By RYAN BRAY
Falmouth selectmen said Monday, May 8, that they need to be convinced that continued efforts to stop herbicide spraying across Cape Cod will be successful if they are to join the cause.
Protect Our Cape Cod Aquifer (POCCA) wants Eversource Energy’s “yearly operating plan” for herbicide spraying to be disallowed due to the potential impacts the chemicals can have on aquifers on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard.
But the state’s division of administrative law appeals in February denied the towns of Eastham, Dennis, Brewster and Orleans in their appeal of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resource’s decision to approve Eversource’s 2016 spraying plan.
The decision from First Administrative Magistrate James P. Rooney said the towns did not “assert facts sufficient to show actual aggrievement,” including evidence that the spraying will impact the aquifers.
The towns—with the support of POCCA, an attorney and an ecotoxicologist—plan to again appeal MDAR’s approval of Eversource’s yearly plan in an adjudicatory hearing with the department of agriculture.
While MDAR has not yet approved the plan this year, Laura Kelley, president of POCCA, told selectmen Monday that she expects it will do so before August.
POCCA wants each of the Cape’s 15 towns to join the effort as “aggrieved parties” impacted by the spraying.
Falmouth would have to pay $7,500 to join the appeal, which would be used to pay for the attorney and ecotoxicologist.
“I’m here to see if the town wants to do more to protect its natural resources,” she said.
Ms. Kelley said the matter would first be brought before the state pesticide board. She anticipates that the board will not find in favor of the towns, which would then prompt an appeal in the form of an adjudicatory hearing.
But selectmen chairman Douglas H. Jones said he wanted more assurance that the towns have good standing to win the appeal this time around.
“If this is their view, it’s not going to change with more towns,” he said.
Selectman Megan E. English Braga agreed. “I’d like some more information to see if the procedure is any different this time,” she said.
Ms. Kelley said POCCA has additional information that the state said was lacking in the last appeal. She added that there is evidence of how herbicide spraying negatively affects drinking water in other parts of the world.
“The case is still open,” she said. “[The state] hasn’t closed the case.”
Selectman Susan L. Moran wondered what long-term costs the town will incur by joining the appeal. “I don’t have any confidence that this is just a $7,500 ask,” she said.
Ms. Moran also asked why POCCA is coming to selectmen for help instead of regional organizations such as the Cape Cod Commission.
Ms. Kelley said that attempts to get the commission to work with POCCA have been unsuccessful.
“At this point, we want the towns to have a say,” she said.
If POCCA is successful in disallowing herbicide spraying, other options for vegetation management will be explored. She said Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) is working on legislation that would allow towns to create their own vegetation management plans.
Selectmen did not take any action on the matter Monday, asking instead for more information about how POCCA plans to proceed with the state.
Selectman Samuel H. Patterson said that Jared V. Goldstone, chairman of the board of health, also requested that the board weigh in on the matter before selectmen commit to joining the appeal.
“If our board of health comes back and affirms any of this, I’d like them to move forward as an aggrieved party,” Mr. Jones said.
Ms. Kelley said the town has a 21-day window in which to participate in the appeal from the time that the state approves Eversource’s yearly operating plan.
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