The Environmental NIMBY Movement

John J. Walters Jun 29, 2010

Everybody wants a cleaner environment.  Nobody wants landfills, oil spills, or a reliance on dirty, non-renewable energy sources.  And yet nobody seems to want to make the decisions necessary to really “be green.”  Why is that?  We have the NIMBY movement to thank.

Today we have three cases of “textbook nimbyism” -- each of which centers around a proposal to do so something, big or small, to improve the environment and the predictable outcry against it.

The first and most minor case is a farmer in Dayton who wants to allow T-Mobile to put some 10-foot-tall antennae on top of his new 135’ grain silo so that they don’t have to install new cell towers elsewhere.  Of course, his neighbors complain that these antennae would be “an eyesore” as they gaze out over the 122 acres that he owns.  They say the service they get is fine, so why change it?  Right, because we all know that no upgrades to infrastructure are ever necessary as time goes on.

The second is a similar case of people in rural areas willingly slowing the implementation of alternative sources of energy so they can preserve the view from their back patio.  Luckily, we seem to be trying to do something about the massive amount of restrictions on the construction on wind towers in this area, although the sponsor of the initiative stresses that “community covenants would trump the county ordinance,” which is the central problem with nimbyism in the first place!

Third, and perhaps most ridiculous, is the incredible amount of opposition faced by a New York company that seeks to build a renewable-energy plant in Maryland that would burn excess trash to both provide power and reduce the need for landfill space.  Environmentalists have dreamed up a number of reasons to oppose the idea; in fact practically the only reason anyone seems to be supporting it is that the plant’s opening would bring over 200 “good union jobs” to the area.

It is both infuriating and grimly satisfying to witness the tug-of-war between all these special interest groups.  In the wake of the oil spill, nearly every liberal has been calling for alternative sources of energy -- and in most cases they have been willing to spend nearly unlimited amounts of taxpayer dollars to support whatever marches under a “green banner.”

I guess we should have understood from the beginning that environmentalists, like unions, want a better deal.  They just don’t want to give up anything else to get it.