Free Pass to Pollute?

Submitted by Sue Phelan, GreenCAPE

Do not lose heart. We were made for these times…Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement…                                                                                                                         
—   Clarissa Pinkola Estés

We greet 2017 uneasily…..but with firm resolve. The electrical utility Eversource (formerly NStar) has persisted in spraying toxic herbicides on Cape Cod – on private residential properties and public municipal lands over an EPA-designated Sole Source Aquifer for the past 4 years, with no consideration for their customers or the contaminants they leave in their wake. Eversource casually disregards the Cape economy, which relies nearly exclusively on Clean Water. No one at Eversource or the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources (the state regulator of Eversource) has been willing or able to guarantee that the thousands of gallons of herbicides, (along with their undisclosed trade secret “other ingredients” comprising the majority of the herbicide product), which are sprayed annually into the air, soil, and water throughout the Cape and the Commonwealth won’t result in health problems for residents, tourists, and animals. They can’t make that claim of safety because federal law won’t allow it and their lawyers would certainly advise against it. For residents, summer visitors, and businesses on the Cape, their health and the health of the economy is the most immediate concern.

However, there’s an additional aspect to this surreptitious electrical Rights-of-Way (ROW) spraying wherever it occurs — and that’s global distillation. Global distillation refers to the transport of these same chemicals hundreds and thousands of miles from the original site of application. What’s sprayed on Cape Cod — or Sudbury or Boston or Minneapolis, etc., — doesn’t stay where it’s sprayed. It travels far afield on air and ocean currents. Depending on its chemical makeup, a toxic substance can persist for some time in our environment, food, and water — AND inside us. It has been shown that our most vulnerable population, our infants, are now being born “pre-polluted” with as many as 287 different synthetic chemicals in their bodies, many of which are toxic to the brain and nervous system, (and include IQ deficits), or linked to cancer. But Eversource and its state regulators are willing to chance that their pollution won’t be tracked back to them, and that those affected won’t even be aware they were ever exposed to Eversource chemical trespass on their bodies. By the time any of this is determined to have harmed communities, those utilities will likely attempt to erase their toxic liabilities via corporate spinoffs and/or mergers. But, their clock may have started to run out. Communities across the Commonwealth and beyond that have been harmed by Eversource activities are beginning to join together in the common fight. Current energy policies that result in projects that harm our communities need to be stopped. Eversource cannot continue to be given a free pass to pollute–regardless of their influence $$$.

Though we do not yet know the outcome of our many challenges to the electric utility Eversource at this moment, what we do know is that we have learned an enormous amount about how to take on large corporate interests, government agencies, and politicians when they threaten or ignore the interests of customers/constituents and the environment. This “practicing” has awakened us to any future challenges and we know there will be many. Jump Start the New Year by making a commitment to persist in holding Eversource (800-592-2000) and your Representatives/Senators ( accountable for that utility’s poor performance, AND organize your own community to resist their toxic behavior.  Hope is grounded in taking action against these injustices and in recalling the history of great movements – history is filled with activists like Rachel Carson, who act out of altruism and integrity, and resolve to stand tough in dark times. Yes, we certainly face challenges ahead, but we can each do our part to protect the health of our environment and our neighbors by joining larger efforts to bring communities together and make HEALTH happen. There’s lots of work to be done in 2017!


Eversource Update

Submitted by Sue Phelan, GreenCAPE

In addition to the excessive 10 year tree cutting operation already announced by Eversource which will potentially push back their utility ROW (right of way) margins even deeper into private property, most Yearly Operational Plans (YOPs) for every MA town have already been submitted by the utilities, railroads, and other public transportation (think MBTA-yes, their lines are sprayed…) to their state regulators. Among them is the Eversource (formerly NStar) YOP for the Cape and Islands which I was able to obtain only after lodging a complaint with the MA Attorney General’s Office. It seems that the Cape YOP-while formally announced in the Environmental Monitor as required- still wasn’t available anywhere the public could review it for 6 more days. The comment period deadline is based on the publication of the YOP itself, not the notice of its publication in the Environmental Monitor-reducing the number of days for comment. More importantly, how can the public comment on the YOP if it isn’t anywhere the public can read it???? The deadline for the Cape and Islands to comment is the close of business June 3. However, all YOPs will have a different deadline. Check to see your town’s YOP has been published and read what poisons the utility plans to spray. Send in your comments by the deadline noted and organize your neighbors to oppose this harmful practice. The health impacts of pesticides are often long-term and even multi-generational. Even pesticides no longer in use can continue to affect your personal health. This reinforces the need for a more precautionary approach to regulating pesticides and other industrial chemicals. Once released into the environment, chemicals can affect YOUR health and your family’s health for generations, either through persistence in the environment or long-term changes to your genetic code. So-submit your public comment but also organize, organize, organize!

GreenCAPE has already run the administrative remedy gauntlet and challenged Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ (MDAR) earlier approvals of the ROW spraying on Cape, sent thousands of petitions, held protest rallies and obtained resolutions from every Cape town opposing the spraying. See earlier MBCC archives on ROW spraying. It’s clearly a rigged system for now –but not forever if we in MA step up and demand change. Please include the Attorney General’s Office in ANY comment or contact you have with MDAR-especially if you suspect you have been exposed to the herbicide spray. Previous investigations of harmful spray exposures have not been at all timely or thorough and it is critical to document any exposure immediately with MDAR, the Attorney General’s office and your physician or local emergency room. Documentation is key. The utility insists they use door tags or face-to-face notification of impending spraying but this is rarely the case. They are breaking the law if they don’t provide the door hanger or verbal notice to the property owner. Lack of notice followed by spraying should be reported to MDAR and the Attorney General’s (AGs) office immediately. MDAR is risking public safety by not enforcing the regulations.

Your comments on the information provided in the Eversource YOP for your town and the procedures should be addressed to:

Michael McClean

Director of Rights-of-Way Programs

Massachusetts State Pesticide Bureau

251 Causeway Street, Suite 500

Boston, MA 02114-2151

William Hayes, Senior Transmission Arborist

Eversource Energy, Eastern MA

Vegetation Management


Westwood, MA 02090-9230

781-441-3837 (office)

Attorney General’s Office

One Ashburton Place

Boston, MA 02108-1518

Phone:(617) 727-2200

NEW Eversource CEO

James Judge

Prudential Tower

800 Boylston St. Ste. 1700

Boston, MA 02199-8006

Eversource will continue to spray backyards, schools, parks, gardens, play sets and aquifers as long as abutters throw their hands up and look the other way. Private deals with the utility will not spare you either. It’s delusional to think your air and water are separate from others. Abutters Working Together is the only solution. GreenCAPE has always offered to work as a point of contact for any abutters to organize against pollution of their land and water. Again we urge abutters who are serious about stopping the spraying all over Cape Cod and MA to contact us WELL BEFORE you see the spray crews. By then it may be too late. If you are a right of way (ROW) abutter, be sure to check your deed language NOW. Contact GreenCAPE and we’ll work with you on a realistic plan and a plan to help your neighbors so your ‘hood can be protected from harmful herbicide spraying. It only works by working together!

After checking your deed for utility easement language-POST your land “No trespassing, No cutting, No spraying or other application of herbicides without signed consent of the land owner!!” Then if the spray crews show up and cross the line without consent they may be liable for criminal trespass!! Videotape everything for possible future litigation. PROTEST on your property whenever they show up-preferably in concert with your neighbors. It’s your right to protest anything being done to your land that you don’t approve. Private property rights are still among the strongest traditions in this country. Make sure the press is invited! The outcome will be much better when more eyes are on it.

It took 79 days for me to obtain very incomplete spray records for the 2015 season from the Eversource electric utility regulator-the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and I’ve had to re-petition MDAR for full disclosure. In an ideal world, the regulator would be motivated to protect citizens and work for them. The MDAR mission does not include public health protection but that shouldn’t deter us from actively committing to work for a safe and unpolluted environment for healthy families. Send those public comments and be willing to stop this chemical harassment! Your home, water, air, your children are AT RISK despite the availability of simpler and far safer vegetation management methods. Think “chemical kickbacks” and GET MAD.

March NSTAR/Eversource Update

Submitted by Sue Phelan,

As of today, the electric utility NSTAR/Eversource has yet to publish a 2016 Yearly Operational Plan for all parts of the State but it’s still a little too early to cheer….

Here’s the State regulator’s list of herbicides the utility is allowed to use on public and private property all over Massachusetts regardless of whether you as the owner/occupier agree or not. (Rights of Way also include subway lines and railroad beds and these are sprayed with herbicides, too.) Note part of the MDAR’s Disclaimer: “Only environmental fate and toxicological data, including eco-toxicological data, are reviewed when evaluating an active ingredients suitability for inclusion on the list. Inclusion on the list does not represent any endorsement by MDAR as to the efficacy of the active ingredient for rights-of-way vegetation management.” Huh? What did they say?????  Only active ingredients are evaluated and MDAR can’t guarantee that they will work? Oh, good—that’s the Promise of Pesticides. The active ingredient of a pesticide formulation is commonly just a very small percentage of the total ingredients. The unlisted, undisclosed so-called inert ingredients which make up the majority of the formulation can be even more toxic than the active ingredients – but they don’t test those or even tell what they are. Despite their name, these ingredients are neither chemically, biologically or toxicologically inert. In general, inert ingredients are minimally tested, however, many are known to state, federal and international agencies to be hazardous to human health. For example, the U.S. government lists creosols as a “Hazardous Waste” under Superfund regulations, yet allows these chemicals to be listed as inert ingredients in pesticide products. Creosols are known to produce skin and eye irritations, burns, inflammation, blindness, pneumonia, pancreatitis, central nervous system depression and kidney failure.

Another example and one of the most hazardous ingredients in the commonly used herbicide RoundUp is a surfactant, which is classified as an inert, and therefore NOT listed on the label. The pesticide naphthalene is an inert ingredient in some pesticide products and listed as an active ingredient in others. According to a report produced by the New York State Attorney General, 72 percent of pesticide products available to consumers contain over 95 percent inert ingredients; fewer than 10 percent of pesticide products list any inert ingredients on their labels; more than 200 chemicals used as inert ingredients are hazardous pollutants in federal environmental statutes governing air and water quality; and, of a 1995 list of inert ingredients, 394 chemicals were listed as active ingredients in other pesticide products. But you’re not allowed to know the full ingredient list of the potion polluting your property and your person. Trade secret.

The product that you buy (but you’re not going to buy pesticides anymore, right?) or are exposed to is in fact a pesticide formulation that contains a number of different materials, including active and inert ingredients, as well as contaminants and impurities, and metabolites. Dioxin and DDT have been identified as contaminants in pesticides, which have not been purposefully added but are a function of the production process. In addition, pesticides, when subject to various environmental conditions, break down to other materials known as metabolites, which are sometimes more toxic than the parent material. There is no research of any kind done on the environmental or health effects of the full pesticide formulations individually or in combination. Neither Federal nor State governments test this combined stew of chemicals as they are actually used in the field –the way we are exposed to them in the real world.

I can’t be sure which herbicides on the State’s right-of-way herbicide list were used last year or in what quantity since the state regulator MDAR (Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources) has not seen fit to respond in a timely way to my Public Records Request for that information. However, I know that Krenite (aka Fosamine Ammonium) was used in highest volume by far in the previous years. That herbicide was discussed in the Jan/Feb MBCC newsletter. More background on the pesticide spraying issue can be found in the MBCC newsletter archive.

Legislatively speaking-Bill H.717 – An Act relative to the use of Glyphosate by utility companies and/or government entities on land located within, on, or above a federally-designated sole source aquifer, filed by Mr. Mannal of Barnstable  was reported favorably by the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee and referred to the committee on House Steering, Policy and Scheduling for a second reading. To be continued.

NSTAR/Eversource and Other Utility Spraying: Your Voice Needed

Submitted by Sue Phelan, GreenCAPE

In September, GreenCAPE was invited to provide informational materials and direct input relating to the Eversource spraying on electric utility rights-of-way (ROWs) by the Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Healey’s office following her public forum in Barnstable where we raised our objections to Eversource’s continued violation of our civil liberties and our health. In response, the Asst. Attorney General of the Environmental Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General wrote: “We are aware of the situation and are working to address the concerns you have outlined…In advance of making herbicide applications, Eversource is required to notify residents and businesses that abut rights-of-way……We recognize that Eversource must meet its obligations to notify Cape residents and businesses of scheduled herbicide applications on nearby rights—of-way, so abutters can make arrangements they deem advisable in advance of any herbicide applications to minimize potential impacts from those applications…..Eversource’s compliance with its Yearly Operational Plan, its Vegetation Management Plan, and applicable pesticide laws and regulations is essential to protect public health and the environment and we are committed to working closely with Eversource, MDAR, and individuals like you to help achieve this goal. We recognize and appreciate the concerns you raise, and welcome any additional information you can provide about Eversource’s past compliance or its practices during the next spraying season, as we work to address this issue.” Certainly a more positive response than we have ever gotten from MDAR (the the state regulator for all ROW spraying)! The AG’s Office cannot act without evidence so if you want to protect your water and your health, promptly report any lack of spray notification, human exposure, overspray or contamination of gardens, food crops, spraying in windy conditions, spraying in wetlands or water bodies, etc, to GreenCAPE (508.494.0276) and the Attorney General’s Office. Regularly review TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY FROM ROW (Rights of Way) SPRAYING because there are other public agencies that spray rights-of-way (ROWs) with similar lack of notification to the public such as, railroads and public transit lines (e.g. MBTA).

In November, GreenCAPE submitted public comment to the US EPA Pesticide Registration Review on Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment for Fosamine Ammonium- the active ingredient in the herbicide Krenite which is used in the highest volume statewide on the Eversource electric utility rights-of-way (ROWs) throughout the Northeast.  This herbicide has been in commerce for decades without having any human health risk assessment because –according to the EPA-“There are no residential uses for fosamine ammonium, therefore, a residential exposure risk assessment has not been conducted.” In addition, the pesticide label –which has the force of federal law behind it-does not list any residential uses. US EPA has defined residential use as follows: “Use of a pesticide directly to humans or pets, or application of a pesticide in, on, or around any structure, vehicle, article, surface or area associated with the household, including but not limited to areas such as non-agricultural outbuildings, non-commercial greenhouses, pleasure boats and recreational vehicles; or around any preschool or day care facility.” Sounds like the state regulator MDAR has approved fosamine ammonium for residential use where the Feds have NOT though fosamine ammonium “has not undergone thorough health testing as it was not anticipated to be used on residential properties.” But, that’s exactly where it is being used! We believe the use of fosamine ammonium/Krenite by Eversource on residential properties that interface the ROWs is a violation of FIFRA and EPA registration since “there are no residential uses for fosamine ammonium.” It may be that our constant reminder of this discrepancy to MDAR that has brought about this sudden Review on Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment of Fosamine Ammonium by US EPA. Currently there are no food/crop uses or residential uses for fosamine ammonium nationally or in MA. However, we know that residential properties overlap, interface and abut the electric utility rights of way throughout Cape Cod and presumably other mainland properties in the utility’s service area. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) approves the use of fosamine ammonium/Krenite on residential properties that overlay electric utility rights of way in the Yearly Operational Plans (YOP) though EPA has not registered fosamine ammonium for residential use using the excuse that the residential properties are also rights-of-way. The property owners and their animals as well as wildlife have direct and indirect exposures to herbicide drift and residues on garden crops and wild/cultivated berry bushes, children’s play sets and sand boxes, and their very homes. The use of fosamine ammonium on inhabited utility ROWs should be disallowed until more substantive proof of safety is forthcoming. To this end, we have requested Silent Spring Institute to include all the herbicide formulations used by Eversource in Massachusetts in their new high through-put screening project. Fingers crossed they will be agreeable to helping all our at-risk communities throughout Massachusetts!

There are a few pieces of legislation related to ROW spraying to familiarize yourself with:

S478 Wolf (D-Harwich) and H3553 Walsh (D-Framingham). The goals of these bills are laudable but, as always, “the devil is in the details,” and the details don’t make sense. The legislation would require the vegetation management proposer (e.g. a public utility or public transit system) to negotiate with any community that did not want the said proposer to use chemicals for vegetation management within their community. (So far, so good….unless this negotiation has to take place annually-this important detail has yet to be worked out…) A potential negotiated agreement would be that the community would arrange for the work to be done (How can any town “arrange for the work to be done” on property it doesn’t own or have easement over?) and the proposer would contribute at least the amount of money they would have spent using chemicals. (How likely is this public utility –a mega corporation- to share this information which they have refused to share for the past 7 years?) Though that might mean that the community might bear some additional expense, (How likely is it that YOUR town would have these additional monies?) it would also mean that the groundwater would be better protected. If the entity seeking to control the vegetation and the municipality are unable to come to an agreement within 60 daysof beginning discussions (an unreasonable period time given the less than rapid pace of municipal anything. The utilities have a bevy of lawyers waiting to negotiate but it may take a town that long to decide who to send to the negotiation! But that person would be key to any successful outcome), the disputes shall be decided by a mutually-agreed upon arbitrator. (How likely is it that a professional arbitrator will have adequate knowledge about herbicide application and the immediate and future health impacts?) Should a reasonable no-spray agreement be offered to a municipality and an agreement is not reached within 90 days, the entity seeking to control the vegetation may apply its choice of pesticides/herbicides, as approved by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture. (It makes no sense to DEFAULT to spraying after a brief period of “arbitration.” The utility would only need to drag out the arbitration past 90 days so they can spray. If the default was NOT to spray, then this bill might potentially be workable. As currently written, it is not despite the hopes and intentions of the authors and sponsors.)

H.2862 by Josh Cutler (D- Duxbury), a petition (accompanied by a resolve,) for an investigation by a special commission (including members of the General Court) relative to vegetation removal by public utility companies.
Also by Josh Cutler, H.2863 -a petition (accompanied by bill, House, No. 2863) relative to public utility company vegetation management .

These last 2 bills might be beneficial to most communities who have experienced extreme tree removals by the utilities but neither bill relates to herbicide spraying. In a related concern– tree removal does NOT exempt the property from follow up herbicide spraying to ensure the vegetation or roots remaining do not re-sprout.

I trust that the politically savvy MBCC members won’t be snookered into testifying for or supporting either S478 or H3553. Though the intent might have been to protect the water and at the same time to financially benefit private landscapers, the bills as currently written won’t directly benefit ROW abutters, municipalities, or protect any water supply because they force more costs onto residents and municipalities and default to spraying as the last resort.

Despite what appears at the moment to be meager rewards for our continued strenuous opposition to the tyranny of a Very Big Utility and its associated lackluster bureaucracy, always take heart from Margaret Mead:

Never Doubt That A Small Group Of Thoughtful, Concerned Citizens Can Change the World. Indeed It Is The Only Thing That Ever Has.


Submit Complaints about NSTAR/Eversource Rights-of-Way Spraying Now

Submitted by Sue Phelan, 

The Attorney General’s Office reports that there are few complaints/objections filed with MDAR related to the NSTAR/Eversource herbicide spraying this year. Complaints are necessary for the AG to investigate the spraying. They require documentation. Send your objections and report any questionable spraying activity you seeAsk the Attorney General’s Office to investigate MDAR (the state agency charged with regulating the utility spraying) and its pathetic oversight, inspection, enforcement, and worse–the very approval of the Yearly Operational Plan. Attorney General Maura Healey is the “people’s lawyer”– chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In her inaugural address, she stated, “The division will fight to keep our children safe and healthy, in their schools and in their homes, on the streets and online.” How about if those homes, streets, and schools are under or abutting the NSTAR/Eversource rights of way (ROWs)? The longer term problem is the further degradation of the Cape’s water which affects everyone whether you live on/near the utility rights-of-way or not. 2000 plus gallons of herbicide applied every year over the soil and water of Cape Cod benefits nothing but the bottom line of this bully corporation NSTAR/Eversource.

Time is running out to halt this poison plan. It’s still possible to spare some properties but it needs your attention TODAY. The spray crews are already out there. Let us know if you see them and we will help you document any chemical exposure for future legal action. We have lawyers willing to help but documentation is required.

GreenCAPE has several legal and field strategies up our green sleeves. Stay tuned. Here are a few actions YOU can easily take now that will make a difference in the outcome of this NSTAR/Eversource surreptitious toxic trespass on private and municipal properties.

OBJECT NOW to the application of herbicides on NSTAR/Eversource rights-of-way over our drinking water supply by sending an email or letter opposing the herbicide plan to the following: (Please Do NOT just call this time – documentation is one of the goals here).

Maura Healey, Attorney General
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108 -1518

By the way, Attorney General Healey will be visiting the Cape very soon. (Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 7:30pm., Barnstable Senior Center, 825 Falmouth Road (Rte 28) in Hyannis) and this affords an opportunity to remind her that all towns on Cape Cod already passed resolutions opposing NSTAR’s rights-of-way spraying.

Contact Commissioner John Lebeaux/MDAR, a new commissioner, and remind him that all towns on Cape Cod already passed resolutions opposing NSTAR’s rights-of-way spraying.
251 Causeway St., Suite 500
Boston, MA 02114

Contact Rights-of-Way Program Field Coordinator/Inspector/Enforcement Mike (same address as above).

Contact your State Representatives and Senators and request their help to stop the spraying NOW. Remind them AGAIN that their constituents in every single town on Cape Cod — all 15 of them — passed a resolution opposing the NSTAR/Eversource herbicide plan. 2000 plus gallons sprayed annually above the water supply adds up fast. How will they specifically help halt NSTAR/Eversource this time? Get a firm commitment from them.

Call Neversource (NSTAR+ Eversource=Neversource) and tell them you object to the use of herbicides along Cape rights-of-way and that you want a more long-term, sustainable approach to vegetation management; to maintain the power line easements the way they have for many years with selective cutting and mowing, and to consider the services of a professional goat herder.
NSTAR/Eversource Pres. and CEO Tom May at 617-424-2527; Investor Relations at 781-441-8338 or

Keep those letters going to the Cape Cod Times  or your local weekly newspaper. If they don’t print your letter, send it again and call them. Keep this problem in the news.

Sign the GreenCAPE online petition if you haven’t already.

Help Halt Spraying! Check out our new website and JOIN GREENCAPE – Get Updates and like GreenCAPE on Facebook and share!

Spraying will continue into the future if you do nothing. Join us in stopping it! We did it before and we will do it again!

Please forward to friends of Cape Cod wherever you find them.