NSTAR Campaign 2013 Recap & Update from Sue Phelan of GreenCAPE


NSTAR Rally: click here to see photos from the Rally

November 15

Despite vigorous objections from all 15 Cape towns, the Cape legislative delegation, thousands of residents, businesses, and public health professionals, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources  (MDAR) – NSTAR’s compliant state “regulator”- approved NSTAR’s plan to spray a mixture of 5 herbicides under the power easements (aka rights-of-way or ROWs) over the Cape’s only drinking water supply. Herbicides are a class of pesticides that kill unwanted plants. Much of the spraying, targeted on trees and shrubs beneath the utility power lines, takes place on property the NSTAR company does not own. If they haven’t already, private residential and municipal properties are scheduled to be sprayed without the knowledge or consent of the owners. In prior years, utilities cleared the vegetation under the power lines with mechanical cutting and mowing. Some utilities now employ grazing animals but NSTAR has refused to consider this.

November 18

With no notice to ROW abutters, NSTAR commenced spraying a mixture of herbicides Krenite and Escort over the Cape’s aquifer, in back yards where children play, and public lands where residents hike and walk their dogs. Krenite has NOT had all assessments performed on it because it was not ever expected to be used on residential properties. NSTAR and MDAR are ignoring this important information from the US EPA. In addition, NSTAR’s contractors are ignoring the regulations regarding restrictions on the herbicide label –which have the force of law–which state wind velocity must be within 3-10 miles per hour for spraying. Most days when NSTAR contractors sprayed, the wind was well over 10 mph with 25+ mph gusting winds which ensure that the herbicides will drift off-target and expose nearby residents. A few of the herbicides are suspected endocrine disruptors.

Earlier studies, including the Silent Spring Institute Household Exposure Study, report that pesticides can be tracked in from outdoors on shoes and pets where they remain as a source of continued exposure. This is of particular concern for small children and pets that spend more time close to the floor and the contaminated dust. MDAR ignores this.

November 25

Cape Cod Times published the My View column NSTAR Herbicide Use Raises Concerns from Laurel Schaider, Silent Spring Institute Research Scientist, and Cheryl Osimo, Executive Director of MBCC and co-founder and Outreach Director of Silent Spring Institute. It explains that no comprehensive water testing for NSTAR herbicides has been done on Cape Cod’s water supply. 

December 4

GreenCAPE and 29 other individuals and organizations filed an administrative appeal with MDAR voicing our concerns with the process, violations of the regulations, lack of supervision and enforcement by the state regulator, and personal health concerns. To date most have only received confirmation of the receipt of the appeal.

December 6

State Senator Dan Wolf’s letter “NSTAR Disrespects Democracy” appeared in the Cape Cod Times. Click here to read the article Senator Dan Wolf Speaks Out Against NSTAR Spraying.

December 21

MDAR Extends Comment Period 45 Days on Nstar Easement Chemical Clearing for their 2014 plan.

Sen. Dan Wolf’s Facebook page reports “MDAR has agreed to extend the comment period for NSTAR’s 2014 Yearly Operational Plan’s comment period by 45 days! I am pleased, that during this busy time of year, MDAR is allowing more time for public input into the use of Herbicides under the power lines in our communities. The outcome will hopefully be the use of methods of vegetation control that do not compromise our water resources”.

That is very good news for people who wanted to see their families over the holidays rather than reading vegetation management plans and yearly operational plans. As we have seen by the past few weeks of NSTAR’s subcontractor spraying, they seem to think the label specifications and the Code of Mass Regulations statements about wind drift are suggestions rather than laws. While they are so busy protecting us from power failures caused by 12 inch saplings, the power goes out all over the Cape due to exploding sub stations, wind, and snow. It’s very sad that NSTAR, a public utility, has strayed so far from its mission to its customers.


The extension for the comment period is great opportunity because now more people can help save Cape Cod and the Islands – national treasures. YOU can help! You don’t have to be a resident of Cape Cod. Even visitors from Germany have voiced their objections to MDAR. Show your love for Cape Cod and the Islands by sending a letter to the Comm. of MDAR with your objections by Valentine’s Day February 14, 2014. For information for your comments and to follow the progress of this campaign for Healthy ROWs and Safe Drinking Water for all -see www.GreenCAPE.org and Follow us on Facebook!

Please address your comments to:
Comm. Greg Watson/MDAR
251 Causeway St. Suite 500
Boston, MA 02114

MDAR is unclear about whether they accept and count e-mail submissions but if you won’t do snail mail, the Commissioner’s e-mail is Greg.Watson@state.ma.us.

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