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Veterans Group Cites National Security in Debate Over Changing Ohio's Renewable Energy Standards

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Opponents are lining up to voice their opinion on a proposal to change Ohio’s energy efficiency laws. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, says the measure simply reforms existing policies, but others say the bill will weaken efficiency standards.

Critics have slammed the proposed law, saying it’ll lead to higher utility bills and less investment in efficiency projects.

Zach Roberts, an Ohio Air National Guard veteran, has a different take on the issue. Roberts is now the Ohio director of Operation Free, a national campaign that gathers veterans to advocate for clean energy policies. The group says the advancement of clean energy is in the best interest of national security.

Roberts says reliable and long-lasting energy resources overseas is important for the safety of the troops. He adds that that same kind of reliability is needed on the state level.

“In the event we have catastrophes in Ohio, whether they’re man-made or nature, the National Guard is often times the first ones who are called to respond. We are part of the first responder community," Robert's said, "And it’s incredibly difficult for the National Guard to respond to domestic issues if we’re having our own issues with energy being supplied to the bases.”

Some say the bill could weaken the efficiency standards that utilities must follow. It also proposes a repeal of the Buy Ohio provision which requires utilities to obtain a certain amount of renewable energy from Ohio-based projects.

Roberts says these changes could destabilize the civilian grid on which military bases also rely.

Republican Sen. Cliff Hite represents the Findlay area which has several pending efficiency projects. He wants to hear about every possible outcome to changing the state’s energy policies because of the impact it could have on these projects.

Hite agrees that it’s important to reevaluate the state’s policies. With the major push for natural gas development and the recovering economy, Hite says the legislature should make sure the policies created in 2008 are still working with today’s changing energy environment.

“Are there cost savings for the taxpayers and the ratepayers in the state of Ohio? Have we made progress? Are many of these projects being beneficial? Are they creating jobs?" Hite said, "All these different things...This bill has definitely raised a lot of those questions and more. And we just need to get the bottom of it, find out exactly not only where we’re at, but where we want to go with this.”

As a veteran, Roberts says he’s also concerned about the amount of clean energy-related jobs that could be lost if the standards were to pass. He says these are jobs that members of the military can fit into after serving overseas.