Stop Clearcutting Forests For Industrial Solar

In the fewest words... what your money will support:
Stopping a huge multinational energy company and the state's largest landowner from clearcutting more than 190 acres of our town's forests, destroying our sole water resource and devastating important forest habitat.
The Context:
In the rural Western Massachusetts town of Shutesbury, 100% of residents get all their drinking water from wells. We depend on our forests to filter and maintain clean, drinkable, and sufficient water supplies. Our treasured forests also clean our air, act as buffers to sound and wind, sequester significant amounts of CO2, provide essential habitat for countless species, and contribute to our collective quality of life.
The Problem:
Currently, a multinational power company, AMP Energy and the state's largest landowner, Cowls Land Co., are aggressively pushing to clear-cut over 190 acres of the town's forest to install five industrial-scale ground-mounted solar arrays.
While solar is essential for a clean energy future, clearcutting forests to install solar arrays is hugely damaging to the landscape, could be devastating to the town's only water supply and eliminate our most important source of carbon sequestration.
These two large companies are exploiting a loophole in the state’s clean energy financial incentive (SMART) program. This incentive is meant to be used to site solar arrays in already-degraded landscapes and on rooftops, not in ecologically important forests.
Others who have experienced the impact of forest-based, large-scale solar installations can serve as a warning for what can happen here.
In the town of Williamsburg, MA, resident abutters of a 17-acre solar installation were promised that all their water and environmental concerns would be fully addressed as part of the installation process. Instead, the multinational solar owners broke their promises and appear to have cut every cost-saving corner during installation with the result of significant and irreparable damage to their 34-acre property, including a massive gully that drives water and sand into the nearby stream, degrading the water quality throughout the area.
On a 53-acre Carver project in what had been a healthy forested landscape, solar installers mounted 3,500 wood poles treated with toxic copper chromated arsenic (CCA) directly into the sole source of the area’s drinking water. The local conservation commission has issued a stop work order, but damage has already been done.
These projects, while relatively small, have huge impacts, stripping the land and destroying critical natural systems that maintain our air and water quality, act as buffers to sound and wind, provide essential habitat for countless species, and contribute to quality of life in countless ways.
Imagine the potential damage to 190 acres of Shutesbury land. How concerned can we expect a multinational energy company to be in preventing or cleaning up damage that will undoubtedly occur to our essential water and other natural resources?
Doing our part?
Some make the claim that “sacrifices are necessary to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere.” Solar should play an important role in reducing our carbon footprint, but not be at the expense of nature’s single most efficient source of carbon sequestration. Research shows that Massachusetts’ existing forests, if left intact, will sequester 7.231 million tons of carbon over a 14-year period.
Replacing these forests with another tool to do the job does not make sense. This becomes especially clear once you realize that all of the state’s solar goals can be met by installing solar on rooftops, and in existing degraded landscapes such as highway mediums and brownfields.
End-Run Around Our Laws
Shutesbury has strong, carefully considered local bylaws that, under normal circumstances, should protect us from the potential risks posed by these projects.
However, AMP and Cowls are asking the town to create waivers and/or amendments to our bylaws. They have also suggested they would take legal action if we don’t change our bylaws to meet their demands. Why should we ‘partner’ with companies that threaten to sue us if we don’t?
AMP is also proposing to leave the town with the responsibility of maintaining the solar power plants. Though they promise some money for this purpose, the legal liability and the maintenance burden will fall on our town’s skeletal staff and time-strapped volunteer-run committees.
What Your Funds Will Help:
$20,000: Expert Consultation.
To hire a team of independent hydrologists and engineers to assess the project plan and whether it would likely have a negative impact on our sole source of drinking water. 
$10,000: Legal fees. 
To provide legal counsel, strategy, and representation.
We are deeply grateful for your commitment to help protect our precious forests so that we can focus our energies on true community-based solar whose power will go to our shared community and make real clean energy improvements.
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Jill Buchanan
Shutesbury, MA

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