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Solar and wind companies are coming to rural Texas.
These residents are trying to keep them out.
Emily Foxhall

Texas locals are concerned about environmental harm from renewable energy facilities and support a bill that would impose more regulations. The industry says it’s being unfairly singled out.

FRANKLIN COUNTY — Volunteer firefighter Jim Emery grew emotional as he spoke to the crowd at an anti-solar development town hall meeting in his northeast Texas community. Emery, who worked for decades at the nearby coal power plant before it closed in 2018, didn’t worry then about pollution from the plant.

But now, the fear of storage batteries catching on fire at a solar facility grip the 67-year-old.

“I’ve been in the fire department since we started in ’76, and this scares me more than anything I’ve ever been involved with,” Emery told roughly 50 people gathered in a local coffee shop called Penelope’s in Mount Vernon, the county seat. “We need to stop it. I don’t know how we can. But we don’t need solar power in Franklin County at all.”

People cheered and whistled. Someone shouted, “Amen!”

A community meeting attendee reacts to “before” and “after” photos of land purchased for solar projects. Credit: Evan L’Roy/The Texas Tribune

Credit: Evan L'Roy / Texas Tribune


Emily Foxhall joined us Dec. 19 as our new energy reporter. Previously, Emily covered the environment for the Houston Chronicle, her hometown newspaper, where she worked since 2015, following a two-year stint at the Los Angeles Times. Emily distinguished herself in covering the Santa Fe High School shooting and was part of a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news for coverage of Hurricane Harvey. She then roamed the state as “Texas Storyteller,” covering far-flung stories, including the first few months of COVID-19 across the regions of Texas.

Moving to the environment beat in 2020, Emily covered climate disasters, industrial pollution, flood infrastructure and environmental policy. She has a gift for weaving science and policy into human-centered narratives. As our energy reporter, Emily will remain based in Houston and again roam the state, covering oil, gas and renewables from the Permian Basin to the Gulf Coast, as well as the electrical grid and energy regulation (or the lack of it). Emily was a standout Texas Tribune fellow in 2012 while she was a student at Yale. We are thrilled to welcome her back.



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