PSG attends Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Network Breakfast

Members from our Boston office attended the Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Network Breakfast on May 10 at the Liberty Hotel. Over 100 women from the community came together to see guest speaker Mel Robbins, life coach and author of the new book, <em>Stop Saying You’re Fine.</em> Robbins also hosts <em>“The Mel Robbins Show”</em> on 96.9 FM WTKK in Boston.

NIMBY Going Global

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The article below was Published November 2011 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

Our expert blogger, Al Maiorino reports that one of the most rapidly developing areas of the public affairs industry in the United States is the Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) niche. The NIMBY ‘Syndrome’ is a tricky phenomenon that most commonly affects the industrial and renewable energy industry in particular. NIMBY consists of strong opposition by one person or a group of people to a new project or development in their community, as we find out in his latest blog piece.

If you decide to build a new biomass plant or a wind farm, chances are local residents will quickly organize to communicate their opposition in an effort to curb your development. If you haven’t faced NIMBY before, you may think that it is rather harmless and easy to control. On the contrary, well-organized opposition may halt or even destroy your project.

The NIMBY syndrome is believed to have originated as early as the 1950s in the United States. However, the real boom in practice of communal opposition to development happened in the 1980s. While the true place of origin is debatable, one thing is clear: It didn’t take long before NIMBY spread throughout world. From China to Great Britain, from Brazil to Australia, the renewable energy industry is looking for ways to win this battle. NIMBY has no regard for geography or national borders. It is active in different countries, different cultures, and different industries for the same reason-to prevent development and progress.

Below are some of the most recent and significant examples of how NIMBY affects projects all around the world. These examples also highlight the fact that ‘young’ and ‘controversial’ industries are more susceptible to NIMBY opposition than traditional businesses.

Wind farms in England are facing fierce opposition. In 2010 the consent rates dropped 50 percent with only one-third of projects being approved by the authorities. This was an all time low for the industry, and it hasn’t improved much since. For instance, Pilrow Wind Farm near Rooksbridge is threatened by opposition to their plans to build six 140 meter tall turbines. NoPilrow, the local opposition group, carried out a survey among local residents to establish their view of the proposed development. According to their survey, out of 624 respondents, 561 were against the proposal. If the results are correct, the developer will have to address a rather serious issue. Such extensive disapproval rates have the potential to be fatal to the project.

A similar story is developing in Vancouver. Schneider Electric filed a lawsuit against the City of Vancouver for initiating a six-month moratorium on development that allegedly violates planning laws. The developer has a contract with Clark County to build a biomass power plant that would heat several buildings and generate extra electricity that could be sold on the grid. The level of local opposition, however, prompted the governing bodies to reconsider the proposal. Dozens of local residents united to form the Clark County Clean Air opposition group in hopes of persuading the commissioners to derail the project. Schneider Electric seems to be determined to win this battle. That being said, it will still have cost the developer time and money, even if the opposition backs down.

In 2010, an attempt to significantly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emission faced serious opposition in Beeskow, Germany. A Swedish energy company planned to build a CO2 storage facility deep under the ground of the city of Beeskow in Brandenburg. The project would have been one of the few in Europe and was supposed to significantly reduce CO2 emission from coal-fired power plants.

Instead of being released into the sky, emissions would be processed and stored in the underground facility. Researchers believe that by 2050 the use of this technology will reduce coal emissions by half and at minimal cost. The project faced fierce opposition from the locals. They labeled it ‘The New Chernobyl’ and made very dramatic displays on the streets, inside stores, and even on church roof tops. While the project continues to be developed, this intense opposition couldn’t have gone unnoticed. Valuable time and resources were spent on addressing this problem.

Some critics claim that this widely spread NIMBY syndrome is not a global problem, but rather an industry-specific issue. They argue that renewable energy is an unfamiliar and at times even controversial subject, thus raising suspicion from local communities. ‘Traditional’ businesses also fall under NIMBY attacks. The massive opposition to the Keystone Pipeline is an excellent example. The pipeline system is supposed to link a supply of Canadian crude oil with some of the largest refining markets in the US. The massive opposition to the project has reached the White House. Some time in November, various opposition groups plan to gather at the White House in Washington, D.C. and form a human chain around it as a sign of protest.

Perhaps the NIMBY fights do not always stand out on the news, but if you pay close attention, it will become evident how often various projects are halted due to opposition. Regardless of the industry or location, NIMBY always presents itself in an attempt to curb a proposal. Communal opposition to development may seem more appropriate and reasonable in Western societies, but NIMBY manifests itself even in the most remote locations. It has no regard for geography, culture or politics. It can attack any project no matter how big or small. NIMBY has gone global and continues to grow.

Local Support May Be the Key to Success!

The article below was Published October 2011 in Environmental Leader Magazine.

When looking to gain public support for your renewable energy project, developing a grassroots campaign may be your best strategy. Many people seem to have a vague understanding of what a grassroots campaign is but very few know what exactly it entails. The most basic definition describes a grassroots campaign as one that takes place on a local level with community involvement. Community involvement is indeed key to securing a smooth transition from the initial proposal to construction stage of your venture.

It is important to recognize the different ways community members can get involved in the course of the project. Opposition to your proposal may be inevitable. The main goal of your campaign will most likely be addressing and eliminating such opposition. It is imperative to not lose sight of those who support your project. Support from certain members of your local community may be the difference between defeat and success.

When you begin your grassroots campaign, your first step should be conducting preliminary research of local demographics. It is necessary to become aware of potential local support to help build allies. After you have done your research, you will need to identify and create a database of local residents who are in favor, against, or undecided about the project. A good way to begin is by carrying out a poll or a phone bank, asking local residents about their view of the economic development of the region in general, and about your project plan in particular. The results of the poll or phone bank may then be published to showcase the positive attitude in the community toward your venture. Once the database is created, it has to be maintained and updated frequently to reflect changes in local opinion.

As soon as you distinguish supporters from opposition, the next step is to reach out to third party groups that may support your development. These groups could be anything from private businesses to a local decision maker. Those companies or groups who you have had a positive relationship with in the past and could benefit from your project should be encouraged to participate in the campaign. Gathering support from local businesses, politicians and social activists is a first step toward winning the approval of the overall community.

Your campaign should aim at encouraging a creation of a pro-group with members from local community who support your project. This group will be actively involved in all aspects of the campaign. The main goal of a pro-group is to express its ratification and support of the project. One of the ways of doing that is through letters to elected officials and local mass media outlets. The pro-group should be aware of all names and contact information of members of the local governing boards or bodies that are making the decision regarding your proposal. Residents who want to express their support can also write to local newspapers and magazines, prompting a local response that can also be used to identify more support. Nothing motivates community involvement more than seeing your peer and neighbor actively participating in the project.

Another example of community involvement is volunteerism. Very often local residents offer their free time to help with petition signing, open house set up, or simply spread the good word about your project. You will find such contributions extremely helpful in your grassroots campaign. In addition, members of pro-groups will most likely attend public hearings where they will speak in support of your project. Attendance at such hearings may be pivotal in whether your proposal moves forward. This is the platform to showcase how many residents favor your development.

Pro-groups can go even further and actively promote your project through social networking. They can initiate Facebook pages where they share information and discuss the progress; they could Tweet news and updates; blogs and websites can be created outlining the benefits of your business or project for the community. This type of social media activity maximizes the chances of local decision makers noticing the positive attitude toward your project and may also attract new supporters.

Your grassroots campaign will most likely concentrate on debunking and eliminating the opposition to your project. As we all know, the best defense is a good offense. Pro-groups and active supporters can be your most powerful tool. Very often the opposition stems from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community. It is always advised not to wait until the opposition arises to implement your campaign. Begin educating the public and presenting it with facts before they get the chance to form an opinion without proper information. Local residents and members of pro-groups will prove invaluable in spreading the good word and encouraging other locals to see your proposal in the positive light.

Alternative Advertising for Alternative Energy

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The article below was Published October 2011 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

"The renewable energy industry needs to engage in a massive public relations campaign that will remove the myths and provide the public with the clean facts about green energy," says Al Maiorino in his latest blog article, which provides practical advice on public relations for renewables companies.

We live in a world of technological progress and innovations. Modernization and new creations greatly affect our lives. With constant access to the internet, social and mass media, digital press and global television, the public is expected to be well-informed and educated.

Unfortunately, the information modern technology provides is not always objective. Frequently, such information is based on someone's opinion, interpretation or even rumors. Some subjects, and even entire fields, are more susceptible to such misinformation. These misconceptions and incorrect assumptions affect the renewable energy industry especially.

The clean energy industry is rather young. The public has had only a few decades to become aware and educated on the topic, compared to traditional fossil fuel energy. Renewable energy is still mostly unknown to the general public. Most people understand and support the initiatives of alternative energy in theory, as they acknowledge the necessity for change to protect the environment. Unfortunately, when it comes to building a biomass plant or a wind farm, local communities become cautious and even fearful of what effects it may have on their neighborhoods and lifestyles. This happens due to a gap in knowledge between what the renewable energy industry proposes and how it carries it out in practice.

Educating the public is an essential role that helps bridge this gap. The renewable energy industry needs to engage in a massive public relations campaign that will remove the myths and provide the public with the clean facts about green energy. Along with a strong informational content, such a campaign should rely on innovative methods to carry the message. The methods used to can be as important as the content itself.

Modern technology that makes information available can be very useful if applied correctly in a PR campaign. Of course, traditional promotion methods such as radio, television and print advertising should be employed as well. Public service announcements on television will ensure the message reaches a broad spectrum of audience. Radio ads will provide additional promotion on more local levels with targeted demographics. Print advertising in local newspapers and magazines will produce further visual coverage.

Traditional methods of promotion are crucial in any PR campaign. The renewable energy industry, however, should also consider alternative forms of advertising. The innovative nature of clean energy requires a progressive approach to promotion. PR professionals understand how important the content of an advertisement is to the success of the whole campaign. For a promotional campaign to better serve the renewable energy industry, it must balance educational information with interesting and creative forms of advertising to capture attention effectively.

On a daily basis, people see and hear hundreds of ads. This makes creating a memorable advertisement difficult. In alternative advertising, finding an unexpected outlet and format is crucial. The audience will remember the advertisement better if they are taken by surprise.

Another critical thing to remember in a contemporary PR campaign is that this world feeds on interactive communication. It is not enough to simply relay the information to the public. The recipients must have a chance to respond and share their feedback.

Social media is one of the best ways to begin an educational PR campaign. Various social websites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others provide an excellent two-way channel of communication. Not only can such media outlets educate audiences, they also give the public a chance to respond, comment and ask questions. The ability to receive instant feedback is a serious advantage of a social media campaign. Communicating the goals of renewable energy in basic terms will help you bridge that gap with the public.

An enormous advantage that comes with social media is the incorporation of videos, sound clips, and animations to communicate the message to the public. While traditional media remains an important part of people’s daily information gathering, this type of interactive media has become equally as powerful in information dissemination. Additionally, social and interactive media allow greater room for creativity. Eye-catching, original material resides more effectively in people’s brains. Effective public relations campaigns do exactly that: produce a message that sticks with the general public. While a campaign should not ignore traditional media, the social media revolution has altered the way companies release information.

Deciding on a perfect PR campaign, especially for a progressive industry that requires extra innovation is extremely challenging. The presence of traditional advertising in your campaign is both necessary and beneficial. However, to stand out, earn attention, and receive desirable results creative and innovative campaigns are most yielding. A young forward-looking concept like clean energy deserves a fresh and inventive promotion. Alternative energy is a perfect candidate for alternative advertising.

Defeating NIMBYism

The article below was Published August 2011 in Biodiesel Magazine.

Overcome project opposition through strategic offense and building a local alliance

Picture this: the CEO of a large biofuels production corporation wants to pursue a new development. The economic difficulties haven't slowed his company so he decides to build a new biodiesel plant neat a small town in Massachusetts. The company's management team constructs the business plan, collects the proper paperwork and prepares for the approval process. In an instant, the zoning commission holds off on granting their permit. Why? Nearby town residents of the proposed site created an op- position group to fight the project. Despite the fact that the new plant would increase the tax revenue, improve the local economy, and most importantly a produce renewable, cleaner burning, nontoxic energy source, the community for one reason or another is opposing the project. The residents say the new facility would be too close to their homes and may be potentially hazardous to their health. They are concerned about a variety of issues from noise and traffic created by the construction to the dangers of living near a chemical plant. This is when the CEO realizes that opposition is indeed a road block that may halt or even destroy his project. So what does he do now?

The problem that this company faces is not so uncommon. It is called the 'Not in My Backyard Syndrome' (or NIMBYism). It consists of strong opposition by one person or a group of people to a new project or development in their community. The key to NIMBY opposition is in the location of a proposed construction. It has been suggested that the NIMBY syndrome stems from self-preservation. Communities simply don't want anything that may potentially be dangerous to their health, or merely to their lifestyle and community vibe. Whatever their motivation may be, NIMBYs, as they are commonly referred to, are very likely to organize quickly to communicate their opposition to a local project in an effort to curb development.

The origins of NIMBYism are somewhat vague. Some scholars believe the concept originated as early as the 1950s, however, the practice of communal opposition

to development blossomed in the 1980s. During that time, community concerns were reasonable and justified in most cases. First of all he biodiesel production industry was so new that people simply feared it as the unknown. The lack of information obstructed the public's ability to weigh the advantages of biodiesel against the dangers of its production. In addition, with the technology available during that period, building a biodiesel plant in a neighborhood could mean noise, traffic and pollution. The equipment and safety protocols used in biodiesel production were far less advanced than they are now. The risks of explosions, methanol spills and general exposure to chemicals were high. While those days are gone, the sentiment of opposition remains, as does the stigma of a biodiesel plant near one's home. With the use of modern technology and strict government regulations, the in- convenience caused by any sort of development is usually reduced to the minimum.

The NIMBYs always find a reason to oppose development. It seems that very of- ten they are simply "in it to win it." They oppose just for the sake of making a statement. Remarkably, members of NIMBY groups frequently support renewable energy initiatives they approve of biodiesel as an alternative energy source that does not harm the environment. However, when a biodiesel plant construction is proposed in their neighborhood, NIMBYs quickly organize into an opposition groups. The society as a whole understands the necessity of clean renewable energy, nevertheless, in reality, virtually nobody wants to make their backyard available. Therefore, the physical proximity to a development seems to be the main criterion in NIMBY activity.

If your firm finds itself involved in a in a NIMBY fight, take the steps necessary to ensure the proper message is getting out to the public. Very often the opposition stems from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community. In this case, it is better to play on the offensive. Instead of waiting for the opposition to grow, present the facts. Make sure community members understand how biodiesel works, how it is created and what advantages it brings to the community, the country and the world. Chances are local residents' knowledge of methanol use in biodiesel production is limited to the dangers of explosions and chemical spills. Your goal is to demystify the process. Explain safety procedures and protocols that will ensure the absence of health threat to the neighborhood. Explain the environmental and economic benefits of building your plant. These are a few basic facts you need to relay to the community.

The next crucial step is to look for local support and build allies in order to form a supporter coalition. First and foremost, you need to identify and create a database of local residents who are in favor, against, or undecided about the project. A good way to begin is to carry out a poll or a phone bank, inquiring local residents on their view of the renewable energy industry in general, and about your development plan in particular. The results of the surveys may then be published to showcase the positive attitude in the community toward your venture.

Once the database is created, it has to be maintained and updated frequently for the campaign management to be aware of the changes in the local opinion. One way to do this is through a targeted direct mail and/ or advertising campaign. In addition, a strong social media campaign is a modern and necessary tool to spread your message, reach out to the community and provide supporters with a communication outlet.

Now that you have distinguished sup- porters from opposition, the next step is to reach out to third-party groups that support your development. These groups could be anything from small businesses to a local decision maker. Those companies or groups who you have had a positive relationship with or will benefit from your project should be encouraged to participate in the campaign.

Residents should express their support through writing letters to their elected officials or newspapers. Those who are looking to support further can attend public hearings where they can speak about the benefits of your project. Most likely, an independent pro-group would have emerged by now and will actively participate in all aspects of the campaign.

You may choose to fight NIMBY on your own. However, experience shows that hiring a specialized firm will provide you with the necessary tools and tactics to en- sure a victory for your development. Trained professionals from a grassroots firm will make sure that the correct message from your company is being distributed to the community and the silent majority is heard. The way you approach the situation will make all the difference.

When it came down to it, the CEO of that biofuels corporation had a decision to make. He could choose to ignore the NIMBY fight, avoid communicating with the local community and take the situation to an unnecessary level of tension. Instead the company's management team hired a specialized firm that developed a strategy, engaged in conversation with the community and encouraged the proponents of the project to voice their support. Soon after the conflict was put to rest, the permit was granted and the company went on to build the plant.

Renewable Energy on the Radio

The article below was Published August 2011 in Environmental Leader Magazine.

Educating the public is important for any project, and even more so for industries people know little about. To garner support, the community has to understand what you do, what you propose and how you plan to carry it out. Renewable energy is more susceptible to suspicion than other industries because it is young, progressive and promotes change. Humans generally fear change because not knowing what to expect is frightening.

That is why any clean energy project should have an informative public relations campaign. If your audiences understand the nature of the proposed changes, they will be more likely to favor and approve them.

While a public relations campaign can take many forms, there are universal methods of promotion that are beneficial for all businesses in the alternative energy field. One of these methods is frequently neglected because people consider it old-fashioned. This method is radio advertising.

Many times people underestimate radio advertisements. They believe that pictures deliver messages more effectively than sounds. Although creating a successful radio ad is indeed more difficult, radio offers certain advantages that may be unattainable through other forms of advertising.

Simplicity Is Key

The biggest issue opponents have to radio advertising is the fact that it lacks a visual component like television and print. However, an effective radio spot can actually use this to its advantage. While television and print have the allure of visual appeal, sometimes the excess of images can detract from the overall message. If the viewer absorbs too much of the image, they can lose track of the initial message. Radio advertisements simply require the public to listen to the information without any unnecessary distractions and interruptions. Although you sacrifice images, the benefits of simplicity outweigh this loss.

Humor: Friend or Foe?

Many radio advertisements attempt to be funny. It seems that their creators try to compensate the lack of visuals with humor. I would advise the renewable energy industry to stay away from humor in their radio ads. The goal of an educational PR campaign is to deliver clean facts to the public.

If humor flops in an advertisement, people will likely remember that more than the facts, defeating the purpose of the message. The nature and purpose of clean energy is so significant to the future of our planet that there is no need to worry about being funny in your ads.

Keep It Natural

Do not overcrowd your radio ad. Dialogue is a good way to avoid an excess of information. Imagine a friendly chat between two neighbors about the economic and environmental benefits the proposed solar plant will bring into their community. A conversation like that will work much better in a radio ad than a long monologue relaying facts and data. Sound effects is another serious advantage of radio. A soft, peaceful sound of a working wind turbine can replace a whole paragraph of descriptions. Let the sound tell the story. A good clip can catch the listener’s attention in just a few seconds.

Inexpensive and Effective

Keeping the cost-per-impression down is an essential part of a public relations campaign. While newspaper advertisements are less expensive, because they are currently struggling in today’s world, they reach fewer people. Television reaches the greatest part of the public, but a thirty second television ad can be expensive depending when it airs. This makes a radio advertisement the most logical choice for the renewable energy industry. A thirty second clip can reach a large number of listeners at a relatively low price. This drives down the cost-per-impression, saving the company money, while hitting a large part of the public with the campaign’s central message.

Radio advertisement should be an important component of an informational PR campaign. Other methods of promotion are also necessary, but the proper combination of sounds and words in a radio ad may be one of your most powerful weapons in gaining public support for your clean energy project.

Radio advertising can help target specific demographic groups. It covers a rather large audience during the morning and evening commutes. It is generally less expensive than television and can be just as convincing as TV commercials. In today’s complex world, sometimes a simple and to-the-point message is exactly what your campaign needs. Radio advertising should be included in your campaign’s plan to ensure maximum public support for your project.

Why do people oppose wind energy development?

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The article below was Published August 2011 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

An industry that is often affected by local opposition in the United States is that of wind energy development. It seems odd that businesses that attempt to bring clean energy and preserve the environment are frequently faced with disapproval from local communities. We talk about the necessary changes in our lifestyles in order to save the planet, yet when a practical solution is proposed we often seem to be against it. Why do people support clean energy in theory yet fight against wind farm development?

The answer lies in physical proximity. It has been suggested that any social opposition to a development stems from self-preservation. Communities try to reject anything that may be seemingly dangerous to their health, lifestyle, and even their community vibe. As expected, most people support the initiative of clean renewable energy, as long as it doesn’t affect them personally. If you were to ask ten Americans on the street about the issue, it’s likely that most would tell you they support the idea but wouldn’t want a wind farm in their backyard.

When a wind energy developer proposes a site for a wind farm, he has to be prepared to face opposition from the local community. It may be just a bump on the road or a serious obstacle that threatens the project. Either way, he has to anticipate the possibility of this problem. In order to properly assess the situation and create a strategic grassroots campaign, the developer needs to understand the origins and reasoning of this opposition. Here are some of the most common issues wind energy developers have to address.

Traffic, pollution and noise during construction

Usually, communities fear that the construction of a wind farm would create unbearable levels of noise and pollution. Chances are most people don’t know the processes involved and the technology used in the assembly of a wind farm.

Therefore, it is crucial for a public affairs campaign to create and deliver a clear message about how the inconveniences, if any, caused by the construction would be minimized. Increased traffic, especially with the presence of heavy trucks, cranes and other machinery, is another concern. Presenting the public with a successful plan of traffic management could reduce the antagonisms and questions toward the project.

Noise from turbines

Every single wind farm constructed in the U.S. has had to address the issue of noise created by the working turbines. Most people fear medical dangers associated with such noise. Various groups that oppose wind energy development claim that headaches, sleep disorders, problems with equilibrium, and even night terrors can be results of living near a wind farm. Therefore, the developers need to present the community with data, statistics and studies that reassure the safety of residents and the project. The government regulations regarding the noise limitations can also be used toward the project’s advantage.

Endangered wild life

Every community faced with a proposed wind farm has had legitimate concerns about the effects on the regional wild life. People fear the indefinite dangers posed by a working wind farm to inhabitants of both above and below ground. A developer’s solution should be to showcase that they care about preserving and protecting the natural habitat of the area. Presenting the public with environmental studies, regulations protocols and other ecological data that ensure the safety of the wild life would be a good way to start.

Obstructed views

While some may enjoy the calm and serene views of wind turbines, unfortunately, many people find them to be unappealing. For instance, one of the biggest concerns from local Massachusetts residents with the Cape Cod wind development was that the offshore turbines would obstruct their scenic ocean views. The landscape is always a big part of a community’s lifestyle. In addition, it plays into the value of one’s property. People often fear the interference with their lifestyles and property depreciation as a result of neighboring a wind farm. In this case, the best strategy would be to stress the advantages of a wind farm to the environment and local economy. It is important to stress how these benefits significantly outweigh the disadvantages.

The bottom line is that wind or any other renewable energy developer should educate their public. The idea of saving the planet by producing and consuming clean renewable energy seems to be appealing to most people. Unfortunately, nobody wants to ‘sacrifice’ their backyard. Therefore, it is necessary to make the public understand the immeasurable benefits to the environment of developing wind energy. We need to make the local communities realize that allowing a wind farm in their neighborhood is not in fact a sacrifice, but rather a step toward a better cleaner world.

Controlling NIMBY

The article below was Published August 2011 in CeramicIndustry.com.

Picture this: the CEO of a large ceramics company wants to pursue an innovative product opportunity, and he decides to build a new production plant near a small town in Massachusetts. The company’s management team constructs the business plan, collects the proper paperwork and prepares for the approval process.

Almost immediately, the zoning com- mission holds off on granting their permit. Why? Nearby town residents of the proposed site have created an opposition group to fight the project. Despite the fact that the presence of the new plant would create new jobs, increase the tax revenue and improve the local economy, the community for one reason or another is opposing the project. The residents say the new opportunity, and he decides to facility would be too close to their homes and may be potentially hazardous to their health. They are concerned about a variety of issues from noise and traffic created by the construction to the dangers of living near a factory that operates with chemicals. The CEO soon realizes that opposition is indeed a road block that may halt or even destroy his project. What does he do now?

The problem this company faces is not so uncommon; it is called the “Not in My Backyard Syndrome” (or NIMBYism), which consists of strong opposition by one person or a group of people to a new project or development in their community. The key to NIMBY opposition is in the location of a proposed construction. It has been suggested that the NIMBY syndrome stems from self-preservation. Communities simply don’t want anything positioned nearby that may potentially be dangerous to their health, or merely to their lifestyle and community vibe. Whatever may be their motivation, NIMBYs, as they are commonly termed, are very likely to organize quickly to communicate their opposition to a local project in an effort to curb development.

A Little History

The origins of NIMBYism are somewhat vague. Some scholars believe the concept originated as early as the 1950s. However, the practice of communal opposition to development blossomed in the 1980s. During that time, community concerns were reasonable and justified in most cases. Although the history of ceramics can be traced back thousands of years, for the most part people are unaware of the processes involved in the production. Thus, the fear of the industry as the unknown was one of the reasons communities opposed these factories.

In addition, with the technology avail- able during that period, building a plant in a neighborhood could mean noise, traffic and pollution. The equipment and safety protocols used in ceramics production were far less advanced than they are now. The risks of equipment malfunctions and exposure to chemicals were high. While those days are gone, the sentiment of opposition remains, as does the stigma of a chemical-based plant near one’s home. With the use of modern technology and strict government regulations, the inconvenience caused by any sort of development is usually reduced to the minimum.

The NIMBYs always seem to find a reason to oppose development. Very often, they are simply “in it to win it” and oppose just for the sake of making a statement. Remarkably, members of NIMBY groups frequently support development in general; they favor any projects that may improve the local economy. However, when a plant construction is proposed in their neighborhood, NIMBYs quickly organize into an opposition group. Society as a whole understands the necessity of building new factories, including those in the ceramic industry. Nevertheless, in reality, virtually nobody wants to make their backyard available. Therefore, the physical proximity to a development seems to be the main criterion in NIMBY activity.

What Can You Do?

If your firm finds itself involved in a NIMBY fight, take the steps necessary to ensure the proper message is getting out to the public. Very often, the opposition stems from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community. In this case, it is better to play on the offensive. Instead of waiting for the opposition to grow, present them with the facts. Make sure community members understand how ceramics are made and what processes are involved. Demystify the process—explain safety procedures and protocols that will ensure the absence of health threats to the neighborhood. Explain that your facility will not, in fact, be a chemical site, but rather will use only controlled amounts of certain chemicals. Finally, explain the economic benefits of building your plant. These are a few basic facts you need to relay to the community.

The next crucial step is to look for local support and build allies in order to form a supporter coalition. First, identify and create a database of local residents who are in favor, against or undecided about the project. A good way to begin is by carrying out a poll or a phone bank, asking local residents their view of the ceramic industry in general and your development plan in particular. The results of the surveys may then be published to showcase the positive attitude in the community toward your venture.

Once the database is created, it has to be maintained and updated frequently for the campaign management to be aware of the changes in the local opinion. One way to do this is through a targeted direct mail and/or advertising campaign. In addition, a strong social media campaign is a modern and necessary tool to spread your message, reach out to the community, and provide supporters with a communication outlet.

Now that you have distinguished supporters from opposition, the next step is to reach out to third-party groups that support your development. These groups could be anything from small businesses to a local decision maker. Those companies or groups who you have had a positive relationship with or will benefit from your project should be encouraged to participate in the campaign.

Residents should be encouraged to express their support through writing letters to their elected officials or newspapers. Those who are looking to support further can attend public hearings where they can speak about the benefits of your project. Most likely, an independent pro-group would have emerged by now and will actively participate in all aspects of the campaign.

You may choose to fight NIMBY on your own. However, experience shows that hiring a specialized firm will provide you with the necessary tools and tactics to ensure a victory for your development. Trained professionals from a grassroots firm will make sure that the correct message from your company is being distributed to the community and the silent majority is heard. The way you approach the situation will make all the difference.

When it came down to it, the CEO of that ceramics company had a decision to make. He could choose to ignore the NIMBY fight, avoid communicating with the local community and take the situation to an unnecessary level of tension. Instead, the company’s management team hired a specialized firm that developed a strategy, engaged in conversation with the community and encouraged the proponents of the project to voice their support. Soon after the conflict was put to rest, the permit was granted and the company went on to build the plant.

Small Country That Became a Big Leader

The article below was Published August 2011 in Environmental Leader Magazine.

For the last 200 years, the United States has been considered the engine of the world’s progress. While traveling the world I’ve noticed that each continent has its own character – Europe is history and culture, Africa is nature and wildlife, and North America is technology and progress. It made me wonder: If the international community views us as a forward-thinking country that brings about many modern inventions, how is it possible that our attitude as a nation toward clean, renewable energy is far from unitary?

I took a look at a country that was one of the pioneers of renewable energy. Denmark is a small nation that makes big contributions to renewable energy initiatives. Along with being a major player in the global arena of clean energy, Denmark also sets an example of how to approach alternative energy development from the national angle. Looking at its domestic policies and strategies may give us an idea of how to improve the public opinion of clean energy in the United States.

The Kingdom of Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe with a population of approximately 5.5 million. It is a founding member of NATO and OECD and has been a member of the European Union since 1973. What is interesting about this small country is not how it behaves as a member of a group, but what it does on its own.

Within the last 15 years, Denmark invested in wind energy more than any other European country. It gets 19 percent of its energy from wind; Danish companies control one-third of the global wind market. How does such a small country become a giant in the renewable energy world?

The answer has several components. The geographical position and terrain of Denmark is an advantage. Denmark’s climate, consistent weather conditions and flat open lands make it perfect for wind energy production. The long history of developing wind energy (the first turbine to generate electricity was built in 1891) has given the country time to perfect its approach and technology.

Technology and geography are only partly responsible for Denmark’s dominance in this field. Had the Danish government not been supportive and understanding of the need for renewable energy, the country may have not benefited from this advancement. The Government’s financial contribution was crucial when the industry began to attract private investors. In an attempt to make Denmark less dependent on imported energy supply, an investment subsidy was introduced in 1979 that covered 30 percent of investment costs. Once the industry took off, the government subsidies were no longer necessary.

Although 80 percent of wind turbines are privately owned today, the government is still heavily involved in supporting research and development. Denmark understands the importance of providing access to research-based education at a high level for scientists and engineers. Danish research institutions constantly provide the industry with knowledge used to improve and advance clean energy initiatives.

While government contributions were also a factor in turning Denmark into a pioneer of wind energy, the public support is an even more fascinating element. In 2009, the Danish Wind Industry Association conducted a survey that evaluated public opinion toward the local wind energy industry. The survey discovered that the majority of Danes believed that more than half of the country’s electricity should come from wind energy; 91 percent of the population was in favor of expanding Denmark’s use of wind energy. Furthermore, 85% were neutral regarding wind energy expansion in their local communities.

After reading the statistics, I wondered what factors contributed to such overwhelming public support in Denmark. Was it the desire to be independent from foreign energy supply? Was it the need to maintain the ‘champion’ status in renewable energy production? Or was it the collective hope they could save the planet?

Regardless of which answer is correct, one thing is clear – public support is a major factor in moving toward alternative energy sources. The people of Denmark encourage wind energy development, which helps the government create policies that are friendly to the renewable energy industry. The industry, in turn, provides the nation with relatively inexpensive clean energy. This system seems to be working as a symbiosis that unites the country in caring for the environment and fighting global warming.

Perhaps other major players in the global field of renewable energy (United States included) could learn a lesson or two from Denmark and its people. Simply providing financial support may not be enough to promote and advance clean energy. Nations should work together to create suitable conditions for renewable energy development. The legislative policies should reflect the need for alternative energy sources. The industry should take public opinion into consideration when proposing new projects. And the people should be open-minded and reasonable when considering the possibility of alternative energy development in their communities. Following Denmark’s example of being friendly toward clean energy may be a step in the right direction to improve the environment and protect our planet.

Steps to Take When Facing Community Opposition

The article below was Published July 2011 in Mining, People, and the Environment.

Community opposition to the local development of a mining operation is an all too familiar picture. Take the following example in which the chief executive officer of a large US coal-mining corporation wants to pursue a new development. The economic difficulties have not slowed the company, so the executive decides to expand the business and build a mine near a small town. The management team forms a business plan, collects the proper paperwork and prepares for the approval process. Then, all of a sudden, the zoning commission holds off on granting a permit.

Why? Residents of the areas near the proposed site have created an opposition group to fight the project. Despite the fact that the new development would create jobs, increase tax revenues and improve the local economy, the community does not seem to understand these benefits.

The residents say the mine would be too close to their homes and could be potentially hazardous to their health. They are concerned about waste in the soil and water, and that the construction would create too much noise, pollution and traffic. They also fear the danger to the lives of community members who will work in the mine.

This is when the company realizes that opposition is indeed a road block that may halt or even cancel the project. This not uncommon problem is called
the ‘not in my backyard syndrome’ or NIMBY-ism. It consists of strong opposition by one person or a group to a new project or development in
their community.

The key to NIMBY opposition is the location of the proposed construction. Communities simply do not want anything that could be dangerous to their health, or merely to their lifestyle. Whatever their motivation, NIMBYs are very likely to organize quickly to communicate their opposition to a local project in an effort to curb development.

Nuclear Beginning

The origins of NIMBY-ism are somewhat vague. Some scholars believe the concept originated as early as the 1950s. They claim the nuclear research and development in the UK and the US during the early post-World War II period planted the seeds of NIMBY-ism. People acknowledged the power of nuclear reactors, but did not understand how nuclear energy worked. They feared it as the unknown, thus expressing skepticism to the construction of plants and research facilities in their neighborhood.

However, the practice of communal opposition to development expanded rapidly in the 1980s. During this period, new industries (biomass, solar and wind power) were developing, and the ‘traditional’ ones (mining, real estate and transport) were expanding. Relative stability
in world politics and the global economy allowed people to redirect their attention to the lives and wellbeing of their own communities.

The main difference between NIMBY- ism of 1980 and that of 2011 is that, three decades ago, community concerns were reasonable and justified in most cases. With the technology available during that period, building a mine could mean noise, traffic and pollution. The equipment and safety protocols used were far less advanced than they are today, and the dangers of working in a mine were significantly higher.

Since then, the industry has come a long way. With the use of modern technology and strict government regulations, the inconvenience caused by any sort of development, as well as the dangers of working in or living near a mine, are usually reduced to a minimum. Yet, the sentiment of opposition remains, as does the stigma of local mine development.

The NIMBYs always find a reason to oppose development and even oppose just for the sake of making a statement. Remarkably, members of NIMBY groups frequently support development in general. They advocate clean energy, better transport, more retail opportunities and the creation of jobs. Yet, when a wind farm, train depot, shopping mall or coalmine project is proposed in their neighborhood, the NIMBYs are quick to organize opposition.

In addition, ‘controversial’ and culturally unfamiliar issues usually trigger an ambivalent response. Many people are in favor of anti-drug campaigns, HIV research facilities and rehabilitation centers. Yet they do not want a needle-exchange clinic, mental institution or halfway house in their neighborhood.

Society as a whole understands the necessity of all of these projects, but, in reality, virtually nobody wants such projects in their local community.

Another issue is the extent and reach of the NIMBY syndrome. The ‘backyard’ has grown so vastly that, today, NIMBY-ism affects companies all over the world. It has no regard for geography or sovereign borders. Naturally, companies in relatively young industries are most susceptible to NIMBY opposition. People attack wind and solar-energy farms, biomass and biofuel plants because they still fear such projects as the unknown, as they did nuclear power. Nonetheless, businesses in more traditional fields, including mining, continue to face NIMBY opposition.

However, steps can be taken to win local support and gain the important ‘social license to operate’. Often, opposition stems from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community. In this case, it is better to play on the offensive; instead of waiting for the opposition to grow, developers should present them with the facts at the earliest possible stage.

Friends And Foes

It is necessary to look for local support and build allies in order to form a ‘supporter’ coalition.

First and foremost, developers should identify and create a database of local residents who are in favor, against or undecided about the project. A good way to begin is to carry out a poll, asking local residents their view of the economic development of the region in general, and about the project plan in particular.

The results of the survey may then be published to showcase the positive attitude in
the community toward the venture.
Once a database of residents has been created, it will have to be maintained and updated frequently for the campaign management to be aware of any changes in local opinion. One way to do this is through a targeted direct mail and/or advertising campaign.

A strong social media campaign
may also work as a modern tool to reach out to the community and give supporters a communication outlet. Although many campaigns use modern technology to deliver a message, most grassroots campaigns rely mainly on direct, face-to-face interaction between the developer and community

Make A Connection

The next step is to reach out to third-party groups that may support the project. They could be small businesses or a local decision maker, while those companies or groups with which the developer already has a positive relationship should be encouraged to participate in community engagement.

Residents can express their support for a project through writing letters to their elected officials or newspapers. Those who are looking to offer further support can attend public hearings where they can speak about the benefits of the project. In many cases, an independent pro-group will emerge and participate in all aspects of community engagement.

Find A Helping Hand

Experience shows that hiring a specialized firm is often most helpful in providing a project developer with the necessary tactics to ensure support for a mine’s development. More often than not, a standard public relations firm will not be equipped with the necessary tools or experience to tackle NIMBY-ism. Public relations specialists can help to develop a brand identity, create or improve the company’s image and give it the publicity it needs, but expertise in grassroots community engagement is necessary to properly assess a project’s suitability, analyze any NIMBY issues and help the company to gain its social license to operate.

Public affairs organizations (professionals trained in grassroots community engagement) can be consulted to determine if the correct message is being distributed from the company to the community, whether the silent majority is heard, and that the firm is engaging with the issues presented by the community.

In the end, the company mentioned at the start of this article had a decision to make. It could choose to ignore NIMBY-ism, avoid communicating with the local community and take the situation to an unnecessary level of tension. Instead, the company’s management team hired a specialized firm, which developed a strategy, engaged in conversation with the community and encouraged the proponents of the project to voice their support.

Soon after the conflict was put to rest, a permit was granted and the company went on to build the mine. The bottom line is that educating and communicating with the local community is a crucial attribute for the successful outcome of any venture.

It was established years ago that grassroots engagement can be the key to success. The question is no longer why, but how? Luckily, modern technology and decades of creative advancement
in public affairs mean that getting a company’s message out is as easy as ever. If a mining company can understand and address community concerns, its projects will move forward.

Why Do People Oppose Wind Development?

The article below was Published July 2011 in Wind Power Monthly.

Wind power development is often affect b local opposition. It seems odd that businesses that try to bring clean energy and preserve the environment are frequently faced with disapproval from local communities. We talk about the necessary changes in our lifestyles in order to save the planet, yet when a practical solution is proposed we often seem to be against it. Why do people support clean energy in theory yet fight against wind farm development?

The answer lies in physical proximity. Most people support the initiatives of clean renewable energy as long as it doesn’t affect them personally. If you were to ask ten Americans on the street about the issue, it is likely that most would tell you they support the idea but would not want a wind farm in their backyard.

The most common criticisms of wind development include:

Traffic and noise during construction

Usually, communities fear that the construction of a wind farm would create high levels of noise and pollution. Increased traffic, especially with heavy trucks, cranes and other machinery, is another concern.

Noise from Turbines

Every single wind farm has to address the issue of noise created by its working turbines. Most people fear medical dangers associated with such noise. Various groups that oppose wind development claim that headaches, sleep disorders and even night terrors can be results of living near a wind far.

Endangered Wildlife

Communities faced with proposed wind farms usually have legitimate concerns about the effects on the wildlife living both above and below ground.

Obstructed Views

While some may enjoy the calm and serene views of wind turbines, many people find them unappealing. The landscape is always a big part of a community’s lifestyle. In addition, it plays into the value of one’s property. People often fear the interference with their lifestyles and property deprecation as a result of neighboring a wind farm.

The bottom line is that wind or any other renewable energy developer should educate their public. The idea of saving the planet by producing and consuming clean renewable energy seems to appeal to most people. Unfortunately, nobody wants to “sacrifice” their backyard. It is necessary to make the public understand the immeasurable benefits to the environment of developing wind energy. We need to make local communities realize that allowing a wind farm in their neighborhood is not a sacrifice, but rather a step towards a better, cleaner world.

Social Media in the Renewable Energy World

The article below was Published May 2011 in Environmental Leader Magazine.

A New Goal for the Renewable Energy Industry: Educating the Public

In a world full of excess – from energy consumption to environmental pollution – it is only natural that companies explore alternative sources of energy. It appears that most people outside of the energy industry view renewable energy as the panacea to saving the world. Yet in reality, the public support of ‘clean’ energy is not as absolute as the industry may hope for. One of the reasons that may cause this gap between theory and practice is the fact that common knowledge of renewable energy production is rather limited. The majority of the public understands the dangers of environmental pollution and, thus, supports any initiatives to prevent or at least minimize it. The problem is that while most people comprehend what renewable energy means in theory, they know very little about the process involved in its production. They fear it as the ‘unknown’, and that stigma can act as a strong motivation to oppose a renewable energy development.

The answer to this problem lies in educating the public. During the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, people were skeptical of many innovations. Yet with time, as they had become familiarized with the new ‘technology’, they began to appreciate the improvements it brought to their lives. The same thing needs to happen within the renewable energy industry. If information about clean energy becomes more accessible, people will probably feel less alarmed around wind farms and biodiesel plants. Luckily, with modern technology and decades of creative advancement in media and public relations, getting the message out is as easy as ever.

When investing in a renewable energy project, any developer should launch an informational campaign that will educate the local community and prevent potential damaging misunderstandings. One of the best ways to achieve that is by employing the new technological phenomenon known as social media. Below are some of the reasons why a social media campaign is a crucial step in acquiring public support.

Two-way traffic

One of the main advantages of social media is that it provides a two-way channel of communication. Of course, there are many forms of promotion, such as print and television ads, that help you get your message out. However, traditional advertising is often limited when it comes to obtaining the public’s feedback. No matter how much research you do, you can never be sure what exact information your community needs to receive to understand your project. Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets allow your audience to respond, express their opinion, and ask questions. That communication is essential if you want to avoid opposition. You are given the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings people may have about the renewable energy industry and about your project. It also gives you a chance to show that you take pride and caution about the local residents’ opinions and their neighborhoods.

Making the Connection

Unlike most industrial publications, social media allows (and even often requires) you to use simple language that will be accessible to a larger audience. Describing your project, as well as the renewable energy industry in general, in basic terms will ensure a better understanding from your community. In addition, the informal tone will help bridge the gap between you and your audience. Chances are local residents will express less antagonism if they think of you as a ‘friend’ rather than a ‘developer’ or ‘corporation.’

Infinite possibilities

When using social media, the choices of how you convey your message are almost limitless. We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words, and social media allows you to use that to your advantage. Along with traditional text you can apply photographs, videos, sound clips, animation and more to get your message across to the masses. Imagine how much information you can relay in a five-minute YouTube clip versus a newspaper article. In addition, video gives you an opportunity to humanize your project by showing the speaker’s face, rather than a distant voice of a radio advertisement. Overall, the modern public seems to be more open and have a more positive reaction to messages carried out by digital media rather than ‘old-fashioned’ articles and ads.

Perfect Timing

Given the fast-paced lifestyle of the modern world, timing is everything. Sometimes, getting the information out quickly makes all the difference. Social media has no waiting period, no printing delays, and no broadcasting limitations. You can deliver your message to the audience in the matter of minutes, if not seconds. You can keep the local residents updated on project progress, legislative changes, scheduled meetings, and anything else that may be relevant to your support/opposition battle. In return, the community will appreciate your thoughtfulness and courtesy of communicating with them.

It has been established decades ago that educating your public is a crucial attribute for a successful outcome of any venture (especially in a young and controversial industry like renewable energy). The question is no longer why, but how. Regardless of whether you approve of social media as a part of our lives, it is a very useful tool when it comes to public relations. In addition to the advantages discussed above, social media is significantly cheaper than traditional advertising, which allows you to focus your finances on other areas that may require extra resources.

Our world may be far from perfect, but we (especially those of us involved in any campaign) should appreciate living in an era with social media and other communication innovations at our disposal. When it comes to facing opposition to your renewable energy project, a social media campaign is a beneficial, and even necessary, weapon to have in your arsenal. Use it to the fullest at an early stage and, perhaps, you will avoid opposition all together.

Origins and Explanation of Antagonism Toward Windfarms

The article below was Published April 2011 in Environmental Leader Magazine.

An industry that is often affected by local opposition in the United States is that of wind energy development. But why? It seems odd that businesses that attempt to bring clean energy and preserve the environment are frequently faced with disapproval from local communities. We talk about the necessary changes in our lifestyles in order to save the planet, yet when a practical solution is proposed we often seem to be against it. Why do people support clean energy in theory yet fight against wind farm development?

The answer lies in physical proximity. It has been suggested that any social opposition to a development stems from self-preservation. Communities try to reject anything that may be seemingly dangerous to their health, lifestyle, and even their community vibe. As expected, most people support the initiative of clean renewable energy, as long as it doesn’t affect them personally. If you were to ask ten Americans on the street about the issue, it’s likely that most would tell you they support the idea but wouldn’t want a wind farm in their backyard.

When a wind energy developer proposes a site for a wind farm, he has to be prepared to face opposition from the local community. It may be just a bump on the road or a serious obstacle that threatens the project. Either way, he has to anticipate the possibility of this problem. In order to properly assess the situation and create a strategic grassroots campaign, the developer needs to understand the origins and reasoning of this opposition.

Here are some of the most common issues wind energy developers have to address.

Traffic, pollution and noise during construction

Usually, communities fear that the construction of a wind farm would create unbearable levels of noise and pollution. Chances are most people don’t know the processes involved and the technology used in the assembly of a wind farm. Therefore, it is crucial for a public affairs campaign to create and deliver a clear message about how the inconveniences, if any, caused by the construction would be minimized. Increased traffic, especially with the presence of heavy trucks, cranes and other machinery, is another concern.

Presenting the public with a successful plan of traffic management could reduce the antagonisms and questions toward the project.

Noise from turbines

Every single wind farm constructed in the U.S. has had to address the issue of noise created by the working turbines. Most people fear medical dangers associated with such noise. Various groups that oppose wind energy development claim that headaches, sleep disorders, problems with equilibrium, and even night terrors can be results of living near a wind farm. Therefore, the developers need to present the community with data, statistics and studies that reassure the safety of residents and the project. The government regulations regarding the noise limitations can also be used toward the project’s advantage.

Endangered wild life

Every community faced with a proposed wind farm has had legitimate concerns about the effects on the regional wild life. People fear the indefinite dangers posed by a working wind farm to inhabitants of both above and below ground. A developer’s solution should be to showcase that they care about preserving and protecting the natural habitat of the area. Presenting the public with environmental studies, regulations protocols and other ecological data that ensure the safety of the wild life would be a good way to start.

Obstructed views

While some may enjoy the calm and serene views of wind turbines, unfortunately, many people find them to be unappealing. For instance, one of the biggest concerns from local Massachusetts residents with the Cape Cod wind development was that the offshore turbines would obstruct their scenic ocean views. The landscape is always a big part of a community’s lifestyle. In addition, it plays into the value of one’s property. People often fear the interference with their lifestyles and property depreciation as a result of neighboring a wind farm. In this case, the best strategy would be to stress the advantages of a wind farm to the environment and local economy.

It is important to stress how these benefits significantly outweigh the disadvantages.

The bottom line is that wind or any other renewable energy developer should educate their public. The idea of saving the planet by producing and consuming clean renewable energy seems to be appealing to most people. Unfortunately, nobody wants to ‘sacrifice’ their backyard. Therefore, it is necessary to make the public understand the immeasurable benefits to the environment of developing wind energy. We need to make the local communities realize that allowing a wind farm in their neighborhood is not in fact a sacrifice, but rather a step toward a better cleaner world.

How to win the fight against NIMBYism!

The article below was Published March 2011 in Environmental Leader Magazine.

Picture this: the CEO of a large biomass corporation wants to pursue a new development. The economic difficulties haven’t slowed his company so he decides to build a new plant near a small town in Massachusetts. The company’s management team constructs the business plan, collects the proper paperwork and gets ready for the approval process. All of a sudden the zoning commission holds off on granting their permit. Why? Residents of the towns near the proposed site created an opposition group to fight the project. Despite the fact that the new plant would generate clean energy to power up several towns, increase the tax revenue and improve the local economy, the community doesn’t seem to understand these benefits. The residents say the new facility would be too close to their homes and may be potentially hazardous to their health. They say it would create too much noise, pollution, and traffic, and would obstruct their views.

This is when the CEO realizes that opposition is indeed a road block that may halt or even destroy his project. So what does he do now?

The problem that this company is faced with is not so uncommon. It is called the ‘Not In My Backyard Syndrome’ (or NIMBYism). It consists of strong opposition by one person or a group of people to a new project or development in their community. NIMBYs, as they are commonly referred to, are very likely to organize quickly to communicate their opposition to a local project in an effort to curb development.

The origins of NIMBYism are somewhat vague. Some scholars believe the concept originated as early as the 1950s. However, the practice of communal opposition to development blossomed in the 1980s. During that time, community concerns were reasonable and justified in most cases. First of all, the biomass industry was so new that people simply feared it as the unknown. In addition, with the technology available during that period, building a biomass plant in a neighborhood could mean noise, traffic, and pollution. While those days are gone, the sentiment of opposition remains, as does the stigma of a biomass development near one’s home. With the use of modern technology and strict government regulations, the inconvenience caused by any sort of development is usually reduced to the minimum.

The NIMBYs, however, always find a reason to oppose development. It seems that very often they are simply “in it to win it.” They oppose just for the sake of making a statement. The “Backyard” has grown so vastly that nowadays NIMBYism affects companies all over the world. From New York to Tokyo, businesses in the biomass industry are looking for ways to win the NIMBY battle.

If your firm finds itself involved in a NIMBY fight, take the steps necessary to ensure the proper message is getting out to the public. Very
often the opposition stems from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community. In this case, it is
better to play on the offensive. Instead of waiting for the opposition to grow, present them with the facts.

It is necessary to look for local support and build allies in order to form a supporter coalition. First and foremost, you need to identify and create a database of local residents who are in favor, against, or undecided about the project. A good way to begin is by carrying out a poll or a phone bank, asking local residents about their view of the renewable energy industry in general, and about your development plan in particular. The results of the surveys may then be published to showcase the positive attitude in the community toward your venture.

Once the database is created, it has to be maintained and updated frequently for the campaign management to be aware of the changes in the local opinion. One way to do this is through a targeted direct mail and/or advertising campaign. In addition, a strong social media campaign is a modern and necessary tool to spread your message, reach out to the community and provide supporters with a communication outlet.

Now that you have distinguished supporters from opposition, the next step is to reach out to third party groups that support your development. These groups could be anything from small businesses to a local decision maker. Those companies or groups who you have had a positive relationship with or will benefit from your project should be encouraged to participate in the campaign.

Residents should express their support through writing letters to their elected officials or newspapers. Those who are looking to support further
can attend public hearings where they can speak about the benefits of your project. Most likely, an independent pro-group would have emerged by now and will actively participate in all aspects of the campaign.

You may choose to fight NIMBY on your own. However, experience shows that hiring a specialized firm will provide you with the necessary tools and tactics to ensure a victory for your development. Trained professionals from a grass roots firm will make sure that the correct message from your company is being distributed to the community and the silent majority is heard. The way you approach the situation will make all the difference.

When it came down to it the CEO of that biomass corporation had a decision to make. He could choose to ignore the NIMBY fight, avoid communicating with the local community and take the situation to an unnecessary level of tension. Instead the company’s management team hired a specialized firm that developed a strategy, engaged in conversation with the community and encouraged the proponents of the project to voice their support. Soon after, the conflict was put to rest, the permit was granted and the company went on to build the plant.

Do you have control over NIMBYism?

The article below was Published March 2011 in Biomass Power and Thermal Magazine.

Picture this. The chief executive officer of a large biomass corporation wants to pursue a new development. The economic difficulties haven’t slowed his company so he decides to build a new plant near a small town in Massachusetts.

The company’s management team constructs the business plan, collects the proper paperwork and gets ready for the approval process. All of a sudden the zoning commission holds off on granting their permit. Why? Residents of the towns near the proposed site created an opposition group to fight the project. Despite the fact that the new plant would generate clean energy to power up several towns, increase the tax revenue and improve the local economy, the community doesn’t seem to understand these benefits. The residents say the new facility would be too close to their homes and may be potentially hazardous to their health. They say it would create too much noise, pollution, and traffic, and would obstruct their views. This is when the chief executive officer realizes that opposition is indeed a roadblock that may halt or even destroy his project. So what does he do now?

The problem that this company is faced with is not so uncommon. It is called the “not in my backyard syndrome” or NIMBYism. It consists of strong opposition by one person or a group of people to a new project or development in their community. NIMBYs, as they are commonly referred to, are likely to organize quickly to communicate their opposition to a local project in an effort to curb development.

The origins of NIMBYism are somewhat vague. Some scholars believe the concept originated as early as the 1950s. However, the practice of communal opposition to development blossomed in the 1980s.

During that time, community concerns were reasonable and justified in most cases. First of all, the biomass industry was so new that people simply feared it as the unknown. In addition, with the technology available during that period, building a biomass plant in a neighborhood could mean noise, traffic, and pollution. While those days are gone, the sentiment of opposition remains, as does the stigma of a biomass development near one’s home. With the use of modern technology and strict government regulations, the inconvenience caused by any sort of development is usually reduced to the minimum.

The NIMBYs, however, always find a reason to oppose development. It seems that often they are simply “in it to win it.” They oppose just for the sake of making a statement. The size of the “backyard” has grown so vastly that nowadays NIMBYism affects companies all over the world. From New York to Tokyo, businesses in the biomass industry are looking for ways to win the NIMBY battle.

Fight Misinformation

If your firm finds itself involved in a NIMBY fight, take the steps necessary to ensure the proper message is getting out to the public. Very often the opposition stems from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community. In this case, it is better to play on the offensive. Instead of waiting for the opposition to grow, present the facts up front.

It is necessary to look for local support and build allies in order to form a supporter coalition. First and foremost, identify and create a database of local residents who are in favor, against or undecided about the project. A good way to begin is by conducting a poll or establishing a phone bank, asking local residents about their view of the renewable energy industry in general, and about your development plan in particular. The results of the surveys may then be published to showcase the positive attitude in the community toward your venture.

Once the database is created, it has to be maintained and updated frequently for the campaign management to be aware of any changes in the local opinion. One way to do this is through a targeted direct mail and/or advertising campaign. A strong social media campaign may also work as a modern tool to spread your message, reach out to the community and provide supporters with a communication outlet. Although many campaigns use modern technology to deliver a message, most grassroots campaigns mainly rely on direct face-to-face interaction between the developers and local communities.

Reach Out to Supporters

Now that you have distinguished supporters from opposition, the next step is to reach out to third-party groups that support your development. These could be anything from small businesses to a local decision maker. Those companies or groups with whom you have had a positive relationship or will benefit from your project should be encouraged to participate in the campaign.

Residents should express their support through writing letters to their elected officials or newspapers. Those who are looking to support further can attend public hearings where they can speak about the benefits of your project. Most likely, an independent pro-group would have emerged by now and will actively participate in all aspects of the campaign.

You may choose to fight NIMBY on your own. Experience shows, however, that hiring a specialized firm will provide you with the necessary tactics to ensure support for your development. More often than not, the public relations firm you are looking to employ may not be equipped with the necessary tools and experience to tackle the NIMBY issue. Public relations specialists may help you develop your brand, create your image, and give your company the publicity it needs. Those benefits may be useful in some instances, but experience in grassroots campaigns is necessary to properly assess your project and analyze your NIMBY issues. Your best bet is to consult a public affairs organization. Professionals, trained in grassroots, will make sure that the correct message from your company is being distributed to the community and the silent majority is heard. The way you approach the situation will make all the difference.

When it came down to it the chief executive officer of that biomass corporation had a decision to make. He could choose to ignore the NIMBY fight, avoid communicating with the local community and take the situation to an unnecessary level of tension. Instead the company’s management team hired a specialized firm that developed a strategy, engaged in conversation with the community and encouraged the proponents of the project to voice their support. Soon after the conflict was put to rest, the permit was granted and the company went on to build the plant.

The Other Big Issue in Scaling Up: Land Use Permission

The article below was Published February 2011 in Algae Industry Magazine.com.

Picture this: the CEO of a large algal biomass corporation wants to pursue a new development. The economic difficulties haven’t slowed his company so he decides to build a new biorefinery near a small town in Arizona. The company’s management team constructs the business plan, collects the proper paperwork and gets ready for the approval process. All of a sudden the zoning commission holds off on granting their permit. Why? Residents of the towns near the proposed site created an opposition group to fight the project.

Despite the fact that the new plant would generate clean energy, increase the tax revenue and improve the local economy, the community doesn’t seem to understand these benefits. The residents say the new facility would be too close to their homes and may be potentially hazardous to their health. They say it would create too much noise, pollution, and traffic, and would obstruct their views. This is when the CEO realizes that opposition is indeed a roadblock that may halt or even destroy his project. So what does he do now?

The problem that this company is faced with is not so uncommon. It is called the ‘Not In My Backyard Syndrome’ (or NIMBYism). It consists of strong opposition by one person or a group of people to a new project or development in or near their community. NIMBYs, as they are commonly referred as, are very likely to organize quickly to communicate their opposition to a local project in an effort to curb development.

The practice of communal opposition to development blossomed in the 1980s. During that time, community concerns were reasonable and justified in most cases. First of all, the biomass industry was so new that people simply feared it as the unknown. In addition, with the technology available during that period, building any kind of biomass operation could mean noise, traffic, and pollution. The sentiment of opposition remains, as does the stigma of a biomass development near one’s home, even though with modern technology and strict government regulations, the inconvenience caused by any sort of development is usually nonexistent or reduced to a minimum.
The NIMBYs, however, always find a reason to oppose development. It seems that very often they are simply “in it to win it.” They oppose just for the sake of making a statement. The “Backyard” has grown so vastly that nowadays NIMBYism affects companies all over the world.

If your firm finds itself involved in a NIMBY fight, take the steps necessary to ensure the proper message is getting out to the public. Very often the opposition stems from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community. In this case, it is better to play on the offensive. Instead of waiting for the opposition to grow, present them with the facts.

It is necessary to look for local support and build allies in order to form a supporter coalition. First and foremost, you need to identify and create a database of local residents who are in favor, against, or undecided about the project. A good way to begin is by carrying out a poll or a phone bank, inquiring local residents on their view of the renewable energy industry in general, and about your development plan in particular. The results of the surveys may then be published to showcase the positive attitude in the community toward your venture.

Once the database is created, it has to be maintained and updated frequently for the campaign management to be aware of the changes in the local opinion. One way to do this is through a targeted direct mail and/or advertising campaign. In addition, a strong social media campaign is a modern and necessary tool to spread your message, reach out to the community and provide supporters with a communication outlet.

Now that you have distinguished supporters from opposition, the next step is to reach out to third party groups that support your development. These groups could be anything from small businesses to a local decision maker. Those companies or groups who you have had a positive relationship with or will benefit from your project should be encouraged to participate in the campaign.
Residents should express their support through writing letters to their elected officials or newspapers. Those who are looking to support further can attend public hearings where they can speak about the benefits of your project. Most likely, an independent pro-group would have emerged by now and will actively participate in all aspects of the campaign.

You may choose to fight NIMBY on your own. However, hiring a specialized firm can provide you with the necessary tools and tactics to ensure a victory for your development. Trained professionals from a grass roots firm can make sure that the correct message from your company is being distributed to the community and the silent majority is heard. The way you approach the situation will make all the difference.

PSG Receives 2009 MarCom Award

Public Strategy Group, Inc. has been awarded this year’s MarCom Platinum Award for its “Scranton Library Newspaper Ad” entry. PSG also won a MarCom Gold Award for its “Walmart Sustainability Plastic Bag Campaign”. Platinum and Gold awards were presented to those entries judged to exceed the high standards of industry norm. There were over 5,000 entries in this year’s competition from throughout the United States and abroad. www.marcomawards.com.

Beyond the Backyard: The NIMBY of Today

The article below was Published October 2009 in RenewableEnergyWorld.com.

"Not in my backyard," or NIMBY, is a term used to describe a person or a group of people who strongly oppose new development in their communities. Whether it's a new housing complex, retail development, casino or power plant, NIMBYs – as they are commonly referred to – will actively organize to communicate their opposition to a local project in an effort to curb development.

These days, the “backyard” in NIMBY has grown so vastly that residents often oppose airplane flight paths, offshore wind and liquefied natural gas terminals.

More often it seems that NIMBY activists are simply in it to win it. They speak out, without taking the time to educate themselves with accurate information pertaining to the development at hand. While NIMBY groups may protest loud and proud, their motives often stem from misinformation and poor communication between project representatives and the community.

So how should companies relay factual information regarding their projects to the general public? Simple. They hire a grassroots public affairs firm to enlist community support and engage conversation relating the project.

One of the most common phrases we hear from a company facing strong NIMBY opposition is “they have everything under control” or “we have a public relations firm in place”. Fast forward two weeks later, and it is front-page news that their project has been defeated.

The fact of the matter is, most PR firms are not experienced with the grassroots techniques needed to find local supporters to speak out on projects and win a campaign. Rallying this local support is a key component to any contentious proposal. By finding these local allies and forming a supporter coalition, developers are able to build support for their project from day one.

Coalition building creates social change in a community that is being flanked with negativity. If supporters have a common goal of building and bettering their community they can bring a logical voice and a positive attitude to any new development project. Instead of focusing on the picketers outside of a public hearing, developers need to concentrate on gaining this type of community support through a variety of tactics commonly used to battle the NIMBY issue.

Create a Supporter Database — Obtaining supportive reinforcement means knowing who to target. Preliminary research of the town is pertinent in the first stages of a development project. This not only includes a thorough analysis of the demographics of the area, but also the opinions and political agendas of leading local officials and legislators.

Researching third-party organizations, including non-profit agencies and business groups, will help identify a potential support network. If any of these organizations stand to gain from the development, they may offer a helping hand to move the project through.

Send the Message — Once the developer has filed an application with the town, a press release announcing the basic facts about the development can often eliminate rumors and misinterpretations from NIMBY groups. Soon after the release hits, an introductory mail piece can be distributed to all households to keep the idea of the new development fresh in mind; materials like direct mailers, e-mail reminders and newspaper ads remind potential supporters of the advantages that a new development will bring.

Band Together — Local residents who want to see economic development or positive change in their community will help out in any way they can. Of course, some may be more vocal than others. A good tactic may be to pinpoint those “super supporters” who are willing to write letters to local newspapers and decision makers, both in support of the project and as a rebuttal to any NIMBY arguments.

Perhaps these residents in favor are willing to participate, and even help with the planning of meetings that reinforce the coalition and allow other supporters to come out for the cause. Benefits of the “super supporter” are invaluable. This includes their willingness to post lawn signs addressing the issue at hand, gather petition signatures or simply make phone calls that render further support.

Grassroots professionals can help get all of this done smoothly and successfully. Companies often mistake the services of a general PR firm as being enough to win over a community, but in today’s NIMBY reality, that is simply not the case.

Facing the Local Opposition – Al Maiorino interviewed

The article below was Published 2009 in BIOMASS Power & Thermal.

As the biomass power industry grows, so do the organizations that seek to stop it. Opponents have been influential in postponing and even terminating plans for proposed plants, forcing developers to be more savvy in their pubic outreach.

By Lisa Gibson

Opposition groups have been vocal and relentless recently in their campaigns to stymie progress in the biomass power industry. From local citizen groups to statewide organizations endorsed by environmentalists, biomass adversaries are making their case to state and local agencies and in some instances have been successful in quashing plant proposals.

Faced with possible lawsuits and intense disagreements that would have meant more money and delays, Georgia-based Biomass Gas & Electric pulled its plans in 2009 to build a 43-megawatt (MW) biomass power plant in Tallahassee, Fla. The plant had been approved by the city commission and had a power purchase agreement with a local utility. "We saw that there was this relentless opposition that I thought was going to result in, after the [public] hearing process or even before it was done, more lawsuits," says then BG&E CEO Glenn Farris, who is now the director of business development for Biomass Energy Holdings, a joint partnership of BG&E and Bianchi Energy Holdings. "I just didn't see any end in sight."

Citizens had requested a public hearing for the Tallahassee plant before the state Department of Environmental Protection could issue a permit, but BG&E changed its plans before the process was carried out. "I have absolutely no doubt we would have won that fight," Farris says, adding that BG&E met all the EPA guidelines. The opposition group alleged that the DEP didn't do its work in evaluating the effects of the plant on local air and water quality; that the regulations weren't strict enough; and that BG&E provided incomplete or false data regarding the plant's operations. Concerns included ash, noise, forest depletion and pollution. "Nothing was based in fact because certainly the toxicologists' facts were on our side," Farris says. Ambient air modeling showed the plant was an insignificant source of pollution compared with other industries in the area. Forest depletion is a difficult concern to back up, he adds, as the forest products industry is dominant in Florida and Georgia.

BG&E tried to correct the widely distributed misinformation in numerous public forums, speaking openly and honestly about all allegations against the plant, company and biomass power industry, according to Farris. "By far, 90 percent of the people we met with, who were willing to have an honest dialogue, walked away saying, "You're not what I thought you were and I can support the project,'" he says. Still, Farris decided to move his plant to Port St. Joe, Fla., to avoid further setbacks.

Following the change in plans, Farris was inundated with feedback from disappointed Tallahassee citizens and officials. "Certainly over 80 percent of the comments expressed great dismay that we were leaving," he says. "So even in Tallahassee, while it was a lot more people [in opposition], it was never the majority of the people who live there, but they were certainly vocal and they were well-organized."

A Better Place

Letters of dismay were not the only response Farris received, though. "Literally the day they heard we pulled out of Tallahassee, I started getting e-mails and requests for meetings from many communities asking us to look at their sites," he says. The mayor of Port St. Joe had contacted BG&E when it first announced its Tallahassee plans in 2008, asking why the company hadn't chosen his city. "He thought it would be a much better place and in fact, he was right," Farris laughs.

Biomass Energy Holdings, which has taken on BG&E's projects, is currently going through the public hearing process in Port St. Joe for its 47 MW Northwest Florida Renewable Energy Center that will gasify wood waste. The request for a hearing delayed the project a few months, but the 16- to 18-month construction period should begin by the fourth quarter of this year, according to Farris. "We have every intention of following through with this process in Port St. Joe," he says. Those opposed to the new location are largely the same who trampled the Tallahassee plans. "But we got in front of it a little better in Port St. Joe," he says. "I'm not sure how strong their opposition really is, but it's certainly nothing like what we faced in Tallahassee."

Port St. Joe is familiar with the forest products industry, as it hosted a paper mill up until 1999, so the community was receptive and even supportive of such a project, Farris says. Biomass Energy Holdings has also done a few things differently this time around that he thinks will help. The company went to the community after the site was under control to preemptively debunk the opposition's claims, and set up a tour of the 10 MW biomass gasification plant at the University of South Carolina for city and county officials, along with community leaders. "They could see firsthand that it was not the dioxin-spewing, cancer killer that the opposition claims it is," he says.

Public Outreach

News media in and around Rothschild, Wis., have drawn attention recently to a growing group of citizens against a proposed 50 MW We Energies biomass power plant that would run on wood waste. The $255 million co-generation plant is proposed on a Domtar Paper Mill site, allowing it access to the same fuel suppliers. The facility would supply steam to the Domtar mill, effectively eliminating four of its boilers and reducing pollution on the site by 30 percent, according to Brian Manthey, We spokesman. We submitted its application to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission in March and is now filing permits with the Department of Natural Resources. If all goes well, construction will begin next year with an operation date in 2013, Manthey says.

Opponents held a meeting March 26 that attracted about 150 people from the village of 5,000, a disappointing head count according to opposition leaders, who are concerned about sustainability, emissions, traffic and noise. But We has been holding its own community meetings and Manthey says the outlook is positive, with no expected delay in construction or operation. "From the beginning, we have set out a plan to reach out to the community and be responsive to the community," he explains. "At this point, early on in the process, it's been for the most part a positive reaction. Those who have been skeptical or have questions, we've reached out to meet with them." Manthey says open communication and accessibility are No. 1 priorities. "Any change in the neighborhood, naturally you want to know how it will affect you," he says.

Besides meetings, We's campaign has included newsletters, direct mail and door-to-door visits to educate citizens of the plant's benefits, including lower emissions; improved standing for the Domtar mill in the paper industry through increased energy efficiency and lower costs; and shared revenue for the village from the state for hosting an electricity-generating facility. But providing information and answering questions is just the tip of the iceberg. "Our job isn't done," Manthey says. "The burden of proof is on us."

Opposition has not affected timelines of any other renewable project We has undertaken, but it has cropped up. "We've never had a project with 100 percent acceptance and we never will," Manthey says. "We've been down this road with a number of projects in the past few years." Because the plant is under 100 MW, We needs a Certificate of Authority from the PSC, which does not require a public hearing, but the company has asked the PSC to hold one anyway. "We look at the public outreach as being critical, as critical as any piece of that biomass plant," Manthey says.

Statewide Stalemate

Broad and defiant opposition to biomass power in Massachusetts has become the most illustrative example in the country of the effects an organized contention can have on a project. Numerous local groups have assembled to protest proposals in their neighborhoods and a circulating statewide initiative would mandate biomass power plants emit no more than 250 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour in order to qualify for the state renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Without that qualification, plants will not generate renewable energy credits, a key portion of their revenue. The initiative, slated to appear on the Nov. 2 ballot, would hamper renewable energy development in the state, making it extremely difficult to meet its RPS of 20 percent by 2025.

The Committee for a Clean Economy has established a coalition that will inform the public of that and other negative impacts the initiative would impose. "It completely ignores the life-cycle analysis of biomass, considered to be carbon neutral," says Matthew Wolfe, chairman of the Committee for a Clean Economy and principal of Madera Energy, a renewable energy project developer. The coalition will address "not in my backyard" (NIMBY)-related issues, as well as general misinformation about biomass power and its renewable capacity. Wolfe is optimistic that his group will succeed in convincing voters that the initiative is unreasonable and unnecessary.

In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources suspended consideration of all new biomass projects for participation in the state RPS as it awaits the results of a third-party study to determine sustainability and carbon neutrality of biomass power. The study, led by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, was heavily influenced by fierce opposition and should be completed by June, with any new rulings released by the end of the year.

Citizens in New Mexico have followed suit and are trying to convince the state that burning woody biomass from forests is unwise for both the forests and residents, alleging harmful pollution. The group has asked the state legislature not to include forest woody biomass in the RPS, making it ineligible for tax credits.

Simple Answers

"Whenever a concern is raised by someone in the public, that's a legitimate concern," says Bob Cleaves, president of the Biomass Power Association. "Making sure these projects meet federal, state and local standards is obviously the No. 1 concern of any developer. We do think, though, that in the case of biomass, the answers are quite simple."

There is a lack of understanding and plenty of misinformation circulating because biomass development, having seen its boom in the '80s and '90s, has been slow until recently, Cleaves says. Biomass is important for states to meet aggressive RPSs and that point is sometimes lost and needs to be emphasized, he adds. Cleaves doesn't think the recent staunch opposition will slow down overall development of the biomass industry, saying it's part of the renewable energy landscape. "We think when people evaluate the information and understand the benefits of these projects, ultimately they get approved," he says. "Just like we're confident in what's going on in Massachusetts with the sustainability study, we welcome these opportunities to explain the benefits of the industry and share information. Ultimately, the merits of what we're doing win out, hands down."

A Little Help

As anti-biomass groups grow larger and louder, public relations companies are shifting their focus to include the biomass industry in their operations. Public Strategy Group Inc. runs grassroots campaigns to address NIMBY-isms for its clients and President Al Maiorino says he has contacted several biomass developers in light of recent events. "Opposition to biomass is relatively new and is coming to the media in the forefront now," he says. "I think it's a good source of energy and like wind, it's got some misrepresentations because opposition is getting bigger out there."

London-based Consense is handling its first biomass consulting campaign, defending the 40 MW waste-wood fueled Thetford Renewable Energy Plant proposed in Thetford, Norfolk, England, by MEIF Renewable Energy Holdings Ltd. The main concerns are visual and traffic-related, but most citizens are intrigued by the plans, rather than concerned, according to Jessica Topham, Consense operations director.

Demand for consultation in the U.K. is growing, she says, as the recently established Infrastructure Planning Commission, which evaluates large applications including power plants, will not even consider a planning application without evidence of thorough public consultation. Consense offers an online channel for communicating plans, storing public feedback, and generating responses to questions. "It's really effective for involving people who wouldn't normally get involved-and that includes supporters of renewable energy who typically don't always voice their opinions," Topham says.

Maiorino advises project developers to meet with adversaries, as well as supporters, saying opposition comes out in a blizzard but proponents are harder to hear. "Get them all in one room," he says. "See why they're supportive and how they're willing to assist."

The biggest mistake developers tend to make is not getting their message out early, according to Maiorino. "If you start at the beginning and get your information out there, you don't spend so much time correcting the opposition," he says.

"Uncertainty and inaccessibility can trip up projects more than the actual project can," Manthey says. BIO

Lisa Gibson is a Biomass Magazine associate editor. Reach her at lgibson@bbiinternational.com or (701) 738-4952.