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Nimbyism — An International Industry


A few weeks ago I made the prediction that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, through the United States, to Texas would receive Presidential approval by year-end. Now – I am not so sure; the political agenda is out of control.
Robert Rubin, the former US Treasury Secretary was quoted as saying; “Politics is as important as the policy, because if the politics don’t work, the policy, no matter whether the decisions are sensible or not, won’t be implemented.”
With the presidential election in the United States set for 2012, the sophisticated international opposition to the pipeline has pulled out all the stops in pressuring President Obama to either stop the pipeline outright, or delay any decision.
Delay is the operative word. As anyone who has faced the approval of a controversial project over a long period of time knows, the election cycle is an important part of the opposition strategy. Issues the politicians will not be concerned about in the beginning of a mandate, suddenly become sensitive during the year before an election. As we have seen, time and time again, getting elected trumps making the right decision for the economy and the environment.
I have been asked to be a panellist at the 23rd Annual Canadian Power Producers Conference (APPrO) in Toronto November 14 – 16th. The panel will be addressing the Approval Process for Renewables, and I will provide some comments on the “social challenges” involved in approving major projects.
In that regard, Mr. Rubin also made the statement: Moving from an idea to implementation is as much a social and political process as it is a rational one – and maybe even more so.
On Saturday (October 29th) Diane Francis of the National Post wrote an excellent column in the business section with a headline that said – American nimbyism real threat to Canada. She commented that: “This transnational phenomena is a power unto itself.”…. and ….”Environmentalists pick on anything that yields publicity.”
Look around and pick your war. Whether it be the pipeline in Alberta and the USA, the quarries in Ontario, wind-farms, gas fired power plants or, in my case, the Adams Mine landfill (which would have been the safest landfill in Canada); no project is safe from this “phenomena” as Ms. Francis calls it.
My workshop is called “WINNING THE WAR” and provides proponents with the benefit of the lessons I learned during my 14 year journey getting the Adams Mine Landfill approved. There is a fundamental fact that we are now starting to understand. More important, it is something that should be talked about openly by government officials, politicians and the companies who are investing millions in project approvals.
That is; “Do not expect the approval process to either fight, or win, the war with environmentalists. The war and the approval process are unrelated“. If we talk about it openly, maybe some rational thinking will result, maybe the political games will lessen, and the economy and environment will win.


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