The 12 Months of NIMBY

by | Dec 20, 2012

NIMBY (or “not in my backyard”) opposition is often formed to keep large scale projects out of communities. Opposition is common in  industries such as landfills,  quarries, chemical plants, and major power lines. In recent years, the battlefields are spreading to renewable energy industries like wind farms, solar energy, and biomass. In these cases, opponents may favor clean energy however they don’t want it located anywhere they can see it. As we do every December, we showcase twelve months of renewable energy projects around the world  that have been countered by public opposition. And remember, the best way to move forward is by planning early and effectively with a trusted public affairs firm.

January  Booming Solar panels in North Baltimore.

In the historical district of Mount Washington in North Baltimore, some homeowners have started to prevent their neighbors who operate a nonprofit cluster of residential, hilltop home, from installing solar panels in their backyards. Some homeowners think that the solar panels will be an eyesore, influence the quiet charm and the ecosystem of the birds and animals that pass through the neighborhoods, and lower the property values of their homes.  Chimes International Ltd., the organization that plans to install solar panels in the area even provides incentives like housing and services for the disabled and cutting down utility cost to lure the homeowners. The CEO of Chimes, Martin Lamper stated, “If too many residents are opposed, I agree the project should not be proceed. These are people’s homes. For most people, it’s their biggest single asset.”

February Indigenous Leaders in Malaysia Launch Campaign against 12 Hydro-electric Dams.

In February 2012, a “Save Rivers Networks” conference was held against twelve dams that being built in the indigenous areas near Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia. There were 150 indigenous representatives from the areas already affected, or would be affected by the dam projects, that came together to share their experiences. The dams that have already been built in some areas have been accused of violating environmental standards.  Public opposition is the fear of unknown. The communities stated that the Sarawak government and the Chinese investors didn’t provide enough information about the dams construction.  One participant from Bakun described, “The government made so many promises to us concerning free houses, free electricity, and free water. All these are just empty promises. We are still waiting for their implementation.”  The opposition has been successful at stalling some of these projects.

March  Kings County Council puts the wind-farm project on hold.

In Kings County, California, a large-scale wind farm project faced widespread public opposition. The neighbors feared of high-level noise, potential health risks, lower property values and the short distance of the wind turbine from populated areas. After months of public meetings, information sessions, and surveys, the county announced their disapproval in July.

April   Local residents fight against geothermal development on the Big Island.

Oahu Island has energy problems and energy demand issues. Developers have proposed to use Big Island’s geothermal power via an expensive undersea cable system while there are enough resources like sunshine, wind power, waves to meet the demand. Most people on the big island are against the project because of several issues such as health risks and reduced property values.

May Wind turbine noise in eastern Massachusetts.

State officials shut the wind turbine installation in Falmouth after unacceptable noise found by environmental officials and complaints from the neighbors. The Falmouth Board of Health even held a public hearing to address concerns and the risks about living near the wind turbines.

June Wind turbine project in Illinois faces public opposition.

Every renewable energy has environmental cost, the point is how far you are willing to go?  In Illinois,  404 turbines were put up last year, the American Wind Energy Association reports. The wind turbines helped a lot at generating tax revenue and reducing the release of carbon dioxide. However, residents complained about the shadow flickers from the blades causing nausea and dizziness. There are also complaints that the wind turbine affects the ecosystem in the area.    Along with the uncertain funding and the expired federal tax credit issues,  new wind turbine projects are likely to be stalled in three different counties in Illinois.

July Peel Energy is pushing the biomass plan ahead.

Peel Energy, a company that specialized in delivering low carbon energy for the UK, is pushing ahead with a bid to build a biomass energy plant, in Davyhulme, England. The Trafford’s political groups and the local residents are strongly against the proposal. The proposed site is very close to a populated area. The locals are concerning about their lives would be adversely influenced by the biomass plant. The Trafford councils wrote a letter to the Environmental agency PSC-DP team to voice opposition for the local residents.

August Belo Monte project is halted by Brazilian government.

Belo Monte dam construction in Brazil, one the biggest new hydroelectric proposals in Brazil, has been halted by the court after indigenous group’s opposition. Opponents claimed that the project would force 16,000 people to relocate and flood an area of 500 square km. Initially, the project kicked off without going through environmental impact assessment and having proper consultation with the indigenous group. This is one of the main reasons that the opposition swelled. The court highlighted that the government should take indigenous people’s lives and territories into account before business interests. The construction will be suspended until indigenous groups are properly consulted about the project.

September NIMBY to the max: Building helipads to stop wind turbines.

In Benzonia, Michigan, the locals in the areas are not happy about having wind turbines around, so they came up with an idea to block the rural wind turbine development— Helicopters. Wind turbines cannot be built around heliports. Experts said the tactic could gain momentum in other areas.

October New proposed Biomass plant in Springfield, Vermont raised wide public concern.

A biomass plant proposal in Springfield, Vermont has raised concerns from the nearby residents.  Despite the project developer pledging to burn only green wood chips, opponents such as Bob Kischko, chairman of the North Springfield Action Group, stated  “Both burn municipal sludge and when you get back in your car, you have to go home with your windows down. I’m extremely worried if the town is opening it up to that.”

November  Opposition to renewable energy mandate gears up.

Major utility companies, other business and labor leaders, organized a campaign against a ballot proposal to increase Michigan’s renewable energy standards. Clean Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE) for Michigan Coalition said that it is too costly for the consumers. Michigan voters pulled the plug on a proposed constitutional amendment defeating it at the polls with 64% opposing.

December Councilors are tilting against windmills in Collingwood, Ontario.

While opposition is lining up to against Fairview Wind project in Clearview Township, the councilors are also standing up to express their disapproval. The project is planning to build close to the airport. The airport board states that the wind turbine could be a potential threat when planes are taking off and landing. “These towers are hideously tall and hideously close,” airport board chair Charlie Tatham said.

These examples exemplify how failure to understand NIMBY can be detrimental to a project. The public affairs industry has experienced an increasing amount of renewable energy clients requesting services on how to understand, successfully communicate and reinforce project benefits to NIMBYs.  Often public opposition stems from poor communication between developers and nearby communities. If you find your firm encountering NIMBY issues, its better and more effective organizing grassroots campaign to provide neighborhoods a clear picture about the projects. In the meanwhile, create a support group from the locals that support the projects. They are great sources for the grassroots campaign to promote the projects and communicate with the local residents. Moreover, Find a professional public affairs firm to handle NIMBYs is also a good way. Experienced public affairs firm can help you send out the correct messages to the public efficiently.

Al Maiorino started Public Strategy Group, Inc. in 1995.  His firm has developed and managed multiple corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries such as gaming, cable television, retail development, auto racing, power plant/wind farm projects, and housing/residential projects. Additionally, his firm has worked on projects in twenty states and three countries. Al received his BA in political science and a MA in American studies from the University of Connecticut.

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