Residents rally in Wareham to stop subsidizing solar projects that clear-cut woodlands
August 25, 2021
Save the Pine Barrens
Frank MulliganWicked LocalAD0:12https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.476.0_en.html#goog_1516096946
WAREHAM – There are grass roots movements.
Perhaps this is a tree roots movement.
About 100 people attended a rally Saturday at the Onset VFW, one of two held in the state, to enlist support to impose a state moratorium on subsidizing solar projects that clear cut forests in the interest of green energy. The other rally was held in Greenfield.
Rally supporters claim the state’s solar incentives are driving reckless, unregulated development by big corporations.
State Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, who founded the Senate Committee on Global Warning and Climate Change, said that “global climate change is the emergency of our time. There is no question about that and we need to invest in technologies. But we also need to invest in our natural world.”
One way to do that is to plant trees, which naturally absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it.
“That is one of the best things we can do as quickly as possible,” Pacheco said. “We should be planting more and more every day. And we don’t have to have policies that subsidize clear cutting.”
Urban development utilizing parking lots and roofs where trees are not taken down should be promoted, he said.
The moratorium petition for Gov. Baker would suspend subsidies for solar projects unless they’re for rooftops or existing infrastructure is available or – if ground-mounted – they are limited to five acres or less, the land has not been cleared within the last five years and no impact is posed to biodiversity, forests, protected open space, agricultural land, Native American cultural areas, important habitat areas, or outstanding water resources, wetlands or rivers.
“Southeastern Massachusetts is ground zero for solar gone wrong,” said Meg Sheehan, coordinator with Save the Pine Barrens. “Since 2014 we have watched our beloved Pine Barrens forests – home to some of the world’s rarest plants and animals – be ripped out and destroyed for so-called ‘green energy.’”
She added, “Solar can be done right. Eighty percent of U.S. energy needs can be met by rooftop solar via locally distributed systems. Massachusetts’ subsidy programs need to be entirely revamped.”
Melissa Ferretti, president/chairlady of the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe, said, “As I speak to you today indigenous people from tribal communities throughout North America remain on the front lines of these efforts to address climate change and to oppose projects that will be destructive to the natural world, our Mother Earth.”
However, she said indigenous people in New England are “often overlooked or ignored with respect to matters of energy and resource development.”
She added of the clear-cut approach to solar energy, “We reject these dangerous projects, disastrous projects,” and support the moratorium.
David Weeden, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Historic Preservation officer and Mashpee Selectman, said the state subsidies policy was “tearing up the woods and taking away the carbon offset from carbon sequestration that the trees do. They’re taking that away to put in green energy when you could have both if you put them on parking lots and buildings.”
He added, “There is a consequence for everything we do and we may not see it in our lifetime but our children and grandchildren will see it. That’s guaranteed.”
Frank Mand, vice president of the Southeastern Mass. Pine Barrens Alliance and a Plymouth Planning Board member, said, “We are literally being robbed of our future.”
He added it was difficult in a speech to “match the anguish that we naturally feel when we see all our beautiful nature, our hills thickly covered with trees and covered with birds and butterflies, turtles, rare turtles, rabbits, and snakes and see that hill being taken down, bulldozed into oblivion, simply to enrich a few.”
He added, “Nothing that I can say would equal the bleakness of this reality.”
People can take responsibility in their own lives to battle global warming, he said. And they can also make their wishes known politically, adding that should include voting out “90 percent of the people presently in office in this town.”
Mand added, “A little while ago you made it clear your planning board and your select board were clueless when it came to what the residents wanted for the future.” He said over 80 percent of the residents who attended town meeting in April voted against the proposed 756-acre Hospitality, Recreation and Entertainment overlay district zone in East Wareham proposed by developer NOTOS Group of Quincy. “They said no to NOTOS. That same block of voters could change this town permanently.”