Achieving lower carbon emissions in the United States will require developing a very large number of wind, solar, and other renewable energy facilities, as well as associated storage, distribution, and transmission, at an unprecedented scale and pace. Although host community members are often enthusiastic about the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy facilities, local opposition often arises. This report updates and considerably expands two previous Sabin Center reports, published in September 2021 and March 2022, and documents local and state restrictions against, and opposition to, siting renewable energy projects for the period from 1995 to May 2023. Importantly, the authors do not make normative judgments as to the legal merits of individual cases or the policy preferences reflected in local opponents’ advocacy, nor as to where any one facility should or should not be sited. Bracketing any such judgment, the report demonstrates that local opposition to renewable energy facilities is widespread and growing, and represents a potentially significant impediment to achievement of climate goals.
In nearly every state, local governments have enacted laws and regulations to block or restrict renewable energy facilities, and/or local opposition has resulted in the delay or cancelation of particular projects. In this edition, the authors found at least 228 local restrictions across 35 states, in addition to 9 state-level restrictions, that are so burdensome that they could have the effect of blocking a project. The authors also found 293 renewable energy projects that have encountered significant opposition in 45 states.
The 228 local restrictions in this report include 59 newly adopted restrictions (adopted post-March 2022) and 58 previously overlooked restrictions (adopted pre-March 2022). The 9 state-level restrictions in this report include 1 newly adopted restriction (post-March 2022) and 3 previously overlooked restrictions (pre-March 2022). The 293 contested projects in this report include 82 new controversies (post-March 2022) and 24 previously overlooked controversies (pre-March 2022). These top-line figures, however, are only indicative. While the report includes all of the restrictions and controversies that we have determined meet our criteria, it does not purport to be exhaustive.
Energy and Utilities Law | Environmental Law | Land Use Law | Law
Matthew Eisenson, Opposition to Renewable Energy Facilities in the United States (Sabin Center for Climate Change Law May 2023 ed.).
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/sabin_climate_change/200/