meeting of March 22.
The completed FEAF was not posted on the town’s website as of this morning, though the resolution on today’s agenda states that BFJ completed the FEAF as per the contract. The resolution also references, but does not describe, “a supplement to Part 3 of a Full Environmental Assessment Form (FEAF.)”
Editor’s note: Subsequent to publication of this article, RiverheadLOCAL obtained a copy of the completed FEAF and supplemental documentation. See copy below.
Battery energy storage systems are used to store energy for deployment during times of peak demand. They are regarded as essential to the success of renewable energy technology such as solar and wind power, because the battery systems store the electricity when its produced and feed it back into the grid when the demand is high, but production is low.
The proposed local law that was the subject of the Dec. 20 hearing — the second version and the second public hearing on the legislation — would allow construction and operation of utility-scale battery energy storage facilitates in five zoning districts within the town: Industrial A, Industrial C, Planned Industrial Park (EPCAL), Agricultural Protection Zone and Residence A-80. The use would require a special permit of the Town Board and site plan approval by the Planning Board. The code imposes regulations as to minimum lot sizes, maximum distance to LIPA substations or commercial solar energy production facilities, maximum lot coverage and maximum height of structures.
After the outcry of residents who packed the Town Hall meeting room on Dec. 20, many of whom demanded that any local law allowing and regulating battery energy storage systems should be analyzed as part of the ongoing comprehensive plan update process, Building and Planning Administrator Jefferson Murphree asked the Town Board to hire BFJ to complete the Full Environmental Assessment Form for the town.
“As qualified as my staff is, and my 40 years, this is new technology for us,” Murphree said at the Town Board’s Jan. 18 hearing, where a resolution hiring BFJ taken off the floor — added to the agenda at the meeting— an action the Town Board had not discussed prior to the meeting.
“They have the expertise to do this. They have reviewed BESS facilities elsewhere in New York State,” Murphree said of BFJ Planning.
The contract approved Jan. 18, drafted by BFJ, said the consultant would complete the review and submit its work to the town by Feb. 3. The contract said the firm’s proposed fee included a meeting with the Town Board and the planners would be available to attend the Feb. 7 Town Board meeting. BFJ has not attended a public Town Board meeting to discuss its review with board members,
BFJ is the consulting firm hired by the Town Board last year to complete the long-stalled comprehensive plan update started by another consulting firm hired by the town in 2019.
In the town’s comp plan update contract with BFJ, the “scope of work” included, in the “Infrastructure and Utilities” section, the “review (of) where existing solar facilities are located, where they could be located – given existing infrastructure, and where it would be most appropriate for these facilities and other renewable energy facilities (i.e. battery storage) to be located in the future.”
During the Jan. 18 meeting, Kathy McGraw of Northville objected to the hiring of BFJ to review the FEAF for the proposed code as “a waste of $10,000, since BESS was part of the park they proposed” to do for the comp plan update.
The work should clearly be done as part of the comprehensive plan, McGraw said, reiterating what she and other members of the public have said in meetings and during the Dec. 20 public hearing.
Board members have said the town should not delay regulating battery energy storage facilities because the state is pushing renewable energy systems and will approve them and “dictate” where they can be built. Council Member Bob Kern the state is looking to “become the zoning entity” and “wants to start zoning the towns.”
Two proposals for utility-scale battery energy storage systems have been publicly discussed by town officials to date, but only one of them would be allowed to proceed under the local law that had a public hearing in December.
Edwards Calverton Battery Storage, a joint venture of NYC-based Rhynland Energy and the London-based global commodities trading firm Trafigura, seeks to build a 60 MW BESS facility at 104 Edwards Avenue, is proposed for a site on Edwards Avenue in Calverton in the Industrial A zoning district, where such facilities would be allowed under the code being considered by the Town Board.
The other proposal is by Riverhead Energy, a subsidiary of Virginia-based Hexagon Energy, which seeks to build a 100 MW BESS facility on a Mill Road site in the Residential B-40 zoning district. The Residential B-40 zoning district is not among the districts where utility scale-battery energy would be allowed under the proposed code. The site, though zoned residential, has a pre-existing commercial use.
Proposed local law for adoption by Resolution 2023-188 on March 7, 2023
Completed Full Environmental Assessment Form Parts 2 & 3, with supplement
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