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NStar Chart

NStar Chart

Between 150 and 200 forceful, angry people showed up last night at Nauset Regional High School in Eastham to oppose NSTAR’s plan to use herbicides to clear brush along Outer Cape power lines.  At the end of the meeting, after nearly everyone had cleared out, Jared Collins asked a simple question. His question set off a chain of events that stopped NSTAR in its tracks.

“When do you plan to begin spraying?” Collins asked.

“Monday,” NSTAR’s senior arborist said.

“I was shocked,” Collins said. “We had just spent more than 1 ½ hours in a meeting, and they had told us everything except when they were starting work. The only reason I knew was that I was waiting outside the auditorium. I think it’s fairly clear why they didn’t say anything. It would have been a significantly more difficult meeting to moderate.”

Collins had taken email addresses as members of the audience had filed into the high school’s auditorium. He drafted a letter and pressed “send.” Within hours, Collins had alerted hundreds on the Outer Cape that despite their objections, NSTAR would be proceeding with its spraying program next week.

NSTAR’s Mike Durand verified Collins’s assertion Thursday mid-day. The purpose of the meeting had been to disseminate information and answer questions, he said, not register complaints. NSTAR had complied with the State’s rules and regs, had listened to the crowd, was pulling in a conservation commissioner to oversee spraying to assuage community concerns. Why hadn’t anyone from the utility mentioned during the meeting that spraying would begin Monday? Anyone familiar with the scope of the project would have concluded that NSTAR needed to get busy right away, Durand said.

Once opponents knew of NSTAR’s plans, they got busy. Eastham Selectman Aimee Eckman had already pledged to work on behalf of the approximately 500 homeowners abutting the power lines. Sheila Vanderhoef, Eastham’s town administrator, pledged to draft a letter to stop the spraying. Vanderhoef worried that NSTAR wasn’t leaving the Town enough time to generate a legal response, so she said she’d enlist State Rep. Sarah Peake and State Sen. Robert O’Leary.

By the close of business today, NSTAR’s Mike Durand had called to say that the power company was “suspending the use of herbicides in Wellfleet, Eastham, and Orleans.” Why had NSTAR decided not to move ahead with spraying on Monday? “In anticipation of the Towns’ requests,” he said, NSTAR had decided that there would be “a period of time that we should delay” and instead “begin doing some of our work without herbicides.” Crews will “manually remove” brush along the base of the power lines.  Does NSTAR have any plans to spray herbicides on the Outer Cape? Not at this time, Durand said.

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