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Original authors: Hillary Aidun, Jacob Elkin, Matthew Eisenson, Radhika Goyal, Kate Marsh, Neely McKee, Maris Welch, Leah Adelman, and Shane Finn
The May 2023 edition of the Sabin Center's report, "Opposition to Renewable Energy Facilities in the United States," documents local and state restrictions against renewable projects across the country. It expands on previous editions with 228 local restrictions in 35 states and 9 state restrictions. There are also 293 contested projects facing opposition in 45 states. These numbers represent major increases, including 59 newly adopted local restrictions and 82 newly identified contested projects since the last edition in March 2022. However, the report does not claim to be exhaustive. Local restrictions include moratoria, bans, restrictive regulations, and zoning targeting renewable projects. The state laws are generally more limited in scope. Opposition takes various forms like lawsuits, petitions, and advocacy. While not judging the merit of opposition, the report shows it is widespread and growing, posing a challenge for renewable deployment. Even absent proposed projects, some places have banned or restricted renewables. Meanwhile, others have welcomed projects with reasonable regulations. Methods and intensity of opposition vary locally. But across the board, "not in my backyard" objections persist nationwide.
This report provides extensive additional case studies to supplement the EIA-860 dataset used on public sentiment toward renewable projects. The EIA data consists of relatively advanced projects, more likely to succeed, given they are reported annually when under construction or in advanced development. By contrast, this report captures projects in earlier stages that may become canceled before reaching EIA data. It also includes restrictions that could prevent proposed projects from advancing to be reported to EIA. While less in-depth than our case studies, it helps capture projects "missing" from the EIA dataset due to failure or cancellation. Adding a selection of these cases could build a more representative sample for analysis that accounts for early stage failures. Overall, the report underscores how opposition poses obstacles across all stages of project development, supporting the value of research into the nature and sources of negative sentiment. Sentiment analysis of media and public documents using natural language processing techniques could shed light on how early stage opposition emerges and evolves over a project’s lifespan. This could inform strategies to productively address concerns and gain community buy-in.
Aidun, Hillary, Jacob Elkin, Matthew Eisenson, Radhika Goyal, Kate Marsh, Neely McKee, Maris Welch, Leah Adelman, and Shane Finn. 2023. “Opposition to Renewable Energy Facilities in the United States: May 2023 Edition.” Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, May. https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/sabin_climate_change/200.