A very heartfelt Thank You to Susan Iuliano, Bob Haarde, Richard Kanoff, Chris Hamilton, Ray Phillips, Julie Lieberman, Melissa Rodrigues, and Bill Schineller for representing the Sudbury community at the meeting with Eversource on November 22nd.
We began the meeting with a few questions:
1. Given the widespread opposition to its proposal to use the MBTA’s right of way (ROW) in Sudbury as a route for the proposed transmission line, and the obvious more acceptable alternatives of one or more under the street options, is Eversource willing to support and submit an under the street option to the EFSB as a primary route to resolve this matter?
2. Is Eversource’s senior management aware of the strong opposition to the proposed MBTA routes? Does senior management have any specific response to the request by the Sudbury BOS that Eversource reconfigure the transmission line route to an under street option?
Jim Hunt, Vice President for Regulatory Affairs & Community Relations said yes, senior management is “involved” but that they have a”broader responsibility” to the region and the MBTA ROW, their preferred route, is the best for the region in terms of reliability, cost, and the environment.
We strongly disagreed.
In short, Eversource stated they will stick with their “preferred route” and present that to the Energy Facilities Siting Board. Their preferred route is the MBTA right of way (ROW).
Protect Sudbury attorney, Richard Kanoff, expressed dismay that Eversource would stick to their plan, and noted that there is no precedent of the EFSB choosing a “noticed alternative” and asked that Eversource flip their “preferred route” and the “noticed alternative” – an in street option– and submit that instead.
Selectman Bob Haarde noted that both the overhead and underground route along the MBTA right of way both have negative impacts to the environment and to the town as a whole; if Eversource does indeed need to do a project, Route 20 is the right choice.
BOS Chair Susan Iuliano also held to the community’s position and reminded them that Sudbury bears a disproportionate burden for their plan as compared with projects in other towns where transmission lines will be built under streets. She also spoke of the “disconnect” about the claim that what is left after the devastation of construction on the ROW could be used as a “bike path.”
Selectwoman Iuliano stated that our community sees a big difference between a 14 foot wide bike path which we would decide to design ourselves versus something that would come along as a side effect of a utility corridor down the MBTA ROW with the attendant 82 or 32 foot wide clear cut, herbicides, and 100 foot tall monopoles.
Eversource was reminded that they had an opportunity to “do the right thing” and remove the MBTA right of way as their “preferred route.” We were clear that we, along with state, federal and local officials, as well as environmental agencies, are fighting for our environment, neighborhoods, and water supply. Unfragmented forested conservation area is also at stake, and state and federal agencies are concerned with the protection of this larger watershed area. If Eversource continues with their plan they will be fighting us and those federal agencies. Kanoff served notice that Eversource would be making a big and risky mistake if they were to go forward with their plan as is, highlighting the vehement and well organized opposition in the community.
Eversource said that they were contemplating as their “geographically diverse” alternative one of the several routes generated for discussion by Protect Sudbury volunteers, all of which involved under ground routes. A handful those routes were strongly recommended by the town and Protect Sudbury and involved Route 20 through Sudbury. Eversource selected one of the not-recommended routes as their alternative in place of the route they presented at the towns’ selectmen’s meetings. The selected route was virtually the same as Eversource’s previous “noticed alternative,” except that it placed the under street transmission line on Green Hill Rd. instead of Concord Rd. We believe they did that to demonstrate to the EFSB they “listened” to us, when in fact if they had listened, the overhead line on the ROW would not be their preferred option and the noticed under street option would involve Route 20 through Sudbury.
Chris Hamilton commented in the meeting that this was clearly a disingenuous political maneuver to replace their tertiary route with one submitted by Protect Sudbury.
Town Manager Melissa Rodrigues asked if the street route Eversource plans to submit as their “noticed alternative” is the cheapest of all the under street routes considered. Eversource responded yes. Bill Schineller remarked that indeed it is all about the money. The meeting concluded without Eversource entertaining Route 20 under street alternatives.
Bottom line – Eversource will go forward and put forth their preferred route including cheapest overhead option along the MBTA ROW sometime in Q4, ie before the end of 2016.
What does this mean for our community?
We made every effort to appeal to Eversource to correct their course of action. Eversource had an opportunity to do the right thing and did not take it. We must fight this all the way, in every forum. Thank you to Bob Haarde, Susan Iuliano, Chris Hamilton, Richard Kanoff, Bill Schineller, Julie Lieberman, Melissa Rodrigues, and Ray Phillips for working together to prepare for this meeting and for taking a day off from work to advocate on our behalf.