Opposition to Renewable Energy Facilities in the United States: March 2022 Edition

By Jacob Elkin, Hillary Aidun et al., 

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 renewable energy facilities’ economic and environmental benefits, local opposition often arises. This report updates a previous Sabin Center report, published in February 2021, and documents local restrictions on and opposition to siting renewable energy projects for the period from 1995 to early 2022. 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.

The report provides state-by-state information on local laws to block, delay or restrict renewable energy. These include moratoria on wind or solar energy development; outright bans on wind or solar energy development; regulations that are so restrictive that they can act as de facto bans on wind or solar energy development; and zoning amendments that are designed to block a specific proposed project. While local governments at times enact legislation in response to a specific project proposal, as discussed below, some municipalities have banned, placed moratoria on, or significantly restricted wind and solar energy development even absent a proposed project. On the other hand, many local governments have allowed or welcomed renewable energy.

Read the report, Opposition to Renewable Energy Facilities in the United States: March 2022 Edition in Columbia Law School's Scholarship Archive.