Speaking Truth to Power

Protect Sudbury reached another milestone on Friday, in the fight against Eversource’s ill-conceived, and unnecessary project. Protect Sudbury attorney, Richard Kanoff, filed our initial brief  (read it here in its entirety: Protect Sudbury_Initial Brief (EFSB 17-02) ) with the Energy Facilities Siting Board, essentially the ‘closing arguments’ in our case. Each of the intervenors filed such briefs, including our adversary, Eversource Energy, as well as the Town of Sudbury.

All intervenors have a chance to review opponent’s brief before filing a reply brief. Limited participants are also allowed to file a reply brief before the case is turned over the EFSB for deliberation and a determination and finding regarding Eversource’s petition to site the project through the heart of Sudbury.

Protect Sudbury’s initial brief is a powerful, factual and compelling argument against the Eversource petition. I urge you all to read this (54 page) summary as it represents the culmination of over two years of discovery, analysis, meetings, research, and outreach. This brief is ultimately what our considerable fundraising – your dollars – have paid for.  There is more work to be done and additional funds are needed in the event this case goes to appeal.

As a community, we can all be proud of the incredible work that this filing represents.

Our arguments are powerful:

  1. Eversource willfully violated ISO-NE’s requirements and process for presenting a project for approval to the Department of Public Utilities.
  2. Eversource failed to prove that their ‘Preferred’ alternative is the most cost-effective solution.
  3. Eversource failed to show the superiority of their solution relative to the available alternatives on the basis of balancing environmental impacts, reliability, and cost
  4. Eversource is non-compliant with respect to the Commonwealth’s Smart Grown/Energy policy

Our attorney says it best in the brief, “In making its unfounded decision, Eversource ignored ISO-NE’s process for assessing and evaluating competing transmission line options, selected the option that would have the most environment impacts and create the most environmental risk, failed to follow longstanding precedents that sited new transmission lines either under-street or on existing transmission rights of way, and disregarded the input of the host communities. The Company so decided with the full knowledge that other alternatives were on balance better choices, with less environmental damage and risk, at the same or lower cost (based upon the estimates provided), and with community support. There is simply no way to explain, on the record here, why Eversource would persist with such an ill-advised and controversial choice. Pursuing a significant infrastructure project with such uncertain costs and significant environmental impacts as posed here, given the availability of alternative more balanced options, is not rational and cannot be justified. Protect Sudbury respectfully requests that the EFSB exercise the judgment that Eversource did not, and deny the Petition as filed.”

Some other key points that came out during the hearing and are summarized in our filing:

  1. The only siting vetted by ISO-NE is the Overhead MBTA option at a cost of $41m. For any other siting option to be considered, it must be brought to ISO-NE through a formal process that includes stakeholder input.
  2. The only siting option provided by the MBTA to Eversource is for an underground siting on the railroad. Eversource’s claim that they “listened to the community” by proposing this unapproved route has little basis in reality and illustrates that they have little regard for the truth.
  3. Eversource’s filing attempts to subvert the EFSB process by asking for approval of a project that:
    1. Has not been vetted by ISO-NE
    2. Is not the least cost
    3. Has more environmental impact than the alternatives
    4. Utilizes an undisturbed sensitive areas as opposed to under street and
    5. Is universally opposed by host communities

And finally, the ‘shiny object’ that Eversource attempted to use in order to coerce various stakeholders was fully exposed. In our attorney’s words: “Sudbury, as the significant host community, should be allowed to decide independently and without any consideration of the Project, whether a rail trail should be developed on the MBTA ROW, how it should be designed and at what cost. Fundamentally, any determination of whether or not to proceed with a rail trail is a local decision and not a bargaining chip to be offered by a utility in a transparent attempt to persuade the Siting Board. Finally, the towns are opposed to the development of a rail trail as part of this Project—any purported advantages of the rail trail are outweighed by the destructive impacts of the Project on the MBTA ROW.”

Once again, I extend my wholehearted gratitude to the entire Protect Sudbury community that has supported this cause in countless ways. I believe more than ever that we have a winnable case and through continued perseverance, we will bring this case to a favorable closure for the Town of Sudbury and all its citizens.