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Greenfield Recorder – My Turn: Power Play poses an existential threat to the region

In the forests and valleys of western Massachusetts, under the guise of a statewide clean energy policy, an existential threat to the region's natural resources has been quietly building. The first large-scale solar and now battery storage installations pose perhaps the greatest existential threat to Pioneer Valley cities since the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s forever changed the cityscape.

Due to Massachusetts' ever-increasing energy needs, particularly coming from the eastern part of the state with its dense development and industrial consumption, and coupled with the relatively low land prices in western Massachusetts, developers of solar and battery storage are exploiting land and proposals for Facilities that small towns in the region cannot support from a natural resource or public safety perspective.

While states like New York have pumped the brakes on battery storage due to safety risks, the Healey administration has viewed the renewable energy banner, no matter how inappropriately placed, as a divine mission. In the town of Wendell, battery storage is proposed in a central biomap region – read “important wildlife habitat” that is becoming increasingly scarce in the state – and next to a 2,000-acre, mostly wetland conservation area surrounding Whetstone Brook.

The developer has applied to the state Department of Public Utilities for a local zoning exemption and also a way to avoid a rejection of the project by the local conservation commission. Nowhere in recent history has the threat to natural resources, species and landscapes been so closely linked to the loss of local control and self-government as in the Healey government's approach to clean energy – an undoubtedly important goal, but one that does not come at the expense of natural resources Ability of cities to govern themselves.

It is time for the people of the region to stand up, say “no” to the Healey government and reclaim our ability to protect our cities’ natural resources through our local laws and regulations.

An energy policy that involves cutting down forests, cutting fields and crossing wetlands to satisfy the Commonwealth's insatiable hunger for energy has no place in Massachusetts or in any progressive energy policy and would be a death knell for the western region of Massachusetts.

Ray DiDonato lives in Wendell.

Anna Harden

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