Keeping momentum

We expect Eversource to file their Environmental Notification Form (ENF) to the Mass. Environmental Protections Agency (MEPA) at some point. Meanwhile, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes. A lot has happened already this year and we’ve lined up plenty to come:

The President’s Office:

Protect Sudbury president, Ray Phillips, attended the Environmental Business Council’s program on the Massachusetts Environmental and Energy Agenda for 2017. The keynote speaker was Massachusetts’ Secretary for Energy and Environmental Affairs, Matthew Beaton. Secretary Beaton chairs the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), the very body that has the authority to approve or dismiss Eversource’s proposed transmission line project in Sudbury. Secretary Beaton used the platform to speak about the Baker administration’s energy and environmental successes, including the comprehensive Omnibus Energy Bill, signed in August 2016. Ray took the opportunity to question Secretary Beaton on the administration’s position on an amendment to the Energy Omnibus Bill that Protect Sudbury supported last year. The amendment, which will be re-submitted as a new bill in this year’s legislative session, calls for any new electrical transmission projects to apply quantitative analysis to both the environmental and economic impact that it will have. Today, such projects are evaluated primarily on the basis of construction cost. Secretary Beaton, while not familiar with the specifics of the bill, maintained that applying such measures would be difficult and complex. “Where would you start?” he asked. Phillips defended Protect Sudbury’s position that utility siting decisions must consider more than just build cost, replying to Beaton’s query that “starting anywhere would be an improvement on a flawed system that in the case of Sudbury would completely discount the destruction of 27,000 trees and possible contamination the town’s sole source of drinking water.” Beaton referred to the MEPA filing process as perhaps the best place to enact change. In the short term, Beaton’s suggestion is a signal for us to pay extra attention when Eversource finally files that ENF to MEPA. We’ll make sure that we, as an organization, and our supporters, comment thoroughly and thoughtfully about the full cost of Eversource’s proposal on our community, environment and health.

Government Relations:

Our government relations team, led by Bill Schineller, spent the last weeks of January working with Sudbury’s representatives at the Statehouse to make sure that three bills (including one referred to by PS President Ray Phillips above) which work to improve utility process made it into the new legislative session. Topics covered include considering community and environmental cost, making energy companies reimburse municipalities for legal expenses involved in the siting process, and banning placement of new overhead transmission lines in fall zones of homes. Additionally, we worked with the community to garner co-sponsors for two bills relevant to herbicide use, another area of concern for Protect Sudbury, given Eversource’s intended use of herbicides in sensitive wetlands areas and near drinking water sources. This legislative work ties in directly with the wider coalition of communities ( fighting Eversource projects – ie addressing the systemic problems with energy siting beyond our own community.

Research Team:

On the Federal level, Protect Sudbury’s research team, led by Julie Lieberman, submitted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in support of a proposed rule to amend regulations under the Federal Power Act (FPA). This new rule allows for renewables and storage options to have better access to wholesale electric markets operated by independent system operators (ISO). Why does Protect Sudbury care about this? Because the premise of Eversource’s project came from ISO New England’s assessment that there’s a reliability need, but at the moment, ISO NE operates in such a way that it can only conceive of fulfilling this need through wire-bound, steel in the ground, transmission capacity. As with our Government Relations’ efforts to support state legislation that improves utility siting regulations, we aim to support rules at the federal level that redress the systemic preference for traditional energy options (ie fossil fuels) over new local sources of energy (renewables) and non-transmission options (storage/batteries).

Speaker Series:

Protect Sudbury’s outreach team has put together a series of events to keep the community engaged, provide answers to questions, and opportunities to participate over the next few months.

Starting this month, we’ll host Office Hours on Tuesday, February 28th, 7-8:30pm at Goodnow Library. This is a chance for anyone in the community to come for an informal Q&A with the core Protect Sudbury working group. There will be no formal presentation. This is simply to offer the community a chance to ask questions (any and all questions!)

Next, we kick off the Protect Sudbury Speaker series:

Thursday, March 9th, 7:00 – 8:30pm, Goodnow Library
Government and Legislative Process; Bill Schineller, Government Lead with Representative Carmine Gentile and Senators Eldridge and Barrett
After brief opening remarks we open up the floor for the community to ask the experts about the legislative aspects of our case. Questions regarding the political and legislative strategies employed in the fight against Eversource, as well as any other questions, whether or not they relate to the Eversource project are welcome.

Thursday, April 13, 7-8:30pm, Goodnow Library
Real Estate and the Eversource project; Carole Daniels, Coldwell Baker
Opening remarks by Carole Daniels, real estate broker of over 40 years who has sold over 700 million dollars worth of real estate in our region. This is an opportunity for the community to ask an expert about real estate in our town and what impacts the Eversource project may have on the town as a whole.

Thursday, April 27, 7-8:30pm, Goodnow Library
Drinking water and the Eversource project; Rebecca McEnroe, Superintendent of the Sudbury Water District
Rebecca McEnroe will  talk about our water supply and how the district keeps it safe. All questions about our water supply are welcome, whether or not they deal with the Eversource issue.

Check the PS Calendar for future events:

Protect Sudbury’s legal counsel, Richard Kanoff, pointed out in his presentation to the community in March 2016, the process of stopping this Eversource project is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We’re working hard every day to keep to our pace for the road ahead.