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Better tactics for less biomass opposition

June 14, 2013, Boston, Mass. - Biomass projects continue to be met with opposition from groups of protesters who have concerns with new biomass projects, despite these projects potentially creating hundreds of jobs.


June 14, 2013
By Al Maiorino

Topics

For
example, a project in Massachusetts was ill received due to the noise and
disruption it would have made on the community. Another project in California
faced similar opposition and was delayed several years before finally being
approved. Hu Honua Bioenergy faced the same battle when trying to develop a
biomass power plant in Hawaii. In the midst of construction now, the plant has
faced almost three years of delays before finally opening.

Companies
need to reevaluate their strategy of building public support to counter the
NIMBY (not in my back yard) mindset of many protesters. U.S. Chamber of
Commerce stated that in 2011, more than 350 energy projects were delayed or
abandoned due to public opposition – and the economic impact of these projects
were estimated at about $1.1 trillion in GDP and almost 2 million jobs a year.

Having
been in the business of building public support for controversial projects for
nearly 20 years, Al Maiorino, president of Public Strategy Group offers advice that he feels is
sometimes missed by developers in their public outreach strategy.

Maiorino
says that very often biomass proposals do not offer up an aggressive public
affairs campaign when they announce a project, often letting crucial time pass
between the announcing of a proposal and when public outreach begins.

Opponents
use this time to build opposition and sway residents against these projects. By
running a political style campaign, you can reach all residents, identify the
supporters, and harness them into action for your project.

Maiorino suggests some crucial tactics that biomass companies should consider in
their outreach efforts:

Announce your proposal wisely – When announcing a project, have a
few pieces of direct mail ready to hit all the households in the host community
to spread the positive benefits of the project. Follow this up with newspaper
web ads, and phone banking of the community to further identify supporters.
Have an open house to answer residents' questions and recruit supporters. All
of this should be done in the first few weeks after announcing a project. Do
not allow time between announcing a project, and circulating information to the
community to build up.

Meet with identified supporters – Once you have a database of
supporters built from the mailers, ads and phone calls, the developer should
meet with them so that they know they are not alone in their support. The
supporter can begin to write letters to public officials, newspapers, and
attend key public hearings to speak out. Rarely will a supporter write a letter
for you or attend and speak at a public hearing if you have not had the face-to-face
contact with them previously.

Build grasstops support – In addition to reaching out to residents, stakeholders
and well-known members of the community, along with businesses, associations,
and other civic groups should be met with to attempt to bring them on board for
support.

Keep an updated database – As you begin to identify supporters of your project,
that information should be put in a database to refer to throughout the
entitlement process of your proposal. Coding your supporters by local
legislative districts can also help if you need to target a particular local
legislator who may be wavering in support.

Just
announcing a biomass project is not enough to assume that everyone will be on
board to support it. By running an aggressive campaign and identifying
supporters, you have taken a key step of any successful campaign. Knowing what
to do with the identified members of a community who support your project is
the next step, and one that will allow vocal support to outnumber opponents –
whether it is petitions, letters or crowds at public hearings.

Maiorino
says to expect NIMBY opposition to biomass projects in 2013 and for years to
come. Meeting this challenge with proven techniques will be critical to making
2013 a success for biomass companies.

For more information visit, publicstrategygroup.com.

 


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