Continuing their active roles in the ongoing debate over the proposed Eversource transmission line, Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Michael Day filed legislation in the Senate and House, respectively, that would broaden the review of the Energy Facilities Siting Board beyond cost and environmental impact to also consider impacts on the public health and wellbeing of residents before granting or rejecting projects.
The legislators filed their bills after hearing substantial concerns from their constituents about a proposed transmission line running from Woburn to Wakefield, through Stoneham and Winchester, along busy residential and commercial streets. While the lines are proposed for underground installation, abutting residents worry not only about the temporary disruption caused by the project, but also potential long term impacts, from public health concerns about exposure to electrical fields to financial concerns about the values of their homes.
The Energy Facilities Siting Board, which is the state permitting body with jurisdiction over the Eversource proposal, currently has some latitude to explore mitigation packages that might be appropriate for a project; however, the legislation would require that the Energy Facilities Siting Board explicitly review the proposal’s impact on these issues.
“Serious concerns about the proposed transmission line have been raised by residents and local businesses, from short-term quality of life issues to long-term public health harm,” noted Senator Jason Lewis. “These are urgent matters that warrant further consideration by the Energy Facilities Siting Board. I’m pleased to advance legislation to accomplish that needed analysis.”
“We recognize the need for increased electricity reliability and transmission capability in this area, but this particular project has also highlighted a gap in the Energy Facilites Siting Board’s charge,” said Representative Michael Day. “This legislation will fill that gap, and allow the Board to consider impacts beyond just the price tag associated with a proposed project.”
The proposed legislation follows a series of actions the legislators have taken in an effort to affect change in the project. Previously, Senator Lewis and Representative Day have: advocated with ISO-New England (“ISO”), the independent system operator overseeing New England’s electric grid and transmission line system, against the project and in favor of a transmission line that would run off the coast; advocated with Governor Charles Baker, Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, and Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton to encourage Eversource to consider alternative routes; and, worked with the affected towns and with constituents to raise concerns directly with Eversource and with the Energy Facilities Siting Board.