A political group deeply connected to conservative politics and a major fossil fuel investor is spreading misinformation around the country in a coordinated effort to undermine solar energy, especially in rural communities, NPR and Floodlight report.
Citizens for Responsible Solar was founded by Susan Ralston, a former aide to Karl Rove who resigned from the George W. Bush administration over her dealings for disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. When she was launching the group, Ralston consulted with anti-renewable energy activist John Droz who defended Trump’s claim that wind turbines cause cancer and her consulting firm received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the foundation of a major fossil fuel investor who is also a leading GOP donor.
The group claims it is only against certain solar projects, but its website makes broad and false claims about solar energy overall, including that it contributes to climate change. Once the misinformation spread by CRS and other groups like it takes hold in rural communities, it can harm individuals — like Roger Houser in Page County, Virginia, who was blocked from building a dollar array on his own farm — and efforts to combat climate change more broadly.
“It’s an enormous concern,” said Alan Anderson, a Kansas renewable energy lawyer. “If we can’t get projects permitted at counties or townships or whatever local level makes a decision, we can’t do any of the goals we think we need to do for climate change.”