Discussion at Select Board meeting over Eversource’s power line grows contentious

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A sign stands outside of an Eversource facility in Southborough. (Photo/Laura Hayes)
A sign stands outside of an Eversource facility in Southborough.
(Photo/Laura Hayes)

HUDSON – A discussion about Eversource’s planned underground power line running between Hudson and Sudbury became heated during a Hudson Select Board meeting after one of the speakers alleged that the board set him up.

Brian O’Neill of Protect Hudson spoke to the Select Board on July 25 and encouraged members to sign a petition to the Surface Transportation Board.

According to O’Neill, the Surface Transportation Board is responsible for the status of the Massachusetts Bay Area Transit-owned right-of-way that the power line is planned to run along. The petition was for the board to make a declaratory judgment on the right-of-way.

The proposed line would run for about nine miles.

People in the area of the proposed site would be affected by the ripping up of 10 miles of railbed loaded with materials like mercury, coal and creosote, O’Neill said.

“For the people out there on the eastern end of town, it’s going to be horrific,” O’Neill said.

Following O’Neill’s presentation, Hudson Land Trust Board member Tom Green addressed the Select Board, saying that the Surface Transportation Board had already rejected similar petitions to the one O’Neill was advocating for regarding Eversource’s project.

Green said that the petition was asking the Surface Transportation Board to block something that “has nothing to do with them,” and the relevant legal avenues to prevent the power line had already been exhausted.

“At this point, we’re just going through the motions again and again,” Green said.

Green also said that if the project was moved, it would just impact a different group of abutters instead.

Green asked that Hudson continue to monitor the project through the Conservation Commission and allow it to go forward. Green also said that in the face of environmental concerns, both the Hudson and Sudbury conservation commissions were allowing the project to go forward with extensive conditions.

After Green finished speaking, O’Neill told him that he and the petition’s other signatories were protecting themselves from people like Green.

He then asked Select Board Chair Scott Duplisea why he “set [O’Neill] up like this.”

Duplisea adamantly denied setting O’Neill up, saying that Green had asked him to speak on the issue and that he would allow anyone who asked to do so.

“Don’t you ever accuse me of that again or I will never let you speak here again on this,” Duplisea said.

Debate over Eversource continues

The 150,000-volt underground power line that is planned for the right-of-way has seen significant opposition from residents of both towns, as well as from the groups Protect Sudbury and Protect Hudson.

O’Neill said that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent in opposition to the planned power line.

O’Neill said that the Surface Transportation Board had initially denied a petition from Protect Sudbury because the organization did not have standing. As a result, O’Neill said, they collected several signatures from abutters to the proposed power line.

If the board declares that the rail line the right-of-way is on is active, O’Neill said that it would not be able to be used for the power line. If the board declares it is abandoned, O’Neill said that the town could try to use the state Land Court to get land on the right-of-way back and obstruct the project.

The board’s judgment on the right-of-way would then inform the next steps that opponents to the planned power line could take.

Duplisea told O’Neill that the decision on whether the Select Board should sign the petition would be made in an executive session, as it concerns litigation.

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