Letters from the President
Ray Phillips, President of Protect Sudbury
Greetings Protect Sudbury community!
The Sudbury Historical Commission (SHC) has repeatedly asked the Corps, the federal reviewing agency, for modifications aimed at preserving historic RR and other assets. Instead, the Corps abruptly ended discussions after refusing to add SHC’s reasonable requests for modifications. Protect Sudbury and knowledgeable residents therefore believe that ACOE’s refusal to negotiate further is indicative of their intent to issue a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) that lacks meaningful project oversight and protection and consequently that certain of these irreplaceable assets will be lost forever.
We are at a critical juncture. The ACOE is “asking” the SHC to sign off on the ACOE’s plan, by signing its concurrence to this ill-conceived plan. It is our opinion, and the opinion of many of the members of the Sudbury Historical Commission, that it should not be signed and the ACOE be held to the standards in the applicable Federal Regulations that provide the required protections for these assets.
Our second major initiative involves seeking a determination by the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) as to the status of the Right of Way (RoW). Research and consultation with advising attorneys at the Surface Transportation Board, lead us to believe that the RoW is still an active railroad line and that Eversource and the MBTA did not follow the proper federal process to “abandon” the RR rights on the RoW. Therefore, we are asking the STB to provide an official determination as to whether the RR rights were in fact “abandoned”. If it is determined the line is active, the potential to stop the construction is very real.
What concerns us most is the apparent lack of support that Sudbury residents, the Sudbury Historical Commission and the Protect Sudbury community are receiving from the current Select Board. Judging from their actions over the past year, the Select Board seems to be taking a hands-off approach to any action that may stop or slow down the start of the Eversource project. If anything, their actions reflect a ‘green lighting’ of the project for reasons that are not clear. They seem to be conflating the bike trail with the high voltage line rather than protecting historic and environmental assets from the much greater and permanent damage of the high voltage line alone.
You, the citizens of Sudbury, have voted unanimously at each Town Meeting to fund the Town’s opposition to the Eversource project. Today the town has $150,000 voted on and approved by the community, to use in just such an instance which faces us today. The ACOE was told a year ago, in April 2021, by a federal agency – The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation – that their failure to apply the correct set of Federal regulations leaves them open to legal challenge. More recently, on June 8th, the Advisory Council wrote again to the ACOE listing numerous defects in the MoA they demand that the Town sign on June 28th. There is no good reason for the Town to sign off on this poorly engineered project that is so damaging to our resources historic and natural when it is clear, even after being told twice, that they need to do their job properly and follow federal guidelines and procedures. If they decide to go ahead without following these guidelines and procedures, and it looks like they may choose this path, Sudbury already has the funds to make them do so, but seems to have lost the will to assert our rights.
In response to this clear message from the top of the federal agency in charge of the nation’s historical assets – the Select Board Chair recently told me that the Board is in “monitoring mode” which would be funny if not so dire.
The Select Board’s “monitoring mode” and inaction likely means portions of Sudbury’s history would be irreversibly damaged in the areas of construction. It is time now for us all to let the Select Board know that we care about stopping the Eversource high voltage transmission line which they still have never proven was necessary – and that we expect the Sudbury Select Board to follow the wishes of the community and the stated position of the Town of Sudbury in opposition to this project.
Time is of the essence and emails are easy to send today! I personally ask that you:
1. Request the Select Board sign and support the petition to the Surface Transportation Board. (That’s all it requires! Their signature – nothing else!)
2. Request that the Sudbury Historical Commission and Select Board NOT sign the Army Corps of Engineers agreement and take the appropriate legal action to protect Sudbury’s irreplaceable historic assets.
This letter is what the Protect Sudbury Board sent to the Select Board today. For seven years we all have been the engine protecting Sudbury’s community, water supply, historical assets, conservation areas, and neighborhoods. I know that I can count on the Protect Sudbury community to send this message loud and clear! As always, thank you for your continuing support.
President, Protect Sudbury, and Sudbury resident for 30 years
Direct your comments to :
Calls can be directed to:
Patty Golden is the Acting Town Manager
(978) 639 – 3346
Chair: Chris Hager
“In addition, when a line has not been abandoned, like the one that runs through Sudbury, the owner cannot encumber the line to the extent that reactivation of rail service is not possible. In this situation. MBTA, as described above, has agreed to two easements over the right-of-way that prohibit reactivation of rail service in the future for at least twenty-five years. One of the Board’s primary purposes is to protect the United States rail system and to make sure that railbanked lines are not interfered with in such a manner. As a result, a determination about whether these easements prohibit rail service reactivation on this Line is important for the protection of U.S. rail-banked lines.”
Comment on SJC Decision: September, 2020
Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued their ruling regarding the Town of Sudbury’s suit which contended that the Massachusetts ‘prior public use doctrine’ does not provide the MBTA with the right to lease a railroad right of way for a non-transportation use such as a high voltage transmission line. Unfortunately, the ruling was in favor of the MBTA. The court stated that such an expansion of the doctrine would result in “numerous deleterious consequences” regarding property ownership rights and hamper future public private partnerships. While this was an extremely worthwhile suit for the Town to bring forward, in the end it turned out to be too great a reach in property law for the SJC to support it.
What does this mean for the community? For one, the fight goes at the SJC in the appeal of the Energy Facilities Siting Board’s (EFSB) decision to allow the project to proceed. Both the Town of Sudbury and Protect Sudbury are together bringing forward a solid case built upon years of research, testimony and legal precedent. Unlike the EFSB which is heavily biased in favor of utility companies, the SJC is a level ‘playing field’ upon which legal arguments can be fairly weighed. I am confident that the case we are mutually bringing forward challenging the need, cost and environmental damage in light of numerous alternatives available to Eversource, will result in a favorable outcome.
Protect Sudbury was prepared in the event that the result of the Town’s Land Court case was not favorable. We have been actively working on a new litigation strategy which we now bring forward in light of today’s decision. Unlike the Town’s land court case which sought to expand an existing law, our new litigation is completely consistent with existing law and is supported by numerous precedent setting cases very similar to our own. The key for success with this new litigation is twofold. The first is that the Town must continue to actively partner with Protect Sudbury and actively participate in the new suit. The second is that the overwhelming support from the community must continue. This support needs to continue both in making it clear to Town leadership that this fight remains important, and it needs to continue in funding the ongoing work of Protect Sudbury through your donations.
While we have been fighting this battle for over four and a half years, remember that the Town was involved in an identical case with Boston Edison that took ten years (1960 – 1970) to finally resolve. As reported in the Town Report of 1970, “Sudbury citizens can take immense pride in the final results of a ten-year long struggle to prevent Boston Edison from constructing an overhead transmission line through the Sudbury River Valley. This line has been totally and permanently abandoned, a line whose construction would have ruined the beauty of this lovely valley forever. Townspeople have maintained an interest in opposing this overhead construction, both financially and otherwise, since the line was originally proposed in 1960. And this committee is glad to report the success of these efforts”.
Despite numerous legal setbacks and even despite Boston Edison starting construction of that line, the citizens of Sudbury never wavered in their opposition. You can read about their resiliency in this excerpt from the 1969 report. We are no less capable then our forebearers and are no less resilient in our opposition to this unnecessary project. Today, we acknowledge a defeat, but are not defeated. We stand strong as we redouble our efforts to bring this project to the same successful conclusion obtained over 50 years ago.
End of Summer Update September, 2019
As we approach the end of this beautiful summer weather, I thought a quick update for the Protect Sudbury community would be in order. Compared to all the events, outreach and activity early in our opposition, things probably seem to have been relatively quiet recently. So quiet in fact, that it might lead one to believe that similar to the threat of many a summer thunderstorm, that the threat posed by this project has similarly passed. That’s somewhat understandable since the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB), continues to remain silent with no indication as to when any decision regarding which, if any, of the three alternatives presented in the Eversource petition will be selected. Protect Sudbury, however, does not believe that the ‘storm’ has passed. In fact, we believe that have simply been sitting in the eye of a very powerful storm and that the weather is soon due to change.
Why are things taking so long? One possible explanation is the unprecedented the breadth and depth of legal arguments made by Protect Sudbury (PS) and the Town in opposition to the proposed project. Factor in the impact the PS advocacy has had across all levels of government and the resulting politically charged atmosphere and it is no longer business as usual for Eversource at the EFSB. This project, contrary to Eversource’s expectations, will not be ‘fast tracked’ and given the usual ‘rubber stamp’ approval by the EFSB. The EFSB is now faced with the prospect of ruling against this powerful, politically connected utility for the first time in its history. This is not a decision not easily made considering the visibility of the case and political turmoil it has the potential to cause.
How long does it usually take the EFSB to make a decision? Protect Sudbury wanted to find out. We analyzed all of the electric utility petitions that have ever come before both the EFSB and the equivalent siting body in Connecticut. Both are States in which Eversource has a significant presence and considerable activity with each siting organization. We found that the average length of time from petition to EFSB decision is well under 2 years. Today, our case at the EFSB is at 2 years 5 months and counting.
We have used these unprecedented deliberations by the EFSB to our advantage. For example, new data on energy usage in the region was released by ISO New England early this year. The Town of Sudbury used this as an opportunity to file a motion in early April to reopen the case record so that this critical new information could be considered. The new data indicates that the decline in energy demand has continued its downward trend. Energy usage was down over 20% than actually forecast for 2018’s hottest day of the summer; the benchmark for measuring such things. This new data further supports our argument that the proposed line is simply not needed. Regional energy demand will soon dip below an important ISO New England threshold that is used to evaluate need for additional transmission capacity. The forecasted increase in demand used to justify this project is simply disappearing. This decline in energy demand can be directly attributed to the rapid adoption of solar technology and energy efficient devices across the region. Incredibly, the EFSB has yet to rule even on the Town’s April motion to reopen the case record.
One other factor that may be weighing heavily on the minds of the EFSB decision makers is the fact that the Town of Sudbury’s land court case challenging the use of the MBTA right of way (ROW) as a corridor for a high voltage transmission line was notably taken up by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). On October 1st, the SJC will hear the oral arguments from each party to the case.
This high visibility case has stirred up a hornet’s nest within the state utility industry as well as with organizations such as The Real Estate Bar Association, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association and others. Similar to the Town’s fight in the 1960’s David vs. Goliath battle, it will be our Town verses a number of corporate conglomerates trying to stop this potentially precedent setting ruling. If Sudbury prevails, companies like Eversource, looking to modify the intended use of a transportation corridor will need to go before the Massachusetts legislature to request this change. Not an easy task, and request with, at best, an uncertain outcome. This is in similar to the protection currently afforded our conservation lands under Article 91. What was once viewed as a very long shot in stopping this project, now appears to have real potential. Not only is this case considered important by the SJC, their interest in the case may mean that they may find merit in the Town’s arguments. We will find out soon enough!
Protect Sudbury plans to have representatives at the SJC to hear the arguments from both sides and will report back to the PS community. A finding on this matter such as this is typically reached within a 30 to 60-day time period. It is my opinion the EFSB is waiting for this ruling before moving the process forward within their domain. Reopening the case record would result in at least another three months of testimony and interrogatories. If they rule against reopening the case, their decision is likely to occur before the end of this year.
One topic that has been percolating during the summer months, is the major impact this project would have on the many historic and archeological sites on or near the ROW. While we and the Sudbury Historical Commission were already aware of many such sites, it was the study ordered by MEPA and published in November 2017 that revealed an even greater ‘treasure chest’ of both known and potential historic and archeological sites along the entire length of the ROW.
The studies contained in these two 300+ page documents are both comprehensive and informative for any student of history, particularly local history. We have placed both documents on the Protect Sudbury website for those interested in learning more about these important findings.
Protect Sudbury continues to work closely with both the Sudbury Historic Commission and the Sudbury Historic Districts Commission to help ensure that these resources are protected from the impact of the proposed Eversource project as well as any future activities along the entire length of the ROW.
Protect Sudbury will host a community meeting October 3, at 7PM at the Grange Hall to share further details and as usual answer any and all questions our community has. See you then!
Summer Update June, 2019
As we approach the start of summer (yea!), I thought a brief update on Protect Sudbury events would be in order. On the one hand, things remain quiet at the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) as our case continues to proceed through their review. It has been over two years since Eversource submitted its petition to the EFSB on April 20, 2017 and about a year and a half since the last testimony was submitted at the EFSB hearing which concluded in January 2018.
We can only speculate as to why our case is taking an unprecedented amount of time to reach a decision; however, I believe that the depth and breadth of the opposition from Hudson, Sudbury, Protect Sudbury and other concerned parties accounts for a significant portion of their deliberation and delay in decision making.
Together, we built such a strong and compelling case against the proposed siting of this HVTL through the heart of our community, that it cannot now be easily dismissed in the usual fashion by the EFSB.
We have not made it easy for the EFSB to allow Eversource to do ‘business as usual’.
We have challenged not only the environmental impact of the proposed high voltage transmission line but all of the usual processes and levers employed by utilities like Eversource to self-score a favorable route regardless of the consequences.
We have in fact, through the use of our own industry experts, challenged the very need for this project! This is a path few, if any, have ever taken at the EFSB.
There have been three important developments since our last update. The first is the discovery by the Town of Hudson that their water supply has been contaminated with PFAS – a set of dangerous chemicals difficult (if even possible) to remove from groundwater.
MASS DEP recently determined that a coatings business located adjacent to the MBTA ROW for over 30 years is responsible for this contamination.
Because all of the wells in the vicinity of the contamination have been closed Hudson has lost 40% of their water supply. Hudson residents in the vicinity of the spill now rely on the town to provide bottled water for cooking and drinking as you can see in the posted picture advising residents where to pick up their water.
This disturbing event is significant relative to our case for a number of reasons.
First, the location of the contamination is immediately adjacent to the MBTA ROW and the chemical plume has migrated under and around the ROW in this area.
Further, Eversource’s proposed underground construction would open up a 5’ x 5’ trench in this same contaminated area and potentially into the groundwater table below it causing the contamination to spread even further.
The risk of making a bad situation worse is significantly increased if Eversource creates a permeable surface as a result of their trenching and related construction activities. Water always takes the path of least resistance and will flow through the trench and into the groundwater table below.
In addition, Eversource’s plan calls for opening up a similar size trench in additional areas for 50’ x 50’ underground splice vaults further along the ROW.
Both the trench and vaults would be located within Hudson’s Zone 2 aquifer and are a threat to the remaining wells and water supply of Hudson. The rail-bed itself is contaminated with arsenic and petroleum based contaminants from a century of railroad use. The planned regular spraying of glysophate based herbicides by Eversource to kill all plant life on the ROW is also fraught with risk to the water supply as these contaminants could migrate into the remaining water supply for the town.
Just as it took 30 years for the town to discover the extent of the PFAS contamination, this new contamination will go undetected until serious health problems occur. We have the same concerns about the Sudbury water supply.
For these reasons, throughout the EFSB hearing, the Town of Hudson repeatedly expressed their concerns about the Eversource project adversely affecting the Town’s water supply.
Upon learning about this new contamination, the Town of Hudson and their Conservation Commission immediately sent letters of concern into the EFSB officially notifying them of this very serious public health situation.
In essence, the stakes for allowing Eversource to site their transmission line down the ROW have grown significantly.
Remaining fixed on the MBTA route seems even more foolish particularly when there are alternative under street routes available that have little if any environmental impact.
The second development of note is in the case that the Town of Sudbury brought to the Massachusetts Land Court regarding the use of the MBTA railroad right of way as a corridor for a high voltage transmission line.
The Town’s contention is that the railroads original taking of these lands, granted back in the 1860’s, was for a transportation corridor only.
Therefore, the use of the corridor for a transmission line is not legally permitted.
The initial ruling by the Land Court was unfavorable, but that decision did not seem to rest on solid legal footing.
The Town then appealed the court’s decision to Superior Court. That court, understanding the significance and precedent setting nature of such a ruling, moved the case directly into the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) where it sits awaiting their decision.
Eversource, on their part, claims that they are not subject to these ROW restrictions because they are a private company. (!!!???)
In my opinion, the fact that this case is before the SJC indicates that case law is at the very least unclear on their contention.
Winning the case would be a knockout blow to Eversource and all projects of a similar nature. The battle and Protect Sudbury fundraising continue.
Finally, the third important development is the recent filing by the Town of Sudbury to request that the official EFSB record be reopened in order to submit the most recent energy demand information that was released in May 2019. This new information that shows a 13% reduction in energy demand compared to the 2016 forecasts.
It is likely PS will file a brief in support of the Town of Sudbury’s request if the PS budget permits.
We have posted the Town’s filing for your review both on Facebook and on the Protect Sudbury website www.protectsudbury.org as well as in the most recent PS newsletter.
We are likely to find that the anticipated increase in demand, upon which Eversource based their ‘need’ argument in their original petition, has disappeared or soon will if this trend continues as it has over the past three years.
Further, the Town contends (and PS agrees) that other non-transmission alternatives (NTA) need to be re-investigated.
These NTA’s include solar and battery storage to meet this supposed ‘one hour in ten years’ demand situation. In testimony back in 2018 Eversource’s experts claimed that any and all such NTA’s were either too expensive or simply not feasible.
However, earlier this year, Eversource themselves argued in a different case up in New Hampshire that this very same NTA solution was superior to a new transmission line! Can’t have it both ways Eversource!
It’s clear that the longer that this case sits at the EFSB the weaker the Eversource petition becomes as more of these additional issues start to surface and erode their previous arguments.
The Protect Sudbury community has come a long way since February 2017 and we can take pride in that and in each other.
The road ahead just might be the end of utilities trying to use 19th century technologies for 21st century problems.
The battle will be won or lost in the courts and so Protect Sudbury – with your help – continues to fund raise.
These funds support the community’s ability to resist, to make our voices heard, and prevent Eversource doing ‘business as usual’ at the cost of our health and safety.
I believe that victory is in sight if we fully participate in prosecuting this case to a favorable conclusion.
If you have any questions feel free to email me at email@example.com
Have a great summer!
YEAR END SUMMARY FROM PS PRESIDENT RAY PHILLIPS, December 31, 2018
Happy New Year!
Together we did some amazing things in 2018! ! Here are some highlights….
AMPLIFIED OUR VOICE
Participated in ISO-NE Consumer Liaison Group meeting in Hartford. Discussed with Director of External Affairs the evaporating justification for Eversource project, given reduced demand forecasts.
Engaged with Attorney General Maura Healey and her office on the topic of protecting ratepayers from unnecessary costs in the Transmission Charges in our electric bills.
Worked pro-actively and on a continuous basis throughout the year with Sudbury Conservation Commission, Sudbury Historical Society, Sudbury Historical Commission, Sudbury Board of Selectmen, Sudbury Valley Trustees, and Sudbury’s Elected State Officials.
COVERED ALL THE BASES
Coordinated a field study by the Wampanoag and Narraganset Native American Indian tribes to identify ceremonial landscapes on or near the ROW.
Provided comment on Eversource’s application for a permit from the Sudbury Conservation Commission to perform test borings and tree clearing along the MBTA corridor, for a project not yet approved. Ultimately the Conservation Commission required Eversource to acknowledge much larger wetlands boundaries and imposed Conditions on Eversource’s work
Continuous monitoring of Eversource activity on ROW
Continued outreach and advocacy in neighboring communities of Stow and Hudson
Met with State legislators to discuss potential Mass General Law changes to improve utility regulation in transmission line siting.
Participated in “Golden Spike 2018” rail trail conference in Northampton, MA in July 2018. Clarified DCR’s position, per Paul Jahnighe: “DCR has gotten on board with the proposed transmission project at this stage as it works its way through the process. From DCR’s perspective, they see it as a Win in which they can get half the trail built for somebody else’s financing. If that project doesn’t happen, DCR would certainly want to pursue development of the Mass Central Rail Trail without that. Talked with keynote speaker Kurt Gaertner, EEA representative on the Governor’s Trails Team. He described their preference for working with municipalities but also stated they support the Eversource transmission line, so they can get a rail trail for half price.
October Town Meeting overwhelmingly passed citizens petition, submitted by Bill Schineller. That measure asked that the town petition the state Department of Revenue for flexibility to decide each year whether to tax above-ground utility wires at a different rate than other commercial property. The aim is to encourage utilities to bury existing wires and put any new lines underground.
Attorney Richard Kanoff provided Final Brief and Reply Briefs, making the case that Eversource’s project petition is flawed
Protect Sudbury provided extensive comments on deficiencies in Eversource’s Environmental Impact Report, and together with the Town of Sudbury, filed Notice of Intent to Appeal the MEPA Certificate signed by EEA Secretary Matthew Beaton.
Protect Sudbury filed Formal Appeal in December regarding the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife agency’s determination to ‘green light’ the components of the Eversouce plan under their jurisdiction.
CONSISTENT AND ON-GOING COMMUNITY OUTREACH
Consistent outreach to community members to educate and inform which resulted in our ability to help protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, the community we love and the conservation areas we enjoy.
Social Media Posts
OVERWHELMING COMMUNITY SUPPORT
Fully funded our legal Intervention at EFSB process to date, now awaiting a decision by Siting Board.
I wish the entire Protect Sudbury community a safe and happy New Year and look forward to an even more impactful 2019! – Ray Phillips, President
How PS Spends Its Summer Vacation, July 14, 2018
Receiving an email with the words “Notice of Project Withdrawal” in the subject line is enough to get your heart racing. And while it wasn’t ‘THE BIG WIN’ that we are all working so hard for, it is a ‘win’ nevertheless for our entire community!
Protect Sudbury volunteers’ through review of the “Final Environmental Impact Report” (FEIR) yielded a procedural error by Eversource. Protect Sudbury filed an objection with the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency (MEPA) and within 24 hours Eversource was forced to withdraw their FEIR.
They will re-file, but their error caught by PS eagle eyes has delayed the process by an additional six weeks which gives our community (PS and the Town of Sudbury) additional time to develop, prepare and submit comprehensive comments regarding the deficiencies in FEIR
MEPA is not responsible for approving the project, however, the lack of a MEPA certificate stops the approval process dead in it’s tracks. This ‘win’ and the ones that will surely follow are exactly what will ultimately help tip the scale in our favor. We had time for a 5 minute victory dance before we were right back at work turning over every stone to secure the final victory.
While volunteers work on the FEIR, our case continues to be deliberated by the EFSB. Ultimately, they will make a finding (decision) which could come as soon as September or sometime into 2019. When it does come, Protect Sudbury must be prepared for an almost inevitable appeal before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. We will either be defending the favorable decision from Eversource’s appeal or presenting our case to a more balanced court in the case of an unfavorable decision from the EFSB.
You may notice that VHB (the Eversource) contractor has been on the ROW lately. Today, they are there with an archaeological team to identify historical and cultural artifacts that may exist. This requirement is an result of Protect Sudbury’s work in communicating with many State agencies and working cooperatively with the Sudbury Historical Commission and Sudbury Historical Society.
Since we can don’t count on a completely objective report from a contractor hired by Eversource, Protect Sudbury, the Sudbury Historical Society and the chief preservation officers from both the Wampanoag and Narragansett Native American tribes walked the length of the ROW in Sudbury. At least two sites within the ROW were identified by the tribes as potentially significant. This information will be submitted to MEPA and the EFSB. We also identified other potential historic sites that require further investigation. Sometime in September, the tribes will return to Sudbury and present their findings to the entire Sudbury community.
Your Conservation Commission has also been working extremely hard to protect the community from potentially dangerous work by VHB/Eversource. Eversource wants to begin doing ‘test borings’ on the ROW, work which requires bringing in heavy equipment like drill rigs and trucks to clear trees and brush.
Both Protect Sudbury and the Con Com agree that this work presents a potential risk to our water supply, endangered species and alters the visual landscape for a project that has not been approved by the EFSB. The next Con Com hearing is August 6th at the Town Hall and our community, particularly those in close proximity to the rail bed are urged to attend so your comments get on the official legal record of these proceedings.
For all of the above reasons and more, we work to reach our fundraising goal of $80,000. Through your generosity, we are about half way there! The sooner PS reaches the goal the better the position PS will be in to respond to the EFSB decision when it is rendered.
All of these funds do directly to Richard Kanoff, PS attorney and will be used continue our fight if need be, to the Supreme Judicial Court.
Please spread the word through out the community of the great work PS volunteers do this and every day to protect and preserve all that we value about Sudbury.
The Protect Sudbury team is forever grateful for your continuing support. That support has fueled our two and half year fight, and I’m looking forward to achieving that ONE BIG WIN for all of us, where our victory dance will last longer than 5 minutes!
Yesterday and Today
September 25, 2017
If you have followed the progress of our case before the Energy Facilities Siting Board, you know that there has been considerable legal activity. We have moved through the majority of the discovery phase and plan to file testimony soon in advance of the evidentiary hearing in October.
If you don’t understand much about the legal process or didn’t have time to read all of the filings and findings, Protect Sudbury has done the legwork for you and will offer a Legal Update at the Goodnow Library on Wednesday, October 4th at 7:00pm.
In advance of the meeting, I offer some insight on our progress and why there is reason for continued optimism about the outcome of our case. First and foremost, my optimism is rooted in the tremendous community support from both the citizens and businesses of Sudbury. From lemonade stands, to matching donations, to birdhouse fundraisers and sign holding in town center by our very own Sudbury Sasquatch, I continue to be impressed and inspired by how we have come together to fight for the values that each of us believes make Sudbury a great place to be.
From the start, we said that the actions that we take today are as much about the generations that follow us as they are about the here and now. That fact was brought home to me in a recent decision by the Siting Board to include property values impacts when evaluating route alternatives despite Eversource’s best efforts to have them excluded. Protect Sudbury filed a brief defending our position and ultimately the Siting board ruled in our favor, overruling Eversource’s assertion to the community that their high voltage transmission line would not impact our property values.
What I found most interesting about the property value ruling was that the EFSB referenced the 1960’s case of “Town of Sudbury vs. Boston Edison,” citing legal precedent to support their decision. The successful fight of our forebears, over eight years, was used to support our position some 60 years later.
And now, Sudbury has been fighting for nearly two years to continue to protect and preserve our community, in part, because this fight is far greater than being just about Sudbury. We have an opportunity to fundamentally change the way utilities conduct business in our State. Our victory will establish legal precedent that will reverberate throughout the halls of justice for generations.
The Energy industry is at a tipping point in its evolution from a centralized, fossil fuel based paradigm to one that is decentralized and driven by solar and other renewable energy sources.
We are fighting for an energy future where impacts on the environment, health, drinking water, endangered species, historic sites, and safety of citizens are valued alongside or even above the cost of a project and its return to the utility’s shareholders.
Plans to Protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact, plans to protect humanity. – (Stewart Udall).
So let’s plan to attend the legal update on October 4th, Goodnow Library at 7:00pm!
A Message from the President, May 15, 2017
Thank you to the entire Protect Sudbury community for the incredible support received over these past 15 months! We have made incredible progress toward our goal of protecting the community from an unnecessary project that poses a clear and present danger to all of what we enjoy and hold dear about this town and community.
Since the filing by Eversource of their petition with the Energy Facilities Siting Board (ESFB), the Protect Sudbury leadership team and legal counsel has thoroughly reviewed the petition’s 2000 pages. The good news is that we have uncovered many flaws and weaknesses in our opponent’s arguments to in their attempt to promote this unnecessary project. The bad news is that we have also discovered that the potential damage and unintended consequences of their actions if this project were to be approved, are far greater than we imagined. Make no mistake, this proposed $100 million dollar infrastructure project, the largest ever in Sudbury’s history, will change the character of our town forever for the worse, but only if allowed to proceed unchecked.
Our ability to impact the outcome will come from the continued unified community support that has been the hallmark of the Protect Sudbury organization from our inception. On Thursday, May 25th we will have the opportunity to again rise up as one and express our feelings about this project directly to the ESFB at LSRHS at 7:00pm.
THIS WILL BE THE MOST IMPORTANT COMMUNITY DRIVEN EVENT IN THE ENTIRE ESFB PROCESS.
IT MAY EVEN BE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT IN THE HISTORY OF SUDBURY.
It is imperative that we fill this meeting to overcapacity. This alone will be something that the ESFB has never seen. And that’s important, since after all we do intend to change history! We intend be the first community to overturn the ‘preferred’ utility company option in this process and we intend to change the way that utilities do business in the State of Massachusetts from this point on. This may sound ambitious, and that’s because it is! I believe we have a winning strategy and THE BEST legal representation possible. All we need now is YOU! We need YOU at this meeting. We need YOU to ask questions and express your concerns. And equally important we need YOU to keep the donations coming in so that we can reach our goal of adding $100,000 to our legal fund in 2017. Working alongside the Town, this funding will allow us to implement all facets our legal strategy though out the entire process.
There will be much more information coming in the days ahead. For now, mark your calendar and become a part of making the future we all want for our families and those that follow us!
“Winning” – An Update from Protect Sudbury, April 11, 2017
Having just returned from an inspiring week in our nations capital, and since we are on the eve of the initial major engagement with our opponent, Eversource Energy, I felt that a brief update to the entire Protect Sudbury community was in order. Within the next few weeks, we expect that Eversource will be filing their petition for building the Sudbury to Hudson transmission project with the Energy Facilities Siting Board (ESFB). At this time, the details of Eversource’s plan will finally be made public.
Protect Sudbury still believes that Eversource’s proposal will contain both an overhead and underground siting on the MBTA right of way (ROW) as their preferred option along with an alternative street siting. Protect Sudbury along with the Town of Sudbury is prepared to fully engage Eversource with a multi-faceted intervention strategy during the Siting Board process that we firmly believe will be effective in achieving the goal of proving that this transmission line project is unnecessary and therefore does not need to be built.
A secondary goal, if the first is unreachable, would be to move the project off the MBTA right of way, to an under street siting.
In the words of our attorney, Richard Kanoff, “our case is winnable”, and in fact, I believe that we are ‘winning’. But ‘winning’ should not be confused with victory!
The countless hours of time and effort expended by Protect Sudbury over the past 14 months are finally beginning to yield tangible results. These results have illuminated the vulnerabilities of our enemy and have helped shape our strategy as we head into battle. One such vulnerability has come to light in some recent correspondence between Protect Sudbury and the MBTA. Specifically, as a direct result of the unrelenting pressure placed upon the MBTA by the Town of Sudbury’s lobbying efforts, Senator Eldridge, Representative Gentile, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Protect Sudbury core team, the MBTA has signed an option agreement with Eversource that would permit an underground siting on the ROW provided that this option is approved by the ESFB.
It is important to note that if the ESFB does not approve the underground siting, or the underground option cannot be physically built the MBTA would then negotiate an overhead siting with Eversource on the ROW.
We continue to insist upon full disclosure by the MBTA. Through our attorney, we have requested that the MBTA release all of the emails, documents and all of the details in the agreement that it has signed with Eversource since all of this information is a matter of public record. To date, they have resisted at least three such requests we have made under the Freedom of Information Act.
We must not lose sight of our key priorities in this effort. We cannot be distracted by the ‘shiny objects’ that Eversource dangles in front of us. Our focus remains on:
Protecting the sole source of drinking water for 18,000 people
Protecting our Health and Safety
Protecting our Conservation Lands
Protecting our Businesses
Protecting our Homes and our Property Values
The fight at the ESFB will be long, and to mount a compelling case requires additional financial resources, for both the Town’s intervention as well as Protect Sudbury’s intervention. I remind everyone to attend the upcoming Town meeting where we will vote on allocating additional funding for the Town’s opposition. Further, I urge all in the community to continue to donate to the efforts of the Protect Sudbury organization.
To put this in context, the proposed project by Eversource is the largest infrastructure project that our town has even been part of. We cannot take the chance that things will take care of themselves. It is only though our combined efforts that we can protect the community that we love, and protect our water supply.
A New Year – January 23rd, 2017
Happy New Year to our Protect Sudbury community! The start of a New Year is a great time to look back over the past year as well as look forward to what lies ahead. For some, it’s also a good time to make resolutions. (More on that later!)
Almost a year has passed since we first realized the threat to our community posed by the proposed Eversource project, and what a year it has been! The Sudbury community rallied and unified in a fashion that would make our Revolutionary War era forbearers proud. A group of concerned citizens gathered together one evening in February and created an organization that it is a formidable opponent. No better measure of success has been our ability to delay the submission of the proposed project to the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) by almost one year! While this accomplishment is significant, a new stage of our battle has begun.
We continue to put pressure on Eversource to modify or abandon their proposed solution, while also preparing for the possibility that they will submit their petition to the ESFB with any substantive change.
We have seen the damage Eversource has inflicted on many communities across New England; all threatened by one corporations business practices. Any sign of weakness or compromise by Eversource at this point would set in motion a chain of events that could jeopardize their ability to continue doing business using a flawed and archaic approval and siting process. The stakes are high for both Eversource and Sudbury.
Our community is once again ground zero for this battle. The opposition to this project and Eversource’s intractable position and insistence on moving forward with technology and business practices of a past era create a crucible for change that will forever echo in communities throughout this region. This project represents the confluence of every possible negative consequence and outcome. This is the inevitable result of a process in which projects are approved using ‘lowest cost’ as their sole criteria. The ‘unintended consequences’ of such a process results in things such as contaminated drinking water, economic depression within a community, destruction of protected conservation land, and the threat to the health and safety of the community in general. The threat is still very much a real and present danger.
We are about to enter into what may be a long and protracted legal battle with Eversource, both within the ESFB and potentially within the State and Federal judicial system. We are fortunate to have the support of not only the Town of Sudbury but also the Town of Hudson in what looks to be a costly legal battle. It is a battle I believe that we can win. It is a battle requires the time, treasure and talents of our entire community if we are to prevail. On behalf of the Protect Sudbury organization, I appeal to each member of the community to participate in this fight in whatever way you can. We need your help.
This fight is about our children, our homes and our community. Is there anything more important? Make your New Year’s resolution a donation of your time, treasure and talent to Protect Sudbury in 2017. Thank you all and let’s make 2017 a Happy New Year!
Thank you – October 26, 2016
I want to personally thank all of the members of the Sudbury community that turned out tonight to assist in delivering our message to Eversource. It is exactly because of this level of community support and involvement that values such as self-determination and home rule will ultimately prevail. Sudbury has preserved and protected these values since it was founded in 1639 and we are not about to stop! Thank you citizens of Sudbury!
Pelham Island Is a Wake Up Call – May 19, 2016
The recent news regarding Eversource’s activities on Pelham Island Road are disturbing, but not surprising. While Eversource could have taken a much more responsible approach and informed and educated the homeowners and the community regarding their planned actions, particularly given the opposition by this community regarding their present proposal, they chose not to.
Despite what you might read on their website, see in their videos, hear in their ‘open houses’ this is exactly how Eversource conducts business. If you have been a resident of Sudbury for any length of time, this should be abundantly clear to you given their track record within our town.
The unfortunate reality of Pelham Island is that Eversource already owns the Right of Way on that route and as such are free to do as they please when it comes to maintaining/upgrading existing transmission line facilities.
Eversource makes the following statement on their web site regarding Right of Way for Customers:
“Eversource may require the removal of or deny use or activity that is inconsistent with our easement rights, that interfere with our ability to operate and maintain a safe and reliable system”.
In other words, once they obtain an easement, your ability as a municipality or homeowner is severely limited.
That said, Protect Sudbury will do whatever we can to assist the citizens affected by the events on Pelham Island Road.
These events hopefully will provide a ‘wake up’ call to those community members that still believe that the proposed Eversource project can’t possibly happen. Or believe that a ‘sit back and wait’ approach is the most prudent one.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
If we had not taken action, the community would one day have awoken to the sound of chain saws on the right of way and in their own back yards as Eversource clear cuts the 60+ acres within Sudbury to begin construction and placement of fifty four, 100 foot mono poles, spaced 200 feet apart.
We need to learn from Pelham Island. It will happen that fast, that unexpectedly, and with greater impact. And just like the residents near the Pelham Island project and we will be left with little or no recourse unless we act now.
Protect Sudbury through the hard work of its volunteers and contributors, has been able to delay the filing by Eversource of their petition to site these lines through the heart of our town.
We have gained some valuable time.
If we had not acted, this project would have already been filed with the Energy Facility Siting Board. Intervening at the Siting board is an even more daunting challenge that the one in front of us right now. I can’t emphasize this strongly enough, we all must act NOW to stop this project. RIGHT NOW.
Our strategy is to fight this project through legal action and political means. To that end we need to fully fund the legal work that is anticipated right now. Further, we need to reach the highest levels of our elected officials, right now.
While I am grateful for the contributions made to date, we need to do better. We need to see 100% participation from abutters and business that will be affected by this project. We are not close to that level of participation. Residents and businesses that have not contributed in a meaningful way seriously need to reexamine their priorities.
Eversource is a clear and present danger. Hoping and wishing that this project will go away is not a strategy; it is a recipe for economic and environmental disaster.
The fifty or so volunteers that make up the core group of Protect Sudbury have worked countless hours in getting us this far. They have accomplished an incredible amount since February. They have earned your trust. You can support their work on your behalf by participating through your donations, letter writing and support of the fundraising activities.
The board of Protect Sudbury represents you! Every one of the leadership team is available to speak with you individually, or in one of the group environments we hold weekly, if you want more data on the legal strategy in detail and to give your input. Find out how to reach us here: http://www.protectsudbury.org/our-team/
Everyone in the community is welcome, and needed, to participate and contribute their time and treasure in this effort to protect our town.
– With public sentiment anything is possible. Without it nothing is possible.
Answering the Call – May 2, 2016
In the autumn of 1774, Sudbury was training 400 militiamen for potential hostilities against the crown. This force was by far the largest in Massachusetts. At least 302 served on April 19, 1775, the day in which the ‘shot was heard ‘round the world’. The residents of your town ‘answered the call’ and were willing to sacrifice all in order to preserve their right of self-determination. Sudbury is again threatened by outside forces that are determined to change the essence of what makes Sudbury such a special place to live and work. Once again, we are being asked to answer the call.
I am asking all members of Protect Sudbury to attend the Special Town meeting on May 3, 2016 and vote “Yes” on Article 2. Demonstrating our resolve, in force, at Town Meeting will be another ‘shot’ that will be heard throughout our New England. We want to make it clear that any and all threats to the community will not be tolerated and that we will bring the necessary political, legal and citizen support to defeat these forces. In addition to the vote to fund the Town’s legal opposition to the Eversource project, there are other important articles that evening including the vote to fund the opposition to the Sudbury Station project. These proposals are equally important and also deserve your consideration and vote at the Special Town meeting. We are fortunate to have the resources to bring to bear on so many fronts, but more importantly it is a question of values and our determination. Sudbury demonstrated its commitment to these values in 1775 and I am confident that we will again demonstrate this commitment in 2016. Thank you for your support.
The Power of One – April 14, 2016
We don’t have to look very far to see the effect that one person can have in shaping the future. Most of us are familiar with the rich history associated with Henry Ford and the Town of Sudbury. Ford planned to open one of his Ford Motors “village industries” here in Sudbury. He got as far as buying up more than 100 acres of land surrounding Hop Brook and the Parmenter Mill, the power source that would drive his manufacturing plant. That plant would have changed the town of Sudbury drastically, if it weren’t for one stubborn farmer who refused to sell out to Mr. Ford despite years of negotiations.
Today, we face a similar challenge from the proponents of so called “progress” and “reliability”. The proposed power line project would forever change the essence and character of our town. Our town has answered the call and emphatically stated that the values that we embrace as a community will not be trampled on by a soulless corporate entity that cares more about profits than the welfare of a community. In fact, descendants of that very stubborn farmer are part of Protect Sudbury today.
In the face of such a threat, can one person really make a difference?
The answer is yes. One person makes all the difference!
- ONE conversation with your neighbor about the power line threat educates.
- ONE letter to your Senator or Congressman makes change.
- ONE hour of holding a sign in Sudbury Center creates awareness.
- ONE more donation to the legal fund means we can focus on the fight rather than fundraise.
- ONE vote at town meeting to fund the Town’s legal opposition means getting funds approved
- ONE more person volunteering, helps lessen the load for others.The list is endless.
We are making extraordinary progress and we continue to build an organization capable of taking on and defeating a foe as formidable as Eversource would like you to think they are. Our mission to preserve and protect the historic character of our town, its environmentally sensitive areas, as well the physical and economic health of our community has resonated with the citizens and businesses throughout Sudbury. The battle lines have been drawn as we launch tactical initiatives on all fronts to block the ‘preferred’ Eversource siting of power lines along the MBTA right of way. From a strategic standpoint, we believe that winning this key battle can potentially eliminate any power line siting associated with this project within Sudbury.
Our Public Relations and Media team has drawn over 3,000 people into the Protect Sudbury fold. Evidence of their success can be seen on virtually every street in Sudbury as Protect Sudbury lawn signs pop up faster than spring flowers. Each week Protect Sudbury is covered multiple times in print and online media, and you can expect to see more of Protect Sudbury in the media in the coming months as new initiatives are launched and events unfold surrounding our response.
Fundraising has begun in earnest as we engage weekly with our neighbors in small groups to explain the impact this proposed project will have on all of us. Local businesses throughout Sudbury have offered direct donations as well as sponsored events. The first such event will be the Lotus Blossom Fundraiser on April 19th.
Events are planned throughout the year and we ask you to support these events and the business partners that make them possible. Visit our events page
Though we are only one third of the way toward reaching the fundraising goal, I’m encouraged by our progress and confident that as we reach more residents and businesses and then launch our fundraising events we will meet the ambitious goal we have set for ourselves.
We are fortunate to have volunteers with exceptional in-depth expertise in areas ranging from electrical, and environmental engineering, molecular biology, finance, computer science, and utility planning and development on our Research team. This team has nine projects underway that will provide fact based studies to help equip Protect Sudbury members in their meetings and discussions as well as serve as a valuable resource to our Legal team.
Our Legal team provides guidance and support to Burns and Levinson, our legal counsel, as well as coordinates the efforts of the Town of Sudbury’s legal team. Protect Sudbury Inc. and the Town of Sudbury have unique legal standings and we leverage each group’s advantages in a coordinated fashion.
Our Government relations team has built bridges to our neighbors in Hudson, Stow and Marlborough with an end goal of presenting a unified opposition to the project. We have also reached out to senior level State and Federal officials to garner their support.
Finally, our Environmental team continues to build strong relationships with local, state and federal regulatory agencies. This team also conducts research into the health and safety issues, and potential risks to both residents and the environment.
Important events on our horizon are the Town Meeting, and Special Town Meeting on May 2nd and 3rd, respectively. There is at least one warrant article on securing funding the Town needs to continue our legal effort over the course of the next fiscal year. We absolutely need each and every one’s support on these important articles. Details are available through both Protect Sudbury and the Town web sites.
Finally, if you can still find one, take a look at the back of a one cent coin. The lowly ‘penny’ and find the inscription. (Better yet, if you have kids or grandkids, make this a ‘teachable moment’ and read it to them.) “E Pluribus Unum” Translated:
Out of many, ONE
Tip of the Spear – April 2, 2016
Sometimes the cost of being the driving force behind a behind a powerful grass roots movement like Protect Sudbury seems like more than you ever bargained for. I remember the excitement of finally being tall enough to be admitted to my first roller coaster ride; I had looked forward to it for years. When I finally got on board and the coaster began the ascent up the rickety wooden structure my excitement began to change to fear. I began to question my decision to get on in the first place and I began to doubt if I would ever get off alive as the coaster descended down that first steep incline. Maybe you, like me, have experienced some of that same type of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over the past week as events have unfolded around the fight to stop the power line project. That is not a coincidence. Fear, uncertainty and doubt are the primary weapons that our adversary will try and use to defeat us. They will influence the media with articles such as the “Eversource Rethinks Power Line Route” story that appeared this week in the Town Crier. Eversource, quick to take credit for providing the forum for citizen input, pointed out that it was only because of THEIR Open House that they are now “considering other options”. You might have even started to believe that we had won the war after reading that article. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you are in the grip of “FUD”, you will sometimes reach for any glimmer of hope that an acceptable outcome is at hand. Next week Eversource will crush that glimmer of hope when they announce that they are still going to submit their MBTA right of way options as their “preferred route”. This is their strategy. They will create the fear, uncertainty and doubt in order to wear you down and leave you with a feeling of hopelessness. Fortunately, for Protect Sudbury, nothing could be further from the truth!
Protect Sudbury is the ‘tip of the spear’ in the fight against Eversource. We are leading the charge. I realize that it is particularly frustrating when as an informed and educated Protect Sudbury member, you find other citizens and even your elected officials not quite up to speed on the threat that is posed by the monster that is Eversource. And we should be upset when the people that should be leading this fight are not quite on board or up to speed. That alone is not a good enough reason to take our eyes off of our collective objective. We have come a long way in a very short time. We have assembled a highly motivated group of citizens with extraordinary skills and talents all focused on a common goal. We have enlisted the assistance of one of the most prestigious law firms in Boston to represent us in our legal fight. We have almost 3,000 members today and will have 5,000 in just a couple of weeks. That is 20% of the Sudbury population. Our fundraising is underway and we are confident of meeting our goal if we are able to maintain our momentum. We have successfully stopped Eversource from filing their petition with the EFSB in April and have gained valuable time to build an even bigger and more powerful organization. We have received important letters of support from both environmental and governmental organizations. In short, we have a lot to feel good about. In just six weeks we have built a citizens army, engaged the enemy and slowed their march.
The first battle, however, has yet to begin. Expect that soon, our legal initiatives, will begin to be take shape. Expect that we will provide the needed guidance to our elected officials so that they can stand with us in a united front against a common enemy. Expect great things from Protect Sudbury and they will happen!
Significance of Eversource Delaying Filing of the Petition – March 30, 2016
We do not yet understand the significance of Eversource’s announcement that they are now reconsidering the alternate routes that they originally proposed. Protect Sudbury’s position is that those alternatives should never have been taken out of consideration to begin with, and that they are now finally following the process that the Energy Facilities Siting Board has regarding the need to have geographically diverse alternative routes in their filing. I compared this announcement to Eversource finally restoring the houses that were ‘missing’ from the pictures they presented to the Town and to residents at their Open House. They corrected an error and omission. The significance of which is yet to be understood.
The most important take away from seeing Eversource react, is that a group like Protect Sudbury could get the attention of Eversource and get them to do ANYTHING. This speaks to the power and resolve of the group to be heard, both by the Town as well as Eversource.
We continue to press on with a sense of urgency. Yesterday we met with our attorney for two hours and feel encouraged by the legal options that we have to fight this in both the short and long term if necessary. There will be a press release on this shortly.
The significance of Eversource’ s decision to consider alternatives be revealed if and when they agree to accept the town manager’s invitation to meet with the Town of Sudbury and discuss removing both the overhead and underground alternatives from their petition. Until then, Protect Sudbury is encouraged by the fact that our message is getting out there and with this success we will redouble our efforts to inform and educate the community and continue to build an organization that can work effectively with the town over whatever period of time is necessary to prevail in this matter.
Be encouraged by knowing that what you are doing is being heard…. loud and clear! But don’t doubt for a second that the our opponent is still at our doorstep, is aware of what we are doing and is re-formulating their own strategy.