Powering Past ‘NIMBY’ – Renewable Energy Siting: Forewarned is Forearmed

On day three, before moving to third-voice integration and consensus-first strategy, a brief review emphasizes the importance of: 1) knowing who to talk to and where they are coming from, and 2) engaging them early to gain a sense of where they stand, what their particular interest is as it relates to your proposal, and to start building a rapport that will foster civil discussions (and even, civil disagreements).

Emails and comments have been pouring in. Please, keep them coming and post them — even the critical ones — to the comment feed so we can discuss as a community. The responses demonstrate that the identification and engagement steps have to be a part of your core strategy: they have to be “built-in,” not “bolted on,” if the next phase of your program is going to work. Just as there are tried-and true NIMBY tactics, “PR” stunts are already a hackneyed developer tactic, but…::continue:: ice cream trucks and Little League sponsorships do not make someone a part of the community. If you decide to go that way, it is great…but it is not enough

The engagement that the EnergyWorks model encourages is focused on the core areas of concern: you should be discussing high-stakes issues early and in a lower-intensity environment. That means science, engineering, environmental and the entire parade of horribles. WHY leave it aside anyway? WHY wait until a public meeting to vet these issues – legitimate or otherwise?

Forewarned is forearmed.

Being prepared can ONLY help you prepare to defend your position if you cannot reach a consensus. For example, in the transmission construction context, if there are specific concerns about EMF, you NEED TO KNOW NOW. You will get someone on scene with a gaussmeter, and you will have real readings. That data will be processed by professionals, presented to your abutters, and you have that data and engagement to lean on in the public, formal process as needed.

You may still disagree on the science. In fact, neighbors may disagree vehemently and uncompromisingly. So be it. It is not for you or your project to resolve the scientific debate over EMF. But, you can control how the specific issue is presented in the context of your project, but only if you own it.

A Legal Example

The best comparison I can make is to the legal “discovery” process. Our legal system can get hairy at times, but it is the best on Earth. Part of the reason is that our courts long ago recognized that the best result comes from a fair debate, which can only happen when everyone has their cards on the table. Voila! The discovery process.

Clients are sometimes shocked to know that unlike on Law & Order, when the opposing attorney calls and asks for all the incriminating documents – even the ones he doesn’t necessarily know specifically about – we send them.

No developer is expected to give away the store or surrender proprietary information; but, the renewable energy projects that I love to work on are those proposed by a passionate developer whose desire to be a part of something GOOD is exceeded only by his integrity. In the long run, unless you are looking for a one-off, quick hit project, you are not going to want to burn bridges anyway.

This model – and successful permitting and construction – is not about “sneaking by.” Over the next few days, we will get more into the nitty-gritty of managing the engagement – both informal and full dress. You can expect posts on:

– How to deploy your “third voices” on climate change, employment impact and other issues.

– How to begin from consensus and then work backwards through the stickier implementation phase.

And more…see you tomorrow.

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An award-winning energy and environmental law scholar, Joe combines professional experience in utility sector government, community and regulatory affairs with a background in security clearance-required military intelligence and offers unique insight and complex analysis of energy infrastructure, technology and policy in national security, international trade and climate change and carbon-restrained economics contexts.Joe was awarded the Suffolk University Jurisprudence Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Environmental Law for his work analyzing the pathways and obstacles to adoption of renewable energy in state, federal and international energy policy. ”Home Rule on the Ropes,” his paper on renewable energy zoning in Massachusetts is on SSRN’s Top Ten lists for the Journal on Urban Economics & Public Policy and the Journal of Public Policy. And, he was awarded Suffolk Law’s 2009-2010 McCormack Scholarhship in recognition of excellence in research and writing, including his paper – ”Coming up ACES?” – on the NAFTA and WTO implications of the national renewable portfolio standard limitation proposed in the Waxman-Markey energy bill.A research assistant on Westlaw’s definitive energy regulation reference, ”The Law of Independent Power,” Joe is also a former state legislative aide and US Army linguist who tested at professional profiency in Russian and Spanish.His writing on law, politics and policy is also featured on the blog at www.RedGreenandBlue.org and www.CleanTechies.com.Joe lives in Boston with his wife and two young children. In his spare time, Joe is the founder and curator of the corporate social responsibility network on LinkedIn, and is an avid runner who recently posted a personal best in in the Walt Disney World Half-Marathon in Orlando.

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