Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

Common Good…but NIMBY!

On Monday, March 22, we’ll discuss a current conundrum (but not a new phenomenon). While there is often consensus about a need to address a common issue (renewable energy, housing costs, etc.), proponents often [sometimes] find that there is much less consensus about where the related activities should occur.

The topic started as “how do we feel about the CMP power corridor?” which cuts through Maine to reach other New England states. Of course, this project is called the “Clean Energy Corridor” by its sponsors and proponents.

But the same logic can be applied to lots of other projects: windmills, solar array farms, highway construction, low-cost housing projects, etc.

So we’ll discuss a few of these projects as examples of the bigger issues at hand:

  • If the issues being addressed are so important, shouldn’t we all be prepared to make some sacrifices to help bring them from concept to reality?
  • And how should decisions be made about who makes those sacrifices?
    • Should lawyer-wielding ‘elites’ be insulated, leaving the sacrifice to those too poor to fight back? Or, perhaps worse, to the natural environment (think huge solar arrays in pristine desert land or windmills located offshore, where they’re less likely to bother people at unknown cost to wildlife at sea)?

Should be interesting.


  • Other NIMBY examples are reservoirs, railroad tracks, water & natural gas pipelines, public shore access.

    Another side of the issue is YIMBY (Yes, spend public resources in my backyard). Nature preserves, and plowing of stub roads are examples in our area. In earlier eras, a train station, highway intersection or government water supply have been PIMBYs.

    Environmental Justice issues arise when the affected community is disadvantaged.

    NIMBY solutions sometimes involve more dollars(in addition to eminent domain compensation) as for example the wind farm slush funds that Hancock County Commissioners disburse and the promises to towns neighboring the CMP corridor. Eminent Domain law is usually straightforward – government has the power to “take” private property for a public purpose; the landowner’s normal remedy is to argue about the $$ compendation. But a recent effort, tied to the environment is “regulatory takings” where conservative “public interest” lawyers argue that environmental rules “take” their property. On Monday, during our discussion, the Supreme Court will be considering a “regulatory takings” case tied to farm labor organizers.

  • Another aspect is private owner v private owner disputes. In our towns, “plan” and “zone” are four letter expletives, leaving the courts as an arena for dispute resolution. In other parts of the country, “planning commissions” actually do some planning, which entails balancing the larger public good/interest and the rights of private owners.

    (Correcting the post above I ask forgiveness for the acronyms “PIMBY” and “NIMBY” which are the same concept.)

Leave a Reply

  • Subscribe via Email

    Receive email notification of new posts/announcements about our weekly meeting.

    Join 241 other subscribers
  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments