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Modular Evaluation Method for Subsurface Activities (MEMSA). A novel approach for integrating social acceptance in a permit decision-making process for subsurface activities

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Herman van Os, Rien Herber, Lambertus Johannes Regnerus Scholtens

School/Research organisations


We investigate how the decision support system ‘Modular Evaluation Method Subsurface Activities’ (MEMSA) can help facilitate an informed decision-making process for permit applications of subsurface activities. To this end, we analyze the extent the MEMSA approach allows for a dialogue between stakeholders in a transparent manner. We use the exploration permit for the underground gas storage facility at the Pieterburen salt dome (Netherlands) as a case study. The results suggest that the MEMSA approach is flexible enough to adjust to changing conditions. Furthermore, MEMSA provides a novel way for identifying structural problems and possible solutions in permit decision-making processes for subsurface activities, on the basis of the sensitivity analysis of intermediate rankings. We suggest that the planned size of an activity should already be specified in the exploration phase, because this would allow for a more efficient use of the subsurface as a whole. We conclude that the host community should be involved to a greater extent and in an early phase of the permit decision-making process, for example, already during the initial analysis of the project area of a subsurface activity. We suggest that strategic national policy goals are to be re-evaluated on a regular basis, in the form of a strategic vision for the subsurface, to account for timing discrepancies between the realization of activities and policy deadlines, because this discrepancy can have a large impact on the necessity and therefore acceptance of a subsurface activity.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-122
Number of pages25
JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Early online date27 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017

    Research areas

  • Subsurface activities, Decision support systems, Social acceptance, Salt dome, Mining, Underground natural gas storage

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