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Eversource penalized $117,911 for environmental violations in Franklin County



Staff Writer 
Thursday, October 04, 2018

Eversource Energy has been slapped with a $117,911 fine for carrying out “unpermitted” projects in Franklin County.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday that the violations occurred in Ashfield, Northfield and Rowe, where Eversource performed unpermitted work on its electrical distribution system.

“Although the Wetlands Protection Act allows utilities to conduct maintenance projects without permits, activities that go beyond this specific exemption may be harmful to the environment. It is imperative that we review and condition proposed work through the established permitting process,” said Michael Gorski, director of MassDEP’s Western Regional Office in Springfield.

“This settlement, in addition to penalizing Eversource for the violations, directs a significant portion of that penalty to restoration activities in the region where the violations occurred,” Gorski added.

As part of the consent order, Eversource must pay a $29,478 penalty, as well as conduct a “Supplemental Environmental Project” costing at least $88,433.

Eversource spokeswoman Priscilla Ress said Thursday the company began working with the state as soon as it was aware of the problem.

“Several years ago, our understanding was the work we were doing was exempt and didn’t require permitting,” Ress wrote in an email. “As soon as the DEP brought the possible violations to our attention, we began working closely with them to review their concerns and remedy the situation.”

Ress said Eversource, through the administrative consent order with the DEP, is taking the steps necessary to restore and preserve the wetlands in question.

According to MassDEP spokesman Ed Coletta, the Supplemental Environmental Project “requires that Eversource conduct additional resource improvement projects in resource areas” in the Connecticut River, Hoosic River or Kinderhook Creek watersheds.

In addition, Eversource is required to review all projects conducted in western Massachusetts since Jan. 1, 2015 “to determine whether work that required permits occurred, to identify such projects and unpermitted impacts and to propose a restoration or mitigation plan for those impacts.”

Eversource’s website indicates that the utility company serves power to 215,814 customers in western Massachusetts.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.