Working towards peace and sustainability


NIMBY: An acronym for Not In My Back Yard, defined as: “opposition by nearby residents to a proposed building project, esp. a public one, as being hazardous, unsightly etc.”

NIMBY is often seen as a bad or selfish attitude, which is in many cases true. On the other hand, at least in certain situations, it is highly appropriate.

There are many examples of knee-jerk opposition to projects that benefit society at large simply due to people not wanting to see them near their residences, or even in their communities. One such situation that we’ve faced here in Missouri is the proposed Grain Belt Express Clean Line, a power line sorely needed to move abundant clean, renewable wind power from the plains of Kansas to Missouri and points east. Some landowners are opposing this power line due to it being routed across their property, despite the overwhelming societal value of replacing dirty coal-generated power with clean wind energy.

Another example that we see in communities across the country is opposition to the construction of low-income or subsidized housing in areas where most residents are middle to upper class. People who otherwise are concerned about homelessness will suddenly show up at planning and zoning or city council meetings to oppose such projects.

On the other hand, sometimes there’s a project that really never should be constructed, as it does more harm than good.  But it often takes it being proposed for a specific location to begin to generate needed opposition.

Good examples of this are the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). We should not be building pipelines to transport tar sands or fracked shale oil. To address climate change, we need to leave these super-carbon intensive fuels in the ground. Investing billions in new pipelines would put in place the infrastructure to extract these dirty fuels for decades to come. Resistance to these projects has been spearheaded, in large part, but people whose land or water is threatened.

A Wind Farm for Boone County?

In recent months we’ve learned that a company called E.ON Climate and Renewables, has proposed building a wind farm in northwestern Boone County, in the neighborhood of Harrisburg. A decision to proceed with the project depends first on the company’s testing of wind speed over a two year period to see if there is, indeed, enough wind here, enough of the time, to make the project viable.

It also would depend upon what sorts of regulations the county government would enact to operate a wind farm here. And this would be influenced by the responses of local citizens. In that regard, on Saturday, March 9, there was a public meeting of nearly 100 area residents held at Harrisburg High School. Peaceworks was present and shared some thoughts with attendees via a leaflet we produced. You can read this if you CLICK HERE.

The introduction to the leaflet included the following:

As a grassroots organization that cares deeply about people and the quality of our lives, Peaceworks is very sensitive to concerns regarding the impact of siting wind turbines close to people’s homes. As an organization committed to a livable future, however, we are also sensitive to the urgent need to replace dirty, polluting and climate-altering power plants with clean, renewable energy sources.

“As such, we support the development of wind power with the caveat that wind generators should not be sited too close to anyone’s home. How close is ‘too close?’ That’s a question to be explored. This said, the extreme, anti-wind power rhetoric—which amounts to throwing the baby out with the bath water—coming from some groups and individuals runs counter to the facts and needs to be addressed.”

We encourage you to read the full leaflet (CLICK HERE) to see some commonly raised objections to wind power and responses to them.

What Does Peaceworks Think?

We start with the recognition that we are facing an unprecedented crisis. We must make dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions not someday, but now. We urgently need to get more energy efficient and replace coal and gas with clean, very low carbon solar and wind.

Does this mean we support industrial scale wind power in Boone County? Not necessarily. While we need to install as much wind as we can, as soon as we can, we need to look carefully at the issue of setbacks. How far, at a minimum, from a residence should a wind turbine be sited? This is a question that should be thoroughly explored. While the industry standard of 1,000 feet is likely reasonable, we feel there should be a thoroughgoing exploration of this issue.

Once it is decided what’s a reasonable distance, then it would need to be determined if there are sufficient suitable locations that would meet these criteria to make the project viable. Given the fact that Boone County has a fairly large population with quite a few residences in and around our rural communities like Harrisburg, it’s possible that this is not a good place to site a wind farm and that perhaps locations in less densely populated neighboring counties would be more suitable.

The process of determining whether or not there’s sufficient wind to justify the project began in December 2018 and is slated to take two years. During that time our county government should do serious research into this setback issue. We need science-based regulations that will allow for wind development that does not adversely affect residents. At the same time these regulations cannot cater to the aesthetic preferences of those who simply don’t like the looks of wind turbines.

It seems that those who reject wind based simply on not wanting to have it in their neck of the woods need to wake up to the reality that this technology is needed, and needed now, to replace dirty, climate altering power plants. We can generate lots of clean wind power out on the high plains and wheel the power through the grid. But, as we’ve seen, siting power lines is not easy, and there are advantages to spreading out generation, as when it’s not windy in one place, it is likely to be in another.

The bottom line for us is that wind is clean, safe, abundant, affordable and urgently needed. While we should not site wind generators in close proximity to people’s homes, we also can’t afford to let a NIMBY mindset keep us from moving forward installing clean energy and displacing dirty fossil fuels. We need a balanced approach that both recognizes the need for wind power and also respects the legitimate needs of residents.

If you haven’t already, please check out our handout responding to the arguments made against wind:  CLICK HERE.
Harrisburg area residents attending a public informational session at Harrisburg High School, March 9, 2019.