Renewable Energy Legal Defense Initiative
The Renewable Energy Legal Defense Initiative (RELDI) provides pro bono legal representation to local residents, community groups, and public interest organizations who support bringing utility-scale and community-scale wind and solar projects to their communities. RELDI advocates for individual projects in courtrooms, in administrative proceedings, and in front of local zoning boards. RELDI also advocates against unreasonable restrictions on renewable energy development and provides informational resources to stakeholders and the public.
Please contact Matthew Eisenson at email@example.com if (1) you are an attorney interested in working on a matter with RELDI or (2) you are aware of any controversies related to the siting of renewable energy projects in the United States that might benefit from legal counsel.
- In some fights over solar, it's environmentalist vs. environmentalist, Louisville Public Media, June 18, 2023
- Opposition to Renewable Energy Facilities in the United States/50-State Survey of Siting Restrictions, JD Supra, June 15, 2023
- Why the pushback against more renewable energy infrastructures?, NPR, June 14, 2023
- Permission to Build, The New York Times Newsletter, June 13, 2023
- Hundreds of US localities restrict renewables siting, with 293 projects currently contested: Columbia report, Utility Dive, June 5, 2023
- The debt-limit deal could help clean energy. But probably not much, L.A. Times, June 1, 2023
- Across the Country, a Big Backlash to New Renewables Is Mounting, News from the States, Feb. 14, 2023
- US: Anti-Renewable Groups Target Whale Deaths, Deutsche Welle, Mar. 6, 2023
- Why 23 Dead Whales Have Washed Up on the East Coast Since December, New York Times, Feb. 28, 2023
- An activist group is spreading misinformation to stop solar projects in rural America, NPR.com, Feb 18, 2023 (radio version for March 16, 2023 All Things Considered linked here)
- How an Electric Truck Factory Became a Lightning Rod in Georgia, New York Times, March 14, 2022
- Accelerating renewable energy buildout faces big hurdles, even with Inflation Reduction Act: developers, Utility Dive, September 6, 2022
- The Senate has a climate deal. Now comes the hard part, The Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2022
- Special Report: U.S. solar expansion stalled by rural land-use protests, Reuters, Apr. 7, 2022
- As utility-scale renewables expand, some Midwest farmers are pushing back, Grist, Apr. 11, 2022
- Hamptons Opponents Hound Offshore Wind-Power Project, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 16, 2022
- Power companies' plans to expand wind and solar on the Eastern Plains meet local headwinds, CPR News, October 21, 2021
- Biden clean energy plan faces permitting 'choke point', E&E News, June 8, 2021
- Solar Power or Open Space? North Livermore Project Reveals California's Green Fault Lines, Bay Nature, May 6, 2021
- Local renewable fights threaten 100% clean power -- analysts, E&E News, March 10, 2021
- The Shift to Renewable Energy Can Give More Power to the People by Bill McKibben, The New Yorker, March 4, 2021
- The Wild Ways Local Governments are Blocking Renewables Energy, Gizmodo, February 25, 2021
- Pro Bono Legal Team Helps Farmers and Homeowners Fight for Renewable Energy, State of the Planet, August 22, 2019
- Lawyers embracing the good fight for solar power, PV Magazine, July 8, 2019
- Dee-fense! Sallan Foundation, June 1, 2019
Sample RELDI Matters
Clients: Kevin Erf & Tom Yingling
Description: The Emerson Creek Wind Farm is a proposed onshore wind energy facility to be constructed in Huron and Erie Counties in Ohio. If constructed, the facility would produce 300 megawatts of energy. RELDI intervened in a proceeding on the proposed wind farm before the Ohio Power Siting Board on behalf of two local farmers who support the facility. RELDI is grateful for the support of our local colleague Philip J. Leppla of Leppla Associates, Ltd.
Status: On June 24, 2021, the Ohio Power Siting Board granted a certificate for the Emerson Creek Wind Farm. On July 23, 2021, local opponents filed an application for rehearing, which RELDI opposed. On November 18, 2021, the Board denied the application for rehearing. On January 14, 2022, local opponents appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. On June 6, 2022, RELDI filed an amicus brief urging the Ohio Supreme Court to affirm the Ohio Power Siting Board's decision. The appeal is pending.
Client: Friends of Flint Mine Solar
Description: The Flint Mine Solar project is a 100-megawatt solar photovoltaic facility proposed to be located in the towns of Coxsackie and Athens, New York. Friends of Flint Mine is a group of local farmers, landowners and residents who believe the solar project will benefit their community. In 2019 RELDI represented Friends of Flint Mine in challenging the Town of Coxsackie's ban on solar projects in residential and agricultural zones. Although the Superior Court ruled in favor of the town, the Flint Mine Solar Project could still be approved through the New York State process for siting energy projects. RELDI then represented the Friends in the statewide process before the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, which empowers the state to override local zoning restrictions.
Status: On August 4, 2021, the Siting Board granted a certificate for the Flint Mine Solar Project, overriding Coxsackie's restrictive solar law.
Clients: Friends of Flint Mine Solar, Win With Wind, Carrie and William McCausland, Scott and Donna Griffin, Kenneth Roberts, Karol Toole, and John Ohol.
Description: In 2020, New York enacted the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, which created a new Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES). Pursuant to the statute, ORES developed a streamlined process for siting renewable energy facilities and issued regulations in March 2021. In June 2021, a number of local towns and advocacy groups sued ORES and the state to challenge the statute and the regulations. See Town Of Copake vs. NYS Renewable Energy, Index No. 905502-21 (Sup. Ct., Albany Cnty.). On September 3, RELDI filed an amicus brief in support of the State. On October 7, 2021, the court issued a decision dismissing the lawsuit against the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting. On November 5, 2021, the plaintiffs appealed. On December 2, 2022, RELDI submitted an amicus brief in the state appellate court.
Status: On May 18, 2023, the state appellate court issued a favorable decision upholding the regulations, as described here.
Client: Ovid Township Landowners
Description: The Board of Ovid Township, Michigan, was considering adopting a solar energy ordinance that would have significantly restricted solar energy development. RELDI assisted in writing a letter to the Board on behalf of fourteen local landowners who support solar energy. The letter noted the proposed ordinance's legal vulnerabilities and inconsistencies with public policy, and urged the Board to reject the ordinance. RELDI is grateful to our local colleagues Professor Jacqueline Hand and Professor Nick Schroeck of the University of Detroit Mercy.
Status: The Board adopted a less restrictive ordinance that will allow solar energy projects to go forward.
Client: Win with Wind
Description: The South Fork Wind Farm project will include 15 turbines stationed 35 miles off the coast of Long Island and is expected to produce 130 megawatts of energy. Win with Wind is a group of South Fork residents who support the project because they wish to see their community become a clean energy leader. From 2019 to 2021, RELDI acted as legal counsel to Win with Wind in the New York Public Service Public Service Commission proceeding regarding one piece of the project, a submarine transmission cable that will bring the electricity from the wind turbines to a landing site onshore. While the Public Service Commission proceeding was pending, project opponent Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott sued the Town of East Hampton in state supreme court to challenge the town’s decision to grant the developer an easement. RELDI filed an amicus brief on behalf of Wind with Wind.
Status: On March 18, 2021, the Public Service Commission approved the cable. The Public Service Commission subsequently approved South Fork Wind's environmental management and construction plan and issued a water quality certification for the export cable. On February 24, 2022, the New York Supreme Court, Suffolk County, dismissed Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott's petition challenging East Hampton's decision to grant South Fork Wind an easement for their transmission cable.
Description: Citizens for Agricultural Rights and Renewable Energy (CARRE) is a community group in Madison County, Iowa, that supports wind energy because of its environmental and economic benefits. RELDI wrote a letter to the Madison County Board of Supervisors on behalf of CARRE advocating for a wind energy ordinance that would allow for sensible siting of wind turbines. RELDI also filed an amicus brief on behalf of CARRE to support Madison County's approval of a 250-megawatt wind farm in a lawsuit brought by opponents of the project. Madison County Coalition for Scenic Preservation v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of Madison County (Iowa Court of Appeals). RELDI is grateful for the support of our local colleagues the Iowa Environmental Council and Channing Dutton of Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake.
Status: On January 21, 2021, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed Madison County's decision to permit the wind farm.