Case Study

The Natural Resources Defense Council Exposing Europe’s Not-So-Green Power Plan

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Summary

Biomass has become an increasingly popular choice for European energy companies because of large government subsidies. Because of Europe’s tight land use regulations that prohibit the clearcutting of forests, power companies receive nearly all of their wood for biomass production from a region where trees are abundant and land use regulations are minimal – the southern United States.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the largest, most powerful environmental advocacy groups in the world, is working to eliminate biomass.

Press clips from Natural Resources Defense Counsel biomass media relations program created by DVL Seigenthaler

 

Challenges / Objectives / Implementation

NRDC turned to DVL Seigenthaler to develop and execute a media relations program directed toward both European and U.S. policymakers to bring the issue to the forefront of both countries’ energy policy agendas.

In the U.S., biomass faced stiff competition for attention among other forms of power – solar, wind, natural gas, nuclear – being addressed in the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Plus, the strong pro-biomass lobby continuously dismissed environmentalists’ concerns, and pointed to the boon biomass provided to the forestry industry and rural Southern communities.

The goals of DVL Seigenthaler’s communications plan included:

  • Educate EU and U.S. policymakers, their constituents and millions of citizens about the environmental harm caused by biomass energy.
  • Demonstrate the ecological harm caused in Southern communities by the demand for trees by energy producers located thousands of miles away.
  • Promote the use of true renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.
  • Support NRDC’s mission as it worked to shape EU and U.S. biomass policies.

DVL Seigenthaler’s core messages included:

  • The biomass industry is endangering our forests and is not sustainable.
  • These forests provide critical habitat to many rare and endangered species, filter freshwater for surrounding communities and act as a buffer against flooding and sea-level rise.
  • European policies incentivize energy companies for producing power from sources other than coal, including trees. Without this loophole, there would neither be a demand for wood, nor the enormous strain on endangered hardwood forests in the South.

DVL Seigenthaler executed a range of media tactics to support the program’s goals. Activities were largely based on two key milestones during 2015 – a letter to the EPA signed by dozens of the world’s leading climate scientists, and NRDC’s “Bottomland Hardwood Forests” report. The plan included international press releases for the EPA scientist letter and NRDC report, op-ed articles and blog posts for NRDC experts, preliminary background interviews with prominent reporters and media briefings with leading environmental reporters in Brussels and London.


Results

The program was an unprecedented success, compelling policymakers to address concerns related to biomass. DVL Seigenthaler secured 47 unique stories in major international media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Scientific American and National Geographic.

Most importantly, media stories secured by DVL Seigenthaler impacted the way policymakers are addressing biomass. Specifically, Britain’s Department of Environment and Climate Change released a statement immediately following a BBC story, vowing to take a closer look at biomass and to hold power companies accountable.