Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Press Release from Cleon Turner's office: "BOSTON -- Following a Cape-wide concern regarding NStar’s proposed use of herbicides to control vegetation along the rights of way from one end of Cape Cod to the other, State Representatives Cleon H. Turner (D-Dennis), Sarah K. Peake (D-Provincetown), and Timothy Madden (D-Nantucket) filed legislation that would require any public utility proposing to use herbicides to control vegetation on rights of way to negotiate with any municipality that desires to eliminate the use of herbicides on the right of way.

Massachusetts House Docket 3587, which mirrors a Maine statute that amended the Maine Pesticide Control Act of 1975, states that a community can initiate negotiations with the public utility for mechanical removal of offending vegetation in that community rather than use chemicals. The legislation requires negotiations in good faith and arbitration in cases where parties are deadlocked or promises agreed to are not kept by one side or the other.

A potential negotiated agreement would be that the community would arrange for the work to be done and NStar would contribute at least the amount of money they would have spent using chemicals. Another possibility would be that NStar and the community would share both work and financial responsibilities. Though that could mean that the community might bear some additional expense, it would also mean that the groundwater would be better protected by lessening the amount of chemicals sprayed over the Cape’s single source aquifer.

“Clearly, such negotiations and agreements will require municipalities to step up and undertake some part of the cost or some part of the physical labor to mechanically remove vegetation from the rights of way, said Turner. Turner also stated that “Cape towns and residents need to have much more serious discussions regarding eliminating the use of chemicals that have the potential of contaminating our drinking water. Our hope has been that NStar would respect the sensitivity of the Cape Cod environment and not use chemicals.”

Rep Sarah Peake, an original sponsor of the bill said, “This bill is all about local control. It strengthens the hand of every town on the Cape. I have been very frustrated that decisions regarding the use of herbicides rest almost exclusively with state and federal agencies. This bill will give our Boards of Selectmen and Town Councilors negotiating power and the ability to say ‘no’ to herbicides.”

“Though this is a county-wide issue,” said Senator Dan Wolf (D – Harwich), “this bill addresses the role towns should play in crafting creative solutions along the rights of way.”

"The protection of our drinking water supply is a vital concern. I see this bill as an opportunity for our local communities to have a say in the manner in which vegetation is controlled, if they so choose and have the resources to actively participate in the control process," said Representative Susan Gifford (R - Wareham).

"It is my hope that NStar will do what is right by working with local communities and property owners in the rights of way to meet our needs,” said Representative David Vieira (R – Falmouth). “This legislation encourages that dialogue to move forward."

"In order to avoid a repeat of instances where the use of chemicals was once thought to be safe, but turned out otherwise, I would rather be cautious than sorry," explained Representative Randy Hunt (R - Sandwich. "This legislation gives towns a say in how power line vegetation management will be conducted."

“Cape Cod is all about water. Using it, sharing it, and protecting it. This helps make sure we protect the water we need in the best possible way now and in the future,” said Representative Demetrius Atsalis (D – Barnstable).

The Proposed legislation includes an arbitration clause that will ensure all parties negotiate in good faith."