Exploring CCS community acceptance and public participation from a human and social capital perspective

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    Exploring CCS community acceptance and publicparticipation from a human and social capital perspective

    Carmel Anderson & Jacki Schirmer &Norman Abjorensen

    Received: 28 October 2010 /Accepted: 8 July 2011 /Published online: 30 July 2011# Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

    Abstract The delay or cancellation of energy infrastructure projects, such as wind farmsand nuclear power plants and more recently carbon capture and storage (CCS) because ofcommunity resistance and poor public participation processes are well known. Yet, somecommunities accept these projects with relative ease. The term acceptance implies passivityand as such does not necessarily reflect community approval or support. If acceptance ispassive, what are the characteristics of a community in which the acceptance of CCS isachieved with relative ease; and what best-practice public participation processes are mostappropriate for it? This paper attempts to answer these questions through a case study ofAustralia's Otway Project. Qualitative research methods were used to conduct a human andsocial capital analysis of the Otway community. An assessment of the project's publicparticipation process was made in light of that analysis. The study found that thecommunity needed capacity-building to enable it to become well-informed about CCS; andto help it develop the negotiation skills necessary to have the proponent address itsconcerns about the project in a timely manner. An assessment of the Otway publicparticipation process found that while it implemented the majority of best practiceprinciples in public participation, it lacked an adherence to three: transparency, fairness andcapacity. A mindfulness of all principles of best practice in public participation would haveensured a fairer and more transparent process.

    Keywords Acceptance . Carbon capture and storage . Community . Human capital . Publicparticipation . Social capital

    Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change (2012) 17:687706DOI 10.1007/s11027-011-9312-z

    C. Anderson (*) : J. SchirmerFenner School of Environment and Society, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment,The Australian National University, Forestry Building (48), Canberra 0200, Australiae-mail: carmel.anderson@anu.edu.au

    J. Schirmere-mail: jacki.schirmer@anu.edu.au

    N. AbjorensenCrawford School of Economics and Government, The Australian National University, Stanner Building,Lennox Crossing, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australiae-mail: norman.abjorensen@anu.edu.au

  • 1 Introduction

    Fossil fuels are likely to be the dominant energy source for developed and many developingcountries until themiddle of this century. However, the burning of fossil fuels produces the mostabundant greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), a leading cause of climate change (Metz etal. 2005). In an effort to address climate change, governments and industry are investing in arange of technologies aimed at greenhouse gas control such as carbon capture and storage(CCS), and wind and solar farms. CCS, therefore, has a major role to play in addressingclimate change. It involves the capture, transport and long-term, subsurface storage of CO2.

    New and complicated technologies involving the construction of controversialinfrastructure have a history of struggling in their early phases of proposal andimplementation because of poor participatory processes (Devine-Wright et al. 2001).Notable examples can be found in British and French nuclear projects in the 1980s and1990s (Mays and Poumade in Sublet et al. 1996) and more recently, the Barendrecht CCSproject in the Netherlands. Here, authorities decided to cancel the project followingprotracted delays caused by community opposition to the technology and poor publicparticipation processes (Brunsting et al. 2010; Desbarats et al. 2010; Feenstra et al. 2010).

    Wind farm projects in Europe, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US) andAustralia have been strongly criticised by local communities for not adequately takingsufficient account of the visual impact on the landscape, equitable compensation, or having atop-down approach to public participation (Wolsink 2000; Hodson 2006; Wstenhagen et al.2007; Hindmarsh and Matthews 2008; Zoellner et al. 2008; Jolivet and Heiskanen 2010).

    Yet, some communities accept infrastructure projects with relative ease. Examplesinclude the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC)Otway CCS project in Australia where the public participation process positively influencedacceptance (Ashworth et al. 2010); the FutureGen Project in the United States, where acompetition between the communities to host the project was seen as a major contributingfactor to acceptance (Hund and Greenberg 2010); and a biomass energy project in Germanywhere the community had a positive predisposition to renewable energy, which contributedto the acceptance of the project (Brohmann et al. 2006).

    1.1 Acceptance

    In most cases community support, or at least community acceptance, is necessary beforemajor infrastructure projects can occur (Wstenhagen et al. 2007). Factors influencingacceptance include the socio-economic, historical, cultural, institutional, infrastructural andgeographical characteristics of a community (Heiskanen et al. 2006). These factors mayexplain why acceptance seems to be more easily achieved in some communities than otherswhen similar public participation processes are employed (Dtschke 2010); and whyacceptance can change as the project progresses (Eltham et al. 2008).

    Acceptance implies a passive stance by a community towards a project. It does notnecessarily imply consent, approval or support (Barben 2010). If acceptance is passive,what are the characteristics of a community in which the acceptance of CCS is achievedwith relative ease; and what best-practice public participation processes are mostappropriate for it?

    This paper explores these questions through:

    & A qualitative case study of the human and social capital of a community in southernAustralia located in the immediate vicinity of the CO2CRC Otway CCS Project; and

    688 Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change (2012) 17:687706

  • & An assessment of the projects public participation process based on the communityshuman and social capital.

    This exploration will lead to recommendations for a best-practice approach for community-specific CCS public participation processes, which will better inform government policy-makers, regulators and CCS project proponents.

    1.2 Public participation processes

    Public participation during the planning phase of infrastructure projects is a legislativerequirement for example in Europe, the United States and Australia (Culley andHughey 2008; Elliott and Thomas 2009; Portman et al. 2009). Ideally the processes willincorporate the democratic principles of inclusiveness and a right for people to have asay in decisions that affect their lives (Beierle and Cayford 2002; Hendriks in Smithet al. forthcoming).

    Many public participation processes are differentiated by the level of communityinfluence and ownership in the decision-making process. They range from informationprovision aimed at persuading a community to accept a project to empowerment where thecommunity has full decision-making powers over a resource or process (Arnstein 1969;Hance et al. 1990; International Association of Public Participation [IAP2] 2004).

    In the early stages of a CCS project a proponent undertakes site characterisation todetermine the suitability of the geology and nearby active and decommissioned wells forCO2 storage. During this phase intensive analyses are performed of the cap rock, which isintended to seal in the injected CO2, and of the rock into which the gas is to be injected andstored. The success of a CCS project is considered to be highly dependent on the sitecharacterisation process (Metz et al. 2005; Doughty et al. 2008).

    During site characterisation, most CCS participatory activities would tend to occur at theleft-hand side of the continuum shown in Fig. 1. The methods would consist of fairlyintensive information provision activities such as newspaper articles and the distribution ofnewsletters to prepare the community for the establishment of a project (Hance et al. 1990).

    The information-provision phase prepares the community for the transition of the projectfrom site characterisation to more intrusive and visible project activities, for example thedrilling of a well. During this transition phase, the community might expect a higher level ofparticipation. The participatory process in Fig. 1 most suited to this is Negotiation.Participatory activities may include workshops with the intent of reaching agreement onpossible issues of concern, such as traffic management and noise and dust mitigation. Theresolution of these issues may require the proponent and the community to negotiate mutuallyacceptable solutions to the issues, which could include a change in the work program for theproponent and the expenditure of additional funds.

    The methods of participation outlined in Fig. 1 are generic examples of what is likely towork best at each stage of project development. They should not be rigidly fixed in thosestages, and can be adapted to suit the idiosyncratic nature of the community in which aproject is situated. For example, research conducted into public perceptions of CCSprovides the community with additional opportunities for feedback to the proponent, andtherefore can be used at a variety of stages on the continuum at Fig. 1. A usefulparticipatory activity at the Negotiation stage, for example, would be citizen juries, alsoknown as planning cells and citizen panels. This deliberative method of public participationhas been used by researchers to explore community perceptions of CCS in the UK(Shackley et al. 2004). Citizen panels or juries typically comprise randomly selected

    Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change (2012) 17:687706 689

  • citizens who deliberate, usually, on a planning issue on which the community has the finaldecision (Carson and Gelber 2001).

    A CCS proponents responsibilities to shareholders and the geological characteristicsgoverning site selection mean that they will be unable to divest final decisions on majorproject activities to the community, although deliberative methods such as citizen panelsmay be useful in helping a community develop its position in response to major milestones.However, in a CCS context, the proponent would need to clearly communicate to thecommunity how far it might influence final decisions (Webler et al. 2001). For example, aproponent would need to explain to the community that its decision on the siting of aninjection well would need to be informed and possibly restricted by the findings of theproponents site characterisation studies.

    1.3 Principles of best practice in CCS public participation

    CCS proponents will most likely adopt existing public participation guidelines fromsimilar industries in the resource sector because of commonalities in practices andtechnology as well as seeking guidance from international conventions such as theAarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justicein Environmental Matters (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe 2000).However, guidelines tend to be high-level and need to be complemented with a set ofprinciples that can be informed by the characteristics of the community in which a project isto be conducted. Adapted from Webler et al. (2001); Beierle and Cayford (2002); Diduck

    Information provision

    Information exchange


    CCS industry public participation methods

    Partnership Empowerment

    One-way communication aimed at informing the community about CCS, and or a local project.

    Methods: websites, brochures, newsletters, DVDs, media releases, interviews, advertisements.

    Two-way communication where the community and proponent learn about the others concerns, views, intentions.

    Methods: question-and- answer sessions at community meetings, feedback questionnaires, interactive websites.

    Negotiate and accept the communitys recommendations as far as practicable on infrastructure siting, seismic, soil tests, noise and dust mitigation. If recommendations are rejected, the proponent provides detailed explanations as to why.

    Methods: community reference group, landholder meetings, workshop, focus groups, citizen juries or panels.

    The community and proponent work collaboratively. Decisions are mutually agreed.

    Methods: collaborative fora, advisory committees, consensus conferences.

    The project is undertaken by the community. Reference to government or industry is at the discretion of the community.

    Methods: delegated decisions, referenda

    Fig. 1 CCS public participation spectrum (after Arnstein 1969; Hance et al. 1990, IAP2 2004)

    690 Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change (2012) 17:687706

  • and Sinclair (2002); IAP2 (2004); Woolcock and Brown (2005); and United Nations (2008)these principles are:

    & Inclusivenessprovide all community stakeholders, including the marginalised anddisadvantaged, with an opportunity to be involved.

    & Transparencyensure the community is aware of all the project practices and risks.Ensure they understand the project implementation process, and ensure their role in thepublic participation process has been clearly articulated.

    & Accessibilityaddress issues that might exclude stakeholders from community meet-ings such as adequate transport, working hours, religious obligations and conflictingcommunity events.

    & Timelinessavoid the decide-announce-defend approach of participation by beginningthe public participation process as early as practicable. Ensure the host communityknows about the project before they read about it in the media.

    & Fairnessensure the stakeholders have access to a variety of information about theproject that reflects all positions from those of opposition to those of support.

    & Capacitydevelop the capacity of the stakeholders, particularly the host community, tounderstand the consequences of living with a CCS project; and provide non-threateningavenues for the raising of complaints.

    & Respectencourage an atmosphere of mutual respect. Listen and respond in a timelymanner to the concerns of all stakeholders. Always provide reasons why a requestcannot be met.

    & Flexibilityproponents will need to remain open-minded about the participatory processso that it can be adapted to accommodate evolving community agendas, changes inattitudes towards acceptance as the project progresses, or a change in project plans.

    1.4 Challenges for best practice public participation

    Among the challenges to best practice public participation are: scepticism; resources; the framingof information; inadequate information; a lack of capacity within the community to understandcomplex issues; and the role of the government in the compulsory acquisition of land.

    Proponents might overcome scepticism by developing meaningful roles for communitymembers throughout the life of a projec...


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