Kelly Sarber is a public relations specialist in crisis management regarding toxic sewage sludge. She is owner and CEO of Strategic Management Group, "a finance, marketing, media and political consulting company based in San Diego, California. With a national reputation in managing the development of complex environmental projects, including wastewater and fresh water treatment facilities, solid waste landfills, renewable energy plants and recycling projects, clients include Southern California Edison, Sempra Energy and large New York City-based investment banking companies."
Sarber has coordinated extensive public relations campaigns on pro-sludge issues, as John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton detailed in their 1995 book, Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! Sarber spoke at BioCycle Magazine's 2010 conference in San Diego. BioCycle is a major industry proponent of turning toxic sludge into "biosolids compost.
Sarber's PR work in 1991--1992 for Enviro-Gro Technologies, a sludge hauler now operating under the name Wheelebrator included a vigorous pro-sludge campaign. Sarber approached business leaders and politicians in the rural town of Holly, Colorado (population 1,400), which Enviro-Gro had targeted as a dumping-site for New York City sludge.
Sarber has fought on the front lines of several other sludge campaigns involving sludge disposal for New York City. In addition to Enviro-Gro, her employers have included the New York Organic Fertilizer Company and Merco Joint Venture, the major players in the Big Apple's billion-dollar sludge disposal industry. The city has signed contracts totaling $634 million with Merco and New York Organic, in exchange for which the two companies have committed to haul away over a thousand tons per day of city sewage sludge.
Pro-sludge PR Spin in Action
Sarber offered her advice to other sludge marketers in a 1994 article titled "Campaign Tactics: How to Strategize for Successful Project Development." The article warns that "public opposition has taken its toll" on the sludge industry, which is experiencing "new, unprecedented levels of interest, discomfort and complaints from the public." To counter these stirrings of community self-determination, Sarber uses tactics that she attributes to sludge opponents, such as "creating photo opportunities, using a small number of vocal people to make it appear like a majority, and undermining messages through counter messages. . . . Countering the opposition without letting them determine the approval process is the most important goal of a good campaign manager."
Sarber also noted at a public meeting organized by opponents of sludge farming: "[Pro-sludge] advocates were placed directly on stage and demanded participation in the forum, which was granted. In addition, local advocates promoted the project through general grandstanding activities in the audience. . . . By targeting the press during the event, the spin of the story changed from an opposition meeting to one which showed that several farmers wanted to find out how they could get more biosolids. Rather than allowing the opposition to have a press 'success' in blasting the project, the media stories show support, with only a few dissenters. When Governor Romer of Colorado came out to throw a shovel full of New York City biosolids on a field, it was apparent that the initial siting of the project had been successful."
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- The EPA's plan to bypass opposition to sewage sludge disposal
- toxic sludge
- sewage sludge
- biosolids compost
- Sludge Proponents
- John Stauber
- Sheldon Rampton
- 25th Annual BioCycle West Coast Conference: Presentation Descriptions and Speaker Biographies, S-Z. April 12-15, 2010. Accessed via BioCycle Magazine April 4, 2011.
- Bypassing Barriers With "Active" and "Passive" Public Relations, PRWatch, Third Quarter, 1995: Volume 2, No. 3. Accesed via PRWatch.org April 4, 2011.
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