Renewable Energy Legal Defense Initiative

The Renewable Energy Legal Defense Initiative (RELDI) assists in providing 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 protected] 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.


Media Highlights

Renewable Energy Legal Defense Initiative (RELDI) I Credit: Erin Callahan, writer, editor and director

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 counsel Philip J. Leppla and Trent Dougherty.

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. On July 27, 2023, the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the Board's decision, allowing the project to move forward.

ClientFriends 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.

ClientCitizens for Agricultural Rights and Renewable Energy

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.

Other Resources

Read the report, Opposition to Renewable Energy Facilities in the United States: June 2024 Edition, in Columbia Law School's Scholarship Archive. 

Read the report, Rebutting 33 False Claims About Solar, Wind, and Electric Vehicles, at Columbia Law School's Scholarship Archive.

This resource bank provides a list of articles and reports about the impacts of wind and solar energy projects.

This database catalogues publicly available CBAs from renewable energy projects and other types of projects, and this report identifies best practices for negotiating and drafting CBAs.