Public Opposition Spurs County to Delay New Biomass Facility

by | Sep 4, 2014

maiorino, al, public strategy groupTransylvania County in North Carolina is currently engaged in intensive internal debate about the role of biomass in their future. The current state of affairs began last year when Renewable Developers, a New York based LLC, proposed the construction of a biomass waste to energy conversion plant in the town of Penrose.

The new facility would utilize the pyrolysis method of conversion to turn wood chips and municipal solid waste into approximately four megawatts of renewably sourced electricity. Unfortunately, staunch public opposition lead by the NIMBY group People for Clean Mountains (PCM) immediately began to oppose the facility after it was announced. This is despite the fact that the Penrose plant will be clean, noiseless and as odorless as possible while bringing up to 26 new jobs and 70 temporary jobs to the economically discouraged community. Additionally, the new plant should have both fiscal conservatives and environmentalists on its side since the method utilized will allow the county to become waste independent while at the same time preventing the annual release of approximately 55,000 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Nevertheless, it is the impact of the opposition that has been felt in Transylvania County. To date, due to the efforts of the over 400 online members of PCM, the construction of the facility has been stalled. PCM’s ability to translate an online presence into a real world presence has been key to this victory, and their members have been vocally present at commissioner meetings.

As of July 17th all talk on the proposal has been tabled for another six months while the county commissioners try to come to a conclusion. When talks are reopened, there are a few tactics below that the developer and any other developer in a similar situation should consider:

Identify Contacts

The roll out of a public affairs campaign for any project is the one of the most crucial aspects of a successful outreach campaign in terms of acquiring supporter contacts. A campaign can be initiated with a variety of communications techniques. Reach out to all residents in a community through a city-wide education initiative that includes direct mail, paid advertising, and telephone identification calls.

Some residents may be swayed by the information presented in a mailer alone. It is a great way to contrast community benefits with sections on how to help personally. An effective mailer should include a tear-off mail in section with a space for supporters to provide their contact information for mobilization. The inclusion of this feature to the mailer allows the reader to act immediately before they lose momentum.

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