BUZZARDS BAY — From the outset, Senate President Stan Rosenberg made it clear that the crowd of more than 150 gathered at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy on Wednesday was in for an unusual evening.
It wasn't that he — as opposed to the Upper Cape’s former senator, Therese Murray — was speaking to them as the Senate president. It was that the 15 state senators, more than a third of a 40-member legislative chamber known for being long-winded, planned to keep their words to a minimum in the final stop on the statewide “Commonwealth Conversations” tour.
“We are going to listen and not speak,” said Rosenberg, D-Amherst, who earlier in the day had toured Cape Cod Community College and Aquacultural Research Corp. in Dennis. "We’re going to hear you.”
For the next two hours, the senators jotted down notes as members of the crowd stood up to voice concerns about the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth and to rail against land-based wind turbines in Falmouth, with Bourne officials taking the forum in their hometown as an opportunity to lobby for a state reimbursement of the cost to educate students from Joint Base Cape Cod.
Standing at the podium inside Admirals’ Hall, David Moriarty told the senators that, in Falmouth, “everything was perfect until the wind turbines came to town.” The land-based turbines, he said, have fractured the town and harmed the health of some residents, “torturing our friends and neighbors.”
“It’s time to end this foolish wind policy,” Moriarty said. “They’ve been suffering since 2010. Don’t you think it’s time these folks got a break?”
But John Carlton-Foss, a part-time resident of Falmouth, assured the senators that there are residents on the “other side of the equation,” who support the turbines. And David Doucette, of Marlboro, urged the legislators to help Cape Wind, the offshore wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound, obtain funding to begin construction.
As the senators listened to residents, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held a meeting in Plymouth to discuss its assessment of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, which regulators have ranked among the five worst performers in the country.
West Falmouth resident Janet Azarovitz mentioned the NRC meeting and urged state Sen. Viriato “Vinny” DeMacedo to support legislation that state Sen. Daniel Wolf, D-Harwich, has filed to expand the emergency planning zone around the plant and to charge its owner, Entergy Corp., a $10,000 fee for each of the 3,300 spent fuel bundles stored in a cooling pool on the upper floor of the reactor. Another bill calls for charging Entergy $25 million to ensure there is enough cash on hand for the eventual decommissioning of Pilgrim.
DeMacedo, R-Plymouth, said after the forum that he supports expanding the emergency planning zone to include the Cape, but he wouldn't commit to backing the other two proposals.
“I think, for some people, the legislation is to simply shut the place down, because if it passes, then that, of course, will put them out of business. And that’s fine if that’s the case, but the reality is that you have to look at it in its totality,” he said. “I’m concerned about, if it does close, what happens to the 650 jobs? What happens to the 3,000 spent fuel rods that are there that the NRC has said can sit there for 60 years without being addressed?”
Early in the forum, Mary Jane Mastrangelo, chairwoman of the Bourne Finance Committee, joined Town Administrator Thomas Guerino and school Superintendent Steven Lamarche in calling on the senators to reimburse Bourne and Bedford for the cost of educating students from Joint Base Cape Cod and Hanscom Air Force Base, respectively. Gov. Charlie Baker has proposed a $38.1 billion budget that doesn't include funding for the so-called "public school military mitigation fund," even though Murray had pushed through a budget amendment last year that was supposed to guarantee at least $1.3 million each year to reimburse Bourne and Bedford.
Bourne usually receives about $750,000 through the fund, which Gov. Deval Patrick targeted in November as part of his midyear budget cuts.
“I hope the governor and the Legislature will look at budget reductions in a fair way that distributes the reductions equitably among all the cities and towns and does not place an unfair burden on the two towns that provide education to military children,” Mastrangelo said.