Share This Page

Former state Sen. Pippy to lead coal group

| Monday, July 9, 2012, 12:07 a.m.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Officials including former Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato (third from right), former Pennsylvania Sen. John Pippy (fourth from right), U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (second from right) and PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna (right) cut the ribbon for the new ramp connecting the Parkway West with I-79 north in Collier and Robinson townships on Tuesday, December 9, 2008.

Former state Sen. John Pippy will announce on Monday that he will become the leader of a new organization representing the state's coal industry.

The Republican, who represented Moon in the Senate from 2003 until June 30, told the Tribune-Review he was hired as CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, which was formed from the merger of the Pennsylvania Coal Association and Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy, or FORCE.

The formal announcement was expected to be made during a news conference at the Sheraton Station Square.

Pippy, 41, a member of the National Guard who has been deployed to Iraq and Kuwait, said he will focus on “telling the positive story of coal” on behalf of the 41,000-member alliance.

“When you have low-cost, reliable energy, you have a better quality of life and an economy that's humming,” Pippy said.

Pippy said his role will be to recruit and engage membership and communicate with the media. Lobbying and government relations work will be handled by George Ellis, president of the Coal Association.

In taking over a statewide advocacy group, Pippy joins a long line of former legislators to make the jump from public office to lobbying or public relations.

“It's something we see quite often,” said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. Hiring a former representative or senator “can certainly supercharge a lobbying effort,” he said.

In 2010, UPMC hired former state Sen. Sean Logan as its vice president for community relations. The Plum Democrat had served in the Senate since 2000.

Former Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato this year was hired by health insurer Highmark Inc. to head up its public and government relations efforts.

Former Gov. Tom Ridge runs his own lobbying firm, Ridge Policy Group, with offices in Harrisburg and Washington.

Several powerful leaders from other parts of the state, including Robert Jubelirer, David “Chip” Brightbill and Joe Loeper, have settled into lobbying jobs after leaving office, Kauffman said.

Kauffman said organizations hire ex-lawmakers because “they have familiarity with the players, they know the system, they have access to internal information sources that many other people don't have.”

Pippy said he will split his time between FORCE's office in Washington County and the Coal Association's office in Harrisburg. While there will be travel demands, he expects to have more time with family, which he said was a major factor in his announcement in January that he would not seek re-election.

“I've enjoyed my 16 years in office,” he said. “But it's a service job; you put a lot of time and hours in.”

The coal industry is facing a number of pressures, including stronger government regulation and competition from low-cost natural gas produced from the Marcellus shale formation.

But Pippy said the greatest threat comes from Washington, where new regulations meant to clean up air pollution from coal-fired power plants have led to energy companies closing plants. FirstEnergy Corp. and GenOn Energy Inc. have announced plans to close power plants in Pennsylvania and neighboring states rather than pay to upgrade environmental controls.

“The reality is coal provides more than 45 percent of the base load (of electricity),” Pippy said. “Instead of attacking it, the (Obama) administration should be finding ways to make us more efficient.”

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.