Know Your Hot Spots of Support and Opposition to Pipelines

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By Jay Vincent, Senior Vice President for Business Development, The Saint Consulting Group

Mike Saint wrote in last month’s Saint Consulting newsletter about the difficulties of permitting “Linear Land Uses”. I couldn’t agree more with all of the reasons Mike gave for opposition to these projects. They are difficult to navigate for a variety of reasons. Most notably from my point of view is the frame of mind that developers have when permitting especially pipelines and transmission lines.

It is often that we hear, “we do not need any local approvals” or “this is a federal process that grants us certain rights”. My favorite, “we will just go through the process and then sue if we don’t get our way.” Developers are used to being entitled to getting their project approved or their transmission line entitled. Well, those days are gone. While earning local support might not be required under the guidelines for permitting or part of the process, it is absolutely important when trying to get anything done in the current permitting environment today. The reality is that locals are crafty and know how to exert local political pressure to get their way. It happens all of the time,  just look at Cape Wind.

So, if building political support has become so important for permitting most types of projects, then it is even more important when the project brings all of the impacts but potentially none of the economic benefits. Some developers will say, but we put gas in their homes or we deliver the electricity that powers their iPad or television. Well, you are right, but good luck convincing anyone of the merits of your project based on that insight.

Support can take many forms but finding people who will publicly support you is the tough part. It becomes especially difficult to find support on projects like this when the opposition has already made its concerns public or its opposition clear. That is why getting out in front of the opposition is a key to success.

The only way to do that is to find and leverage support from the start of your project. With long linear projects though, that can be rather difficult. That is why deploy a tactic we call “hot spotting”. Hot spotting is relatively simple approach and extremely effective at identifying support while also identifying “hot spots” of opposition. This tactic amounts to deploying a telephone identification program through a survey similar to a poll. What makes this tactic unique though is that instead of the universe of people you are surveying being based upon some key demographic, it is based upon proximity to the proposed pipeline route or transmission line. Also, you pick up individual level household data instead of a poll gathering anonymous data. The data you will have is real and usable.

So, once you complete this survey, you know where your hotspots of opposition are along the route and you know who you can leverage to support the project. You now also have some data that can help you decide where to spend time building support where you now know opposition will form to try to alter your route. Perhaps with this data you can proactively seek a resolution from Town X that says the council supports the project for all of the reasons you wish people supported your project like national energy security or delivery of clean energy.

If you want to learn more ways you can use data like this, reach out to the Business Development team. They will connect you to a team member that uses these tactics in their campaigns.

Jay Vincent is senior vice president for business development for The Saint Consulting Group, email, phone 312 212 8889

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