European LNG companies can avoid many problems similar to those experienced in Estonia through the strategic implementation of a political-style grassroots campaign. Prior to the announcement of an LNG project, companies should be prepared with a plan for an aggressive public affairs campaign that can be brought to action the moment the project is announced. An effective approach is to announce the project widely; to educate residents by providing the facts of the proposal before the opposition has time to mobilise. Not allowing too much time to pass between a project’s announcement and public outreach is key to preventing the opposition from taking control of the message.
After the announcement, various forms of outreach should be employed by companies to help residents understand the benefits of LNG in their own community. Direct mailers with a tear-off component that can be filled out and returned to companies allow supporters to offer to help by means of writing a letter to a local newspaper or official or by offering to speak in favour of the proposed import facility at a hearing. This form of outreach is supplemented by polling: a method of calling residents of specific demographics or districts to measure levels of support. This allows companies to build a supporter database that can be coded for further targeted outreach. Social media is also useful in that a resident can easily voice support for a project through an outlet that can quickly reach and identify additional supporters. Ultimately, this multi-dimensional effort allows companies to strategically target residents to build a groundswell of political support among elected officials. Finally, open houses held by the companies allow residents to engage in a dialogue about the LNG proposal and to establish a community presence for the company, which is important in swaying undecided residents towards support. An effective grassroots strategy will reduce ‘NIMBY’ opposition in an effort to bring the supportive voice to the forefront of the debate surrounding an LNG project.
As the LNG industry continues to grow, companies must consider the effects that ‘NIMBY’ opposition can have on a project when assessing both costs and risks. Due to safety and environmental concerns, ‘NIMBY-ism’ throughout Europe is driving projects offshore. However, vessels with both regasification and storage capacities are millions of dollars more expensive than an onshore facility. Companies that do not build proper public affairs campaigns into their proposals could end up spending far more money than initially anticipated. Though the current costs of LNG exploration and production in Europe are high, eventually they will decrease, making investment an even better deal for companies that are prepared for ‘NIMBY’ opposition.
Overall, LNG is a cleaner way to reinvigorate European economies and broaden energy security. This boom is expected to continue, offering global entrepreneurial opportunity. Companies that anticipate ‘NIMBY’ opposition will be able to effectively build support for their projects and experience all that the growing market has to offer for the LNG industry.
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Written by Al Maiorino, Public Strategy Group Inc., USA
Edited by Ted Monroe
This is the final part of a two part article. Read the first part here: Not in my back yard - part one
Read the article online at: https://www.lngindustry.com/liquid-natural-gas/30122013/not_in_my_back_yard_part_two_569/