If passed, a new house bill would require utilities like NStar to negotiate with municipalities before , the Cape Cod Times reported.
NStar's spray plan to control vegetation through West Barnstable and other villages in town has been a contentious issue this last year. This fall, along with other activist groups protested NStar's proposed plan.
Also this fall, GreenCAPE helped municipality land managers across the Cape learn about .
In the Bill H.3564 brought forth by Cleon H. Turner and Sarah K. Peake, addresses ongoing disputes over vegetation control and no-spray agreements with municipalities and water districts. It requires they come to the table to negotiate prior to spraying.
The Bill states:
Any public utility, state agency or authority that maintains a right-of-way through a municipality or through property under the control of a water district shall offer a no- spray agreement, with reasonable provisions, for the municipality or water district to consider if it desires. Any such agreement negotiated may include but is not limited to the responsibilities of the parties, the allocation of costs and the rights and remedies of the parties in the event of default and may apply to all or any part of the right-of-way within the municipality or over which a water district has authority. Any agreement reached under this section must be negotiated in good faith, written, and signed by all parties. As part of the no-spray agreement the municipality or water district may either perform the vegetation control work to standards as provided in the agreement or contract with the public utility or others to conduct the work.
If the municipality or water district and the entity seeking to control the vegetation are unable to come to an agreement regarding a no-spray approach to vegetation management within 60 days of beginning discussions, the disputed issues shall be decided by arbitration using an arbitrator mutually agreed to by the parties. If the parties are unable to agree to an arbitrator within 15 days, each party shall choose one arbitrator each and those selected arbitrators shall, within 15 days of being selected, agree upon a third arbitrator. The panel of three arbitrators shall then determine the disputed issues within 15 days from the date the third arbitrator agrees to participate. Nothing in this section shall prevent the parties form using an organization such as the American Arbitration Association or a similar entity.
If a reasonable no-spray agreement is offered to a municipality and an agreement is not reached within 90 days after the date of the offer, the public utility, at its own option may apply pesticides, approved by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, in its right-of-way or use other methods to control the vegetation. If the municipality or water district agrees to perform vegetation control work but does not perform it by the agreed upon date or another date reasonably negotiated as the result of weather or other unforeseen events causing delay, the public utility, after 90 days written notice to the municipality or water district, at its own option may apply approved herbicides in its right of way or use other methods to control the vegetation.
It is the intent of this section that an alternative right-of-way maintenance procedure without the use of pesticides is made available to municipalities and water districts. This section does not affect a municipality’s right to enact by-laws or ordinances not the public utilities to maintain its right-of-way clear of unwanted vegetation in the absence of a no-spray agreement.
Read the full bill on no-spray.