Findings

A Description of the County

We felt it important to identify how the 31 respondents viewed their county. This open-ended question yielded data which we categorized into a number of domains, given that respondents could provide as many descriptors as needed. While more than 30 categories of responses were identified, we will focus on six that stood out clearly since they were identified by 6-15 respondents each. The categories include: positive quality of life (N=15), recreational opportunities (N=15), rural environment (N=13), valley aesthetics (N=13), growth of population and economy (N=12), and family incomes (N=6). The following are a number of quotations identifying county perceptions: "It's a county that is pretty much tied to one valley, geographically speaking, with a lot of majestic mountains around it. The culture here is one that is very friendly, easy to get to know." "In terms of quality of life, very positive. So the education experience of our children and for recreational opportunities, it's fantastic." "I think it's a beautiful valley. There are a lot of amenities here. It's small and rural. I think that's why a lot of people live in these areas because they're small and rural. As far as jobs and that, I know that from our statistics we're below the national average, below the state, in average per capita income." "A lot of different things to do outdoors, ATV-ing (all-terrain vehicle), fishing, hunting. Just a nice rural climate." "There's growth that I think we're getting from both the north and the south of the valley. It's making what I think is a really dynamic, changing area here due to both natural growth and in-migration." "We have wonderful soils and growing conditions here that are the mainstay of our economy." These quotes are indicative of the generally positive attitudes expressed by these residents of the county.

B The Power Plant Controversy

Despite the generally positive comments, the recently proposed coal-fired power plant project has resulted in considerable conflict among these respondents. Approximately four years before we gathered these data, an energy company proposed building a coal-fired power plant in the valley which would produce 270-megawatts of electricity. This proposal was supported by the county's economic development committee and county commissioners. It also led to the development of grassroots activism in opposition to the plant. As the regulatory process for approval began, some opponents of the plant founded a formally-constituted opposition group.

Our sample of 31 respondents included those who were actively engaged in the public debate over the plant and others who were not. Fourteen (45%) respondents were in support of the plant, eight (26%) were opposed, and nine (29%) were opposed to the proposed location of the plant. This latter subgroup was comprised of people who opposed, supported, or were ambivalent about the power plant per se, but emphasized their opposition to the plant siting. Since these statistics were derived from a non-representative sample of the population, they do not necessarily represent the county population.

The proponents of the plant justified their position by emphasizing the contributions it would make to the county primarily in terms of job creation, increased tax revenues, and the use of locally-mined coal. One proponent said, "In terms of industrial base, the power plant will just strengthen it because it gives the coal mine a customer. They can possibly use it to support the trucking in-dustry...We'd like to see this kind of activity take place with oil and gas and the power plant because those are higher paying jobs. They are family sustaining wages." Another stated, "I'm excited about the power plant because I think that's progress...That little power plant doesn't bother me at all. The other thing about the power plant that I think is positive is that they can burn the coal that they're shipping out - the non-compliance coal." Furthermore, another proponent said, "I hope we get the power plant. I think you'll see the schools go through a major change there as far as renovations, offering better education to local people. I think once the power plant does come, there will be a lot of spin-off companies come from it." Also one stated, "The coal-fired power plant would end up being our largest taxpayer. They would double our property tax. Double it right now." And finally one explained, "Personally, I'm for the power plant. I think it's a very clean technology."

The opposition group included those who were opposed outright and those who were opposed to the plant location. The majority stressed the negative impacts on aesthetics, environmental pollution, health concerns, and tourism. The following comments are indicative of the opposition group's justification for their position: "I feel like we should maintain some sanctity in this state whereby we can breathe clean air and have somewhere where we can recreate without a smokestack that's 462 feet tall. The [power plant] is one and three-quarter miles from 183 homes as planned in the heart of our farms." "The Air Quality Board was overly generous in allowing the number of tons of pollutants that could be expelled [by the power plant]." "There is a 30-mile radius of impact [of the plant] that is going to affect all of these small towns. Not only visually, but you know all of that heavy pollution is going to be falling on your front step too, not just mine. There are inversions year round." (An inversion occurs when air is trapped in a valley during periods of high atmospheric pressure.) "The power plant I see as a negative. I think it's a bad thing. I don't want it. I prefer other types of development here. First of all, from what I understand, it will increase the air pollution in the valley. I have [relative] with heart problems." "My personal feelings are that I'm not opposed to the power plant. I do not like the proposed location. I'm speaking here about the beautiful valley, but I don't like the idea of a smokestack sitting right in the middle of the valley. In fact, it makes me nervous that maybe they didn't take other sites more seriously." "There's never been a poll or vote as to the numbers, those who support it or don't support it. A lot of people that I've talked to who support it would like it in a different location rather than where it's going to be located." "Well, there's still plenty of desert out there that would be a better situation for a power plant than to be in the middle of a beautiful little valley."

In addition to identifying how the respondents aligned themselves for or against the plant, we wanted to see if their network ties were related to their position alignments to the plant. In other words, are network ties randomly associated with one's position or not? An advantage of a network analysis is that it shows social structure, the patterning of relationships among social entities. These entities, or units, can be individuals, positions, actors in groups, or any social unit connected to another unit. There are many types of patterns which have been identified by social network analysts.10 We will focus on whether the respondents form a single network or whether there are distinct cliques. If cliques are identified, to what extent are they related to respondents' positions on the

Figure 3.1: Network Map of 31 Respondents' Positions Concerning the Proposed Coal-fired Power Plant. Squares equal opposition; upward triangles equal support, downward triangles equal location opposition

power plant issue? And if so, are there respondents who are involved in links, or bridges, between cliques?

In Figure 3.1, we identify networking among the respondents and also their positions, pro and con, about the proposed plant. The numbers attached to each do not represent the order in which respondents were interviewed. Three things are apparent. First, there are two distinct cliques. In one, a majority favour the power plant (indicated by triangles) with a few who oppose the location (indicated by an upside down triangle). In the other group, a majority are opposed (indicated by a square) along with some who are also against the location. There are also only three respondents (numbers 12, 13, 14) who represent bridges, or connections, between the two cliques, two of whom are nonsupportive and one supportive. This provides few opportunities for information to be passed from one clique to another. Since most respondents held strong views concerning the power plant issue, this structuring of relationships is not conducive to a free flow of information which could lead to a reduction of conflict.

Another factor to consider is the power company's position with respect to the siting of the plant. According to several respondents, company personnel conducted a siting feasibility study early on and determined that the present location was situated ideally given its proximity to a highway, a power substation, and a water supply. After making the siting decision, the company let it be known that they would be strongly opposed to an alternative location. One respondent said:

I'm hearing reports from [the company] that they've already gone through this lengthy, expensive process to get state approval. And if

Groups

Subgroup

Suppo rt

Anti

Locatr on

Stats Test

V amble

Average

Average

1 Age1

)

58.13 (13.41 CO

57.78 (10.20

JS=2.892

2 Income3

5.31 (1 491)

)

Residence 1

28.30 (21.844)

8)

26.22 (22.54

F=.082

) 8

5.22 (1.302 ) 9

^=16 469'

N

Table 3.1: Comparison of those taking different positions concerning proposed coal-fired power plant

Table 3.1: Comparison of those taking different positions concerning proposed coal-fired power plant they should be forced to change locations now, it would be so expensive, so prohibitive, that they may not even do it. So it almost comes across as a threat: 'If you want us to bring jobs into this county, back off, and let us move forward with our proposal to go in that location or else we'll go to some other county where they love and want us and give us what we want.'

This position of the company concerning location has likely fostered rigidity in the community on both sides. On the one hand, the supporters may fear that they will lose the project if the siting is changed, while those in opposition appear to be quite steadfast in their position.

C NIMBY/LULUs and the Power Plant

The NIMBY/LULU research literature documents environmental justice grassroots movements in which working class and minority groups in general try to keep undesirable energy projects out of their neighbourhoods and communities. With limited resources, these groups often challenge powerful corporations and government officials who support the corporations. This is not the case in this power plant controversy.

In Table3.1 we present select demographic characteristics of the pro, anti, and anti-location subgroups. Taken together, the respondents are middle-aged, with an average age of 54 years ranging from 34 to 75, and have resided in the county for an average of 28.5 years. Half of those in the sample have household incomes of $50,000 or more, and 71 percent of the sample were college graduates or had advanced degrees. With respect to income and education, figures for the county show the median household income was $37,536, and the educational level was only 15.2 percent of people 25 years and older who had a college degree or higher.11

Comparisons of the three subgroups indicated only small differences among them. Level of education was statistically significant for those opposed to the location compared to the other two subgroups; however, even this difference was not substantial. These subgroup demographic characteristics indicate that the proponents and the opposition are relatively similar with reference to social class characteristics. Given the high similar income and education levels, our sample is uncharacteristic of many NIMBY/LULU opponents of environmental sitings who are usually working class and minority.

Another important question about the respondents' positions on the power plant is the location in which each lives. NIMBY/LULU studies generally find that those closest to the siting that are considered undesirable are most likely to oppose the installation and to become grassroots activists. We asked each of the 31 respondents their addresses in the county, which allowed us then to plot the relationship of their residences to the proposed power plant. The county has almost 2,000 square miles of land and 16 communities, all of which are small except for one central commercial hub of approximately 7,000 residents. The 31 respondents resided in ten of the 16 communities. The plant site as proposed is closest to two of the small communities. Of those who support the power plant, none of the 14 respondents were residents of these two communities, but instead live in five other communities. Out of the 17 who are anti-power plant or antilocation, four respondents reside within the two towns, while the rest live in seven of the other communities. Therefore, it is only among the opposition groups that there are any in the samples who live in the two communities closest to the proposed plant. The rest are distributed throughout other communities in the county.

Our sample was a very limited segment of the county population. Many respondents indicated that there had been public meetings and letters to the editor in the local newspaper in which the proposed plant was discussed, but there had not been a countywide representative study published of public attitudes toward the proposed plant or a countywide referendum. We were able to acquire data which did give an indication of public support or non-support. Some of those who opposed the plant suggested that a candidate be identified for one of the three county commission positions that would be available for the 2006 Republican primary. Politically, this county is identified as predominately conservative Republican. The seated county commissioner, who supported the plant, decided to run for re-election. During the debates prior to the primary, both candidates stressed their divergent views, with the opposition candidate focusing especially on the plant location.

The opposition candidate won the Republican primary election by a margin of five percentage points and was unopposed in the general election. There were 5,867 registered voters of whom 3,933 (67%) actually voted. There were 23 voting precincts in the county, two of which comprised the two closest communities to the power plant.12If NIMBY is operative in this case, then the two communities would likely support the opposition candidate at higher levels than other communities. This was found to be the case. The candidate won with a 60 percent vote margin in the one community and 31 percent in the other. The difference between the two candidates in the other 21 precincts ranged from one to 27 percent, with the opposition candidate winning in 14 of the remaining 21 precincts. These data support the NIMBY principle but also demonstrate a large number of people throughout the county supporting the views of the opposition candidate.

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