On Tuesday, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court voted 3-1 to join the Texas Solar for All Consortium. Courtesy of Storyblocks.
Aug. 30, 2023
Following weeks of pressure from solar advocates, Tarrant County agreed to join a state-wide coalition vying for millions of federal dollars for solar projects after initially rejecting the proposal.
On Tuesday, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court voted 3-1 to join the Texas Solar for All Consortium, a month before the Sept. 26 deadline.
The measure was originally voted down by the Tarrant County Commissioners Court in July.
But Commissioner Alisa Simmons, who introduced the proposal, was not about to give up.
She and her staff spent the last month addressing the court’s concerns at subsequent meetings, rallying public support and those with technical expertise to get the proposal passed.
Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks was the only other supporter during the original vote. The measure finally passed with Commissioner Gary Fickes, District 3, switching his vote to yes. Court Judge Tim O'Hare remained a no vote. Commissioner Manny Ramirez, District 4, was absent.
“Commissioner Simmons knows this victory couldn’t have been achieved without the efforts of engaged Tarrant County citizens who wouldn’t take no for an answer,” said Nathan Smith, community outreach coordinator for Commissioner Simmons. “They organized to make their voices heard to the court via public comment and contacting their court representatives’ office. Many in the community also used their considerable technical knowledge to educate the court and help dispense with some of the misinformation or misunderstandings about the benefits of solar or the Solar for All program that were floating around. In the end, three of the five members of the court were convinced of the merits of this program to the community and voted yes.”
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Solar for All is an EPA competition derived from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. The grant is intended to fund solar installations that would benefit low-income residents.
The Texas Solar for All Consortium is made up of a coalition of Texas's largest counties and a few cities seeking up to $400 million for solar installations that benefit low-income residents.
Harris, Dallas and Travis counties and the city of San Antonio are all committed to the application.
The Texas entities are applying as a group to minimize the administrative burden as well as bolster their chances of receiving one of 60 grants available nationwide.
Because Tarrant County opted in late after a critical deadline passed in August, Dallas will be the lead county for North Texas’ share of the funding, if the application is approved.
On Tuesday, 13 members of the public spoke before the solar vote.
Four speakers were opposed. Critics complained that the grant was a waste of taxpayers money and would bring local government “one more step towards communism."
For the third time before the court, Lepinski attempted to dispel Commissioners's fears surrounding solar installations — this time addressing insurance premiums, shady installers and roofing repairs.
O’Quinn emphasized the positive image that solar projects would give Tarrant County, especially to a younger workforce, who want to see more action on climate change.
Meanwhile, former state representative Lon Burnam spoke on behalf of the Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club, saying that he’d advocated for solar since he was an undergraduate in the 1970s.
“It really doesn’t really matter what this Commissioners Court does on this particular item or agenda, it simply speaks to whether we are backwards and don’t understand our patriotic duty to support the development of solar energy in this country,” Burnam said. “All you have to do is look at what’s going on in Europe and recognize what has happened to the economies of Western Europe because of Russia and its ability to blackmail people over access to energy.”
Commissioner Simmons said pursuing new revenue streams that support Tarrant County residents, just makes good economic sense.
“When Tarrant County receives federal dollars — whether it's for disasters or whether it's for solar power — we lower the financial burden on all taxpayers and homeowners.”
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