I appreciated Michael Gerrard's August piece, "Dodging the NIMBY Bullet: A Solution to Waste Facility Siting" (Perspective, p. 18). Waste facility siting is a subject that I consider a significant problem facing every U.S. citizen. Clearly, source reduction and recycling of waste should be and often is given priority over the construction of new disposal capacity. But at some point all local communities must come to grips with waste disposal.
Federal designation of regional compacts for low-level radioactive waste facility siting, and the state's capacity assurance planning for hazardous waste facility siting have been established, in part, to make it easier for local communities to handle their own waste. But these programs have failed to encourage communities to take responsibility. It would seem that the "NIMBY Bullet" is alive and well and always loaded for discharge. And if you think you've found a solution to dodging the bullet, try and find a solution to NOPE (em "Not On Planet Earth," or NIMEY (em "Not In My Election Year." Local opposition will also ensue.
The author's centralized approach (em using the federal government to "decide how much disposal capacity and how many facilities are really needed ... and which states would have responsibility for what facilities" (em may simply alienate citizens and add to the paralysis. Rigid decisionmaking based only on physical siting constraints, such as hydrologic criteria and geologic characteristics, may not prove sufficient to overcome community opposition. While this approach might work for some facilities at certain locations, I do not believe that one single process to regulate the siting of all waste streams will ever be effective.