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Latinos in Arizona speak out on solar energy tax

15 Jan 2015  |   Pedro Lopez

Tags: Clean Energy, Latinos, Climate Change, Environmental Justice

As one of Arizona’s largest electric utility, Salt River Project (SRP) has a plan for an across-the-board rate increase and a tax on rooftop solar panels. But SRP needs to be accountable to the community – to us – and we’re speaking up against this dirty and unfair plan.

That’s why Chispa is mobilizing the Latino community. We need you speaking up and sending comments, and invite you to join us at a public meeting on February 9th. Together, we can make a difference. Start by signing the petition against SRP’s tax on solar here: http://bit.ly/1KKsBkg

Latinos represents more than a third of SRP’s customer base, and our community should have a voice in the decisions that affect our health, our pocketbook, and our children’s future. But the utility has made little effort to include us at their public meetings. They’ve staged their week-long series of hearings to get public comments far away from the Hispanic community. When I was at the first public hearing on January 8th at Glendale High School, they didn’t even provide on-site translation for those who need it.

But to SRP's surprise, more than 25 Latino families showed up, and several testified regarding their concern over the exclusion of Spanish speakers. They also expressed strong opposition to the proposed electricity rate hike. They were frustrated and disappointed at SRP's management, and so was I.

I asked SRP Board President David Rousseau why they aren't making a concerted effort to invest in clean, renewable energy in their plans. And I asked why SRP is increasing our rates to pay for a one-billion-dollar natural gas plant that will keep polluting our communities rather than investing in clean solar energy that will create jobs in our community. But he didn't give me a clear answer.

Karen Nazario, a Chispa volunteer and Phoenix Union High School student, also spoke on behalf of her campus group at the public hearing. She told the board that over the past six months, she and her fellow students talked to more than a thousand Latino families who told them about their concern over the polluted air we breathe. They asked for clean energy to replace dangerous, polluting fossil fuels.

It wasn’t just the Latino community who showed up. More than 200 Arizona residents attended this hearing and also raised concerns over SRP taxing solar energy in Maricopa County, which is just a thinly veiled attempt to kill access to rooftop solar.

SRP did tell Chispa organizers at the hearing that they wanted to be in touch with us about having language access for monolingual Latino SRP customers at future hearings. But unfortunately, they never did reach out. And SRP is now ending their public comment hearings. That says a lot.

While the hearings may be ending, they're still taking comments from the general public online, and on February 9th the SRP management will present these public comments to the governing board. We want to make sure your voice is heard.

Sign our petition here to speak out against SRP’s plan to increase rates and tax solar rooftop panels: http://bit.ly/1KKsBkg

Thanks for your support!

Pedro Lopez is director of Chispa, a program of the League of Conservation Voters.



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