The Sudbury Board of Selectmen has joined a growing chorus of town officials and residents who are fighting Eversource Energy’s proposal to build transmission lines along a defunct MBTA railbed.
The selectmen sent a letter to Governor Charlie Baker on March 17 expressing their opposition to the utility’s plan to erect 4.3 miles of overhead wires in Sudbury that would require clear-cutting an 82-foot-wide swath through dense woods along the length of the line.
“This project creates an unfair burden to our community,” the board wrote. “It would decimate our environment, destroy our land, and cause irreparable harm to our community. We have a duty to protect our town.”
That same week in Sudbury, the Conservation Commission, the Historical Society, and the Historic Districts Commission all publicly expressed opposition to the plan. Town Manager Melissa Murphy-Rodrigues also sent an open letter to Baker seeking the state’s support “to demand better for our town.”
The selectmen also noted in a statement that the town would be applying for intervener status, which would give Sudbury a larger role in Eversource’s application to the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board.
The Sudbury project is part of a broad initiative to create a more reliable electrical transmission grid in New England, according to Eversource. The plan calls for the construction of 4.3 miles of overhead lines in Sudbury and 4.6 miles of overhead and underground lines in Hudson.
Selectman Bob Haarde said the board did not oppose the entire project, but was adamantly against Eversource’s “preferred” plan, which calls for building lines overhead along the railway. “There are appropriate places for overhead lines,” Haarde said. “Right through the most populated part of Sudbury is not the right place.”
State Representative Carmine Gentile, Democrat of Sudbury, said he met individually with selectmen and urged them to demand that Eversource seek an alternate route underneath Sudbury streets. “It seems absolutely clear that the power lines need to be put under public streets,” Gentile said. “The MBTA right-of-way would be an environmental disaster.”
The selectmen’s stance follows a massive effort by a grass-roots citizens organization, Protect Sudbury, to oppose Eversource’s plan. The group, which has more than 2,000 members on Facebook, has hired a lawyer to consider legal action against Eversource.
“Now we have the town aligned with our goals,” said Ray Phillips, Protect Sudbury’s president.
Mike Durand, a representative from Eversource, said Wednesday that the energy company is focused on working with the community and is considering the “great feedback” it received from residents at open houses in Hudson and Sudbury.
“Any design changes that we might consider have to address reliability, be technically feasible options, allow us to meet our in-service date, and be at a reasonable cost to customers,” Durand said. Based on those criteria, he said, Eversource stands by its plan to run the lines overhead or underground along the railbed.
“We believe the preferred route and the alternate route are the best options,” Durand said. “But we can still find ways to improve the project as a whole.”
Bailey Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.