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Clearing the Air for Future Generations

Along with being home to Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA), that has been providing safe, affordable, convenient public transit service for 25 years, the wealth of outdoor activities available to residents year-round helps make Stark County one of the best locations to live, work, and raise a family. The fact is whatever you like to do, hike, bike, run, canoe, kayak, swim, bird watch, golf, skate, ski, or simply stop and smell the roses, you can do it here.

In addition to enjoying all that the great outdoors has to offer, there is something else you can do here thanks to SARTA’s enthusiastic embrace of, and investment in, alternative energy and sustainability: breathe easier. That’s because the system’s full throttle drive to replace its smoke-belching diesel buses with low or zero-emission vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), batteries, and, most especially, hydrogen fuel cells (HFC) has removed thousands of tons of harmful pollutants from the air above Stark County and Northeast Ohio since it began more than ten years ago.

While that in and of itself was a remarkable achievement, SARTA CEO Kirt Conrad wasn’t satisfied. After assembling and operating one of the largest fleets of HFC-powered transit vehicles in the Western Hemisphere, he was convinced that hydrogen, Earth’s most abundant element, could and should play an essential role in helping a wide array of industries reduce harmful emissions, increase energy efficiency, and meet their sustainability goals.

SARTA fuel cell van being refueled

Using SARTA’s successful experience as a hook, Conrad began traveling the nation and the world touting the benefits of HFCs. For years, his was a relatively lonely voice drowned out by advocates for the other technologies that were dominating the zero-emission conversation. That changed radically in February of 2022 when the Biden Administration announced that $8 billion in funding for the development of four “clean hydrogen hubs” was included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (ILJA).

“I felt both vindicated and excited when I learned about the CHH funding,” Conrad said. “For the first time the federal government was acknowledging that I had been right all along: hydrogen would be a vital component of the nation’s long-term energy strategy. I immediately began working to ensure that Ohio and Stark County could reap the economic and environmental benefits of the nation’s massive investment in H2 technology.”


That work included forming the Ohio Clean Hydrogen Hub Alliance (OH2), the coalition of more than 100 companies, interest groups, universities, and community leaders that led the effort to convince the Department of Energy (DOE) to locate a hub in the state. Eventually, OH2 joined the Appalachian Regional Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2), the multi-state entity that competed for and secured funding from the DOE. You can read more about OH2 and ARCH2 at

“The CHH concept will greatly magnify the environmental benefits SARTA’s HFC fleet has already generated and clear the air for generations to come,” said Conrad. “Just thinking of the future makes me want to go for a run.”

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