Challenge to Massachusetts SMART solar subsidies

Groups challenge Massachusetts SMART solar subsidies, strip mining and deforestation in Southeastern Massachusetts

BREAKING: June 7, 2021

Our network filed a Notice of Project Change (NPC) request with MEPA asking the Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs to find that “ADM has knowingly concealed material facts and submitted false information during MEPA review and segmented the Project.” Our NPC document details cover-ups and half-truths by Borrego Solar and ADM in MEPA reports – misrepresenting or not reporting earth removal operations and a list of other material changes in the project. In Massachusetts, deception by half-truths constitutes fraud.

We ask the Secretary to require a full Environmental Impact Report and to refer the cover-ups to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office for investigation.

Three more ground-mounted solar projects in Wareham, Massachusetts will destroy moe globally rare forests, our water and our cultural heritage. About ten projects by these two companies have destroyed about 300 acres so far.

This two minute video shows this pristine, globally rare Pine Barrens on the shores of the Wankinko River and Tihonet Pond – all on unceded Native Wampanoag land.

The state’s Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) requires review of all solar projects that meet certain thresholds and that involve State Action. Solar developers are sidestepping the review by various means including unlawfully breaking the projects into parts. The three new Wareham projects require a full environmental impact report EIR).

On May 24, 2021, over 450 individuals and multiple groups submitted comments to MEPA demanding a full EIR.

The comments can be viewed here:

March 15, 2020 Environmental Notification Form

Challenge to Wareham Planning Board

BREAKING: April 20, 2021 Concerned Wareham residents filed a lawsuit today in Land Court in Boston, MA against AD Makepeace Company, Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. and the Wareham Planning Board. The lawsuit appeals the Planning Board’s March 2021 Decision granting Site Plan Review Approval for a 76-acre clear cut and strip mine for the Borrego Solar project at 140 Tihonet Road, Wareham. The lawsuit “seeks to make Defendant AD Makepeace Company, the largest private property owner in Eastern Massachusetts, play by the rules.” It states that for too long, Makepeace “has avoided proper regulatory reviews for its industrial sand mining, earth removal, and land development activities.” California-based Borrego Solar plans to build the solar project and 2 others located nearby.

The lawsuit asks the court to remand the Decision back to the Planning Board for proper consideration of the factors in the Zoning Bylaw that are supposed to protect neighbors from nuisance and detrimental impacts to their property and well being. The lawsuit also seeks to enforce a covenant Makepeace made with homeowners in the private Crane Landing Road association when it marketed and sold them homes promising the “natural beauty and scenic use” of their property and surrounding common lands. The earth removal and solar installation will create a blight on the neighborhood and harm the value of Crane Landing homes, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit asks the Court to prevent the issuance of a building permit until the case is resolved.

*** Take action by Monday April 26, 2021 *** SEND A LETTER TO THE WAREHAM BOARD OF SELECTMEN TO SAVE THIS LAND: Follow this link

These three strip mining and solar utility projects will destroy about 190 acres of pristine Pine Barrens forest, further eliminating rare ecosystems, wildlife and trees and plants. To date, AD Makepeace has clear-cut about 300 acres for land based solar projects. More land has been strip mined by Makepeace for industrial sand and gravel sales.

We can stop the three new solar projects in Wareham. Makepeace has to give the Town the chance to buy the land for conservation. Community groups are working on this — seeking sources of funding and taking the steps needed to make this happen. On April 23, 2021 [correction: this date is not set yet] the Wareham Board of Selectmen plan to vote on whether to allow the conservation groups to keep working to save this land or whether to “waive the right of first refusal.” Let the Selectmen know they should give the community more time to conserve the land.

Here are the 3 solar locations in Wareham

27 Charge Pond Road, Wareham 44 acres

AD Makepeace Site Phase 10

140 Tihonet Road, 76 acres

1-2 million cubic yards of earth removal

AD Makepeace Site Phase 11

150 Tihonet Road, 67 acres

AD Makepeace Site Phase 12

Earth Removal TBD

Background on the Makepeace Tihonet Mixed Use Development (TMUD)

Working together, Makepeace and Borrego have already clear-cut and strip mined at least 300 acres of globally rare Pine Barrens forest the last ten years. The rates of deforestation in the region are some of the highest in the state.

Map courtesy of PFPI, May 2021

The maps below show some of the strip mine and land based solar projects within the AD Makepeace “Tihonet Mixed Use Development.” Under a special deal with the state, AD Makepeace gets to develop the TMUD area over 25 years, starting in about 2009, sidestepping normal environmental impact studies. The TMUD was supposed to be a residential, commercial and “light industrial” development. Now it is a nightmare landscape of hundreds of acres of strip mined land where sand and gravel operations have taken down the highest hills to ground level. Hundreds of acres of land based solar is being installed.

The strip mining and solar projects across the TMUD and Southeastern Massachusetts is Why here in Southeastern Massachusetts? Because we are the sacrifice zone for the state’s renewable energy policy. The earth removal industry operates with impunity.

Federal Road: Strip mining operation and solar installation, AD Makepeace & Borrego Solar, March 30, 2021

Once a quaint cottage industry, cranberry giants like AD Makepeace wield undue political power. Makepeace is violating the Carver earth removal bylaws on a daily basis. The Town refuses to stop the destruction. In Wareham, AD Makepeace has been allowed to conduct earth removal activities without permits — and never even applied for them. Instead, CEO Kane says

The Wareham Board of Selectmen is charged with issuing Earth Removal Permits. The Chair of the Board of Selectmen, Peter Teitelbaum, Esq. has confirmed in writing via an email that the Board never issued any earth removal permits to AD Makepeace. We have done public records requests for all Earth Removal Permits issued to AD Makepeace by the Town of Wareham. We got this letter from Chair Teitelbaum. And no permits for any other projects.

AD Makepeace and Borrego Solar strip mine and land based solar site, Carver MA, Feb. 2021

Wareham has two environmental justice communities. Where is the state’s environmental justice policy? In addition, Indigenous Wampanoag cultural sites are being systematically destroyed with the complicity of MEPA and the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Where is the social and environmental justice here?

Why are regulators and politicians allowing precious environmental and cultural heritage to be destroyed before our eyes by reckless and unnecessary industrial strip mines and land based solar?

What have all the studies of the rare Southeastern Massachusetts Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens actually accomplished?

It is time to do something. It is almost too late.