Facing opposition from residents and town officials, Eversource Energy has opted to delay its filing to the state a plan to build transmission lines along a defunct MBTA rail bed in Sudbury and Hudson, and intends to meet with town officials to discuss alternative options.
The energy company originally aimed to propose a plan to erect 4.3 miles of overhead lines in Sudbury and 4.6 miles of overhead and underground lines in Hudson to the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board in April, according to Eversource spokesperson Mike Durand.
But now Durand says Eversource will hold off on the application process to discuss the concerns of residents and officials and weigh options for possible alternative solutions.
“We feel it’s important to keep the discussions with the towns going,” Durand said, explaining that the company wanted to spend more time considering feedback from the communities.
Eversource’s decision to push back the project comes after several boards and commissions in Sudbury publicly opposed the plan. Both the Town Manager and Board of Selectmen wrote letters to Governor Charlie Baker denouncing the project, citing environmental issues among other concerns.
“This project creates an unfair burden to our community,” the selectmen wrote. “It would decimate our environment, destroy our land, and cause irreparable harm to our community. We have a duty to protect our town.”
Eversource’s original prefered plan would require clear-cutting an 82-foot-wide swath through dense woods along the length of the line. A secondary plan calls for the lines to run underground the rail bed instead of above it, which would still require clear-cutting to make room for construction, but at a reduced width of 25 to 30 feet.
State Representative Carmine Gentile, Democrat of Sudbury, has urged selectmen to demand that Eversource seek an alternate route underneath Sudbury streets.
Selectman Bob Haarde said the board has not come forward with an official stance, but that he personally feels the lines should be fitted under Sudbury streets. He said the board is continuing to meet in executive session with lawyers and experts on the subject to formulate a plan of action.
Last week the board confirmed that the town would be filing for intervener status, which will give Sudbury a larger role when Eversource submits its application to the Siting Board.
Eversource said various options would be discussed in meetings with town officials in the coming weeks.
“It’s too soon to commit to any specific change,” Durand said. “But we want to keep a dialogue open with the towns.”
Durand maintained that for design changes to be considered, they must “address reliability, be technically feasible, allow us to meet our in-service date, and be at a reasonable cost to customers.”
Eversource’s plan first met opposition when a grassroots citizen organization, Protect Sudbury, mobilized against the energy company in early March. Now, the group has close to 3,000 members on Facebook and plans to take legal action soon, according to its president Ray Phillips.
Phillips said he was happy that the group had managed to garner the attention of the town and establish communication with elected officials.
He also noted the importance of gaining Eversource’s attention, but said he was skeptical that the company’s decision to delay the project meant it was seriously considering alternatives.
Town Manager Melissa Murphy-Rodrigues said the delay and upcoming meetings between town officials and Eversource is a step in the right direction.
“I’m pleased that Eversource has heard our residents and town officials and is taking a step back to review and reassess their plans of actions,” Murphy Rodrigues wrote in an email to the Globe. “I credit the residents and officials of Sudbury for coming together and being a powerful and positive voice for the community.”