October 1, 2010
By Therese Dunphy
I’ve always found the not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) mentality of many difficult to understand. When I was a kid, my favorite childhood home was a 26-acre farm. There was much to love about the place. I turned an old chicken coop into a teen hangout (after a lot of scrubbing). I could ride a horse around the quarter-mile track in the back pasture. And, through the woods at the back of the property, I could see the quarry operating below. My 13-year-old self was as intrigued by the sights and sounds of a quarry as the adult version. I thought it was a great neighbor.
As you know only too well, that’s not a typical reaction. A chart from the Saint Index was recently featured in the pages of USA Today. It notes that quarries are the third most unpopular project to have as a neighbor, with only landfills and casinos drawing a harsher reaction from local communities. While the consulting group says the public is more accepting of such projects during difficult economic times than during prosperity, there are still plenty of NIMBYs.
In fact, one such protestor recently knocked on my door. I walked onto the porch to find an earnest young lady from Ohio Citizen Action. With petition in hand, she gave me a 60-second sales pitch about how bad two area asphalt plants were and asked me to sign a petition to shut them down.
Hmmm. I ignored my initial response and decided test her knowledge level. I asked her what these plants were emitting. She told me that they were putting nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide into the air. I asked her if the plants’ emission levels were within regulatory guidelines and whether they had been inspected by the appropriate state agencies. She told me that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was the worst EPA in the nation and couldn’t be counted on to address the group’s concerns. I asked her if either plant used scrubber technology. That earned me a blank look. I asked her if the plant was in place before or after the surrounding homes. She admitted the plants were there first, but said it was still the plants’ responsibility to assuage the neighbors. Apparently, legal and environmental compliance wasn’t enough.
At that point, I asked one last question: “Where is your permit for door-to-door solicitation?” (One is required by my local government.) Again, I got the blank look. Pointing out the difference between the asphalt plants’ legal practices and her organization’s unpermitted activity, I suggested she cease and desist in her activities…at least while she was in my backyard.