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!