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In this edition, we dive into the escalating fights against rural solar and wind farms, and the coordinated campaigns that are behind a lot of them.
When an energy company offered to lease 500 acres of Roger Houser’s property for a solar array, it seemed like a great idea.
Houser’s ranching business in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley was struggling amid higher fuel and supply prices, and he could make more money leasing out the land, he told NPR and Floodlight. But soon after Houser got the energy company’s offer, a group called Citizens for Responsible Solar stepped in, launching a four-year fight against solar development in the rural county.
Citizens for Responsible Solar isn’t exactly a grassroots group organized by aggrieved neighbors. It was founded outside Washington, D.C., by longtime political operative Susan Ralston, who at first wanted to fight a solar farm near her home, and recruited fellow conservative insiders to join her.
While locals joined Citizens for Responsible Solar in opposing the solar farm on Houser’s property, it was Ralston who launched the campaign against it — and has spread the group’s solar-fighting agenda to campaigns and activists in at least 12 states, NPR and Floodlight report.
While there are valid reasons to be concerned about a potential solar array, industry analysts say Citizens for Responsible Solar relies on misinformation about solar’s environmental and health effects and pushes the idea that solar energy is “unreliable.” And it’s all contributing to a broader movement against rural clean energy, much of it powered by fossil fuel and utility funding.
Read more from NPR and Floodlight’s investigation into Citizens for Responsible Solar.
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- Regional Hubs Manager, Gulf Coast | Clean Air Task Force
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- Executive Director | U.S. Climate Action Network
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