Article 18 Evokes Nuclear Energy Discussion at Annual Town Meeting

By Jordan Stewart

Day One of the Annual Town Meeting (ATM) was capped off with one of the most anticipated articles on the Warrant. Renu Bostwick presented Article 18, a petitioners’ article calling for the town to issue a statement requesting more vigorous climate change action be taken. In passing the motion, the Selectmen would deliver the letter of concern to the town’s state and federal legislators. The letter would be purely symbolic, portraying the town’s desire to see that more be done to combat the rapidly changing climate.

Bostwick acknowledged that while she could have requested the Selectmen send the letter at one of their meetings, she chose to present at the ATM to show that the letter was on behalf of the whole town. This sentiment was reflected by many voices in the crowd. Citizen Sue Swanson had spoken with representatives on the subject and said that a clear message came through: more voices result in more action. Bostwick hopes that the voices won’t stop with just the town. She hopes other local communities will follow Bedford’s lead in making their voices heard to their representatives.

While the presentation generated much support from residents and local committees alike, there was a fair amount of criticism facing Article 18. A common viewpoint was that the Article was too vague. As it did not call for any specific action, many feared the symbolic nature would limit its effectiveness. Instead, it was suggested that eyes be turned to the town itself. While calling for change on the big scale is wonderful, they stated, residents of the town should look at their own carbon footprint as well. Everything from the amount of emissions generated by Bedford drivers to the energy used in large households was brought up as ways in which individuals damage the environment in their daily lives.

As debate began to wind down, an unexpected amendment was proposed to the Article. The proposed letter to the town’s representatives conveys the desire to focus on using renewable energy sources, with “secondary generation to be provided by existing nuclear energy sources until they can be retired.” Steve Hagan moved that the phrases “existing” and “until they can be retired” be removed from the Article, reading “secondary generation to be provided by nuclear energy sources.” This edit holds quite large implications. Bostwick’s Article regarded nuclear power as a second-resort to be used only out of necessity. By removing the expressed phrases, Hagan hoped for a version of the Article which left room for the creation and extended use of new nuclear energy sources. The status of nuclear energy as “clean” is a complicated one; its negative externalities make it non-eco-friendly in the eyes of many, while others cite its minimal waste as a basis for being a clean energy source.

Ultimately the Amendment was turned down, with voters opting to leave the Article in its initial form. In a show of the support Bostwick sought from the town, the Article was passed, concluding the first night of the Annual Town Meeting.

Click this link to see the Town Meeting presentation for Article 18,  and to read Article 18, click this link to reach the Warrant and scroll to page 26:

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