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How can the community and developers work to mitigate the impact of large projects?

How can the community and developers work to mitigate the impact of large projects?

Matthew Eisenson
|October 3, 2023

A direct air capture facility owned by carbon removal company Climeworks. (photo: design boom)

When proposals for a large-scale project arrive in a community, local residents often express concerns about the potential impact of the project. When residents feel their concerns are not being addressed, they often mobilize in opposition, often by filing lawsuits. These lawsuits can be costly for everyone involved and can result in project delays or cancellations.

To avoid protracted conflicts and mitigate local impacts, developers and host communities can enter into legally binding contracts called Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs).Last week, Columbia University Sabin Center for Climate Change Law published Best Practice Guide Negotiate and draft these CBAs.In addition to this guide, the Center also publishes database 50 of these CBAs are from existing climate-related projects and other types of infrastructure

The guidance says CBAs can provide substantial benefits and avoid significant harm to communities and developers. A typical CBA provides a combination of pecuniary benefits (such as direct payments) and non-pecuniary benefits (such as environmental stewardship commitments) to the community. They are often offered in exchange for greater community support and greater certainty in the approval process.

new guide, Expert insights into best practice in community benefits agreements, outlines 35 recommendations for developers and host communities when negotiating and drafting CBAs. These are the results of extensive interviews with a panel of attorneys and other experts from across the United States who have collectively negotiated dozens of CBAs and similar agreements. As such, they reflect lessons learned through experience.

While the guidance is specifically designed to assist developers and host communities negotiating CBAs for direct air capture centers and carbon dioxide pipelines in the United States, the recommendations should be applicable to other types of infrastructure as well.

The 35 recommendations are divided into best practices for developers negotiating CBAs; best practices for host communities; best practices for co-drafting CBAs, and the key terms included therein. The final section of the guidance cites examples from the Sabine Center’s new CBA library as models for certain types of clauses.The Sabine Center invites readers to submit additional CBA examples for inclusion in the database at

Matthew Eisenson co-authored the guide with Romany Webb, a senior fellow at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law where he leads the Renewable Energy Legal Defense Program.

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