FOR GENERAL RELEASE:
SUBJECT: Protect Our Cape Cod Aquifers (POCCACapeCod) legal counsel to use a brand new tactic to stop Eversource from spraying.
TIME FRAME: June 3 and following
Spraying herbicides on power line right of ways by Eversource (formerly NSTAR) has been a storied controversy on Cape Cod. In 2010 began a moratorium on spraying, during which NSTAR was to look at alternatives such as mowing or hand pruning.
In 2013, NSTAR sprayed again in spite of public ongoing protest but with the approval of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. MDAR claimed the herbicides were safe. Many citizens of Cape Cod did not agree. Prior to spraying was a campaign of clear cutting under power lines.
THE SCIENCE SO FAR
The herbicide Eversource uses most frequently is Monsanto’s Round-Up. Its active ingredient Glyphosate has been banned in California as carcinogenic. The Netherlands, France and Brazil have also banned its use.
Dr. Jim Garb, a retired practitioner of environmental and occupational medicine living in Yarmouth, and POCCA Cape Cod board member, says inert substances in this and other herbicides also pose a danger because they make cells more porous so that the poisons of the active chemicals can better penetrate their targets. He added that the science which Massachusetts uses regarding pesticide safety for application, is from the 1980s and is outdated.
It is known that the Cape’s subsurface and surface fresh waters, and coastal embayments as well are vulnerable to toxins. (Essentially, what goes down will come up.) Thus, it is argued by opponents of spraying, that the precautionary principal, that of proving indubitably no harm can be done, should apply to our water systems.
CURRENT ISSUE AND UPCOMING ACTION:
MDAR will decide whether to approve this year’s Yearly Operating Plan for spraying herbicides on right of ways under power lines in order to clear away vegetation after the public comment ends on June 3.
If MDAR allows Eversource once again to spray herbicides, POCCACapeCod’s legal counsel Bruce Taub of Orleans seeks to find aggrieved parties to file a request for an adjudicatory hearing before the Massachusetts Pesticide Board. They have 21 days to do so. Taub says that to his knowledge this option has never been pursued by any Cape town, so he will be breaking new ground.
The Pesticide Board OK’s the chemicals for MDAR, which then in turn decides whether or not to approve plans for their use. “An aggrieved party or parties have a right to adjudication before the board,” Taub says. Evidence is given, a chairman is appointed from the 13 member board to review the claims. “This can open the door to civil court.”
POCCA Cape Cod and Taub are focusing on four or five towns to join in the legal action as “aggrieved parties.” Dr. Garb seeks expert witnesses who can testify to damages to human health and the environment.
There is huge support across the Cape from state legislators including Senator Dan Wolf, Rep. Sarah Peake, many Cape towns, thousands of citizens, many businesses, and all 15 cape boards of selectmenwant an end to spraying, as well as from a number of environmental groups who may offer support with amicus briefs if the case ends up being heard.
This is a ground-breaking story. It could lead to the end of herbicide spraying on Cape Cod.