Sociopolitical Challenges to the Siting of Facilities with Perceived Environmental Risks

Difficulties are often experienced in the siting of facilities that serve a public need but also pose localized safety, health and/or environmental risks.  This has historically been due to not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) opposition on the part of more affluent neighborhoods but, more recently, can also be attributed to minority and low-income communities’ pursuit of environmental justice.  An emerging technology for which siting is likely to present a particular challenge is geologic carbon sequestration.  This thesis uses a case study approach to develop a set of recommendations for preventing and, if required, dealing with local opposition to geologic carbon sequestration projects – and necessary but controversial facilities, in general.  These recommendations stress the wisdom of neither discounting the possibility nor effectiveness of opposition based on NIMBY syndrome or environmental justice concerns; the potential for careful site selection to reduce the likelihood of local opposition; the importance of meaningful public participation, trust building and compensation in securing community support; and, in the case of facilities with localized risks, the need to educate community members as to the risks involved.

Heddle, G.A., “Sociopolitical Challenges to the Siting of Facilities with Perceived Environmental Risks,” M.I.T. Masters Thesis, June (2003). <PDF>


Howard Herzog Senior Research Engineer

MIT Energy Initiative

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