Posts Tagged ‘NSTAR’


NSTAR sent nearly identical letters to Eastham and Wellfleet late Wednesday afternoon announcing it would postpone spraying herbicides along power lines in these towns until June 2010.  Eastham town officials expressed opposition to the spraying in a meeting with NSTAR August 19.  Wellfleet followed suit September 1. Both towns have proposed legislating town-wide bans on the use of herbicides and pesticides.  David Polson, the power company’s Vegetation Management Manager, wrote in these letters that NSTAR is, “in a good faith effort,” allowing the towns to “explore” their “options.”  Polson added that if the towns should fail to develop a plan to remove vegetation along power lines, NSTAR maintains its right to spray herbicides beginning in June 2010.

NSTAR spokesman Mike Durand said in a telephone conversation today that crews have finished brush-clearing work along power lines in Bourne and Falmouth and will move into Orleans by mid-October.  “We do plan to treat the right of way in Orleans,” he said.  Orleans, he explained, has not filed a complaint with NSTAR about the spraying program.  I could not reach Orleans town Administrator John Kelly for comment.

NSTAR did not include the Outer Cape towns of Truro and Provincetown in its 2009 Yearly Operating Program (YOP). These towns were therefore excluded from plans to spray along power lines. NSTAR selects towns to treat based on a rotating schedule. NSTAR spokesman Durand wrote in an email that the power company had yet to finalize a YOP for 2010.

Postscript: NSTAR representative Mike Durand emailed me calling for a clarification of my use of the word “complaint.” I asked him during a phone call earlier today if he had heard anything from Orleans. He said he had not. He wrote me to say that he took my question generally, and if the question was general, he had not heard any anything.  We did not speak of “complaints.” My question was more specific and in the context of asking about other Outer Cape towns that might or might not have organized to oppose the spraying. When Durand answered “no,” I took him to mean that Orleans had not filed a legal complaint.


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Two selectman and three residents of Eastham met Wednesday with three representatives of NStar to offer the electric company a free brush clearing brigade if it would agree to halt all plans this year to spray herbicides along its power lines.  NStar had planned to begin a program in June to kill vegetation growing under and around the lines, which are the main conduits for electrical power on the Cape.  The company has postponed spraying because of public concern about the potential risk herbicides may pose to topsoil and groundwater.

“They really more or less declined the offer of having the citizens offer to do the whole five miles,” said Sheila Vanderhoef, Eastham’s Town Administrator.  “They indicated that they have their own landscape people  to do mechanical and hand cutting. They did indicate that they would consider limiting themselves for this year to the mechanical and hand-cutting alternative.”

Vanderhoef said that Eastham’s board of selectmen is exploring the possibility of drafting a law or home-rule petition that would ban herbicides and pesticides town-wide.  “That’s a longer term solution,” she said.  “In the short term, yesterday, they focused on offering up a labor contingent.”

NStar representative Caroline Allen acknowledged Eastham’s offer.  “We had a very productive meeting,” she said.  “We’re not in any rush.  We want to make sure we proceed carefully here.”  NStar will likely make its decision next week whether to accept Eastham’s offer.  “We’re going to hold off any response until we make a formal decision.”

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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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