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Pennsylvania Coal Alliance arises amid heat of election year

July 12, 2012 No Comments by Keystone

From the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette:

By Erich Schwartzel / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

John Pippy must be a confident man.

He’s opted to leave one organization with a poor reputation — the state Senate — to lead another group with an image problem: the coal industry.

Mr. Pippy, a Republican from Moon who represented the 37th District for nine years, will head the newly formed Pennsylvania Coal Alliance and steer its lobbying efforts at a time when the energy source is under attack from regulators and is competing in a market shifting toward cheaper alternatives like natural gas.

The recent focus in Pennsylvania energy has been on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, but the Coal Alliance has been working over the past year preparing efforts to influence Harrisburg policy on the famous black bedrock. The group formally announced itself Monday, in the heat of an election year, with plans to air advertisements attacking what it sees as burdensome regulation from Washington, D.C.

Mr. Pippy resigned from the state Senate earlier this month, and his move to the Coal Alliance was “probably the worst-kept secret we had,” said the organization’s president, George Ellis.

Mr. Pippy, who led his first board meeting Monday after a formal announcement was made, will oversee an initial annual budget of more than $1 million.

That money will be used to tell the “whole story of coal,” said Mr. Ellis. That whole story will be told to Harrisburg, where the association will become the latest energy lobbying group trying to influence policy and media relations.

The Coal Alliance, with offices in Washington, Pa., and Harrisburg, formed after two organizations — the Pennsylvania Coal Association and Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy (FORCE) — merged into one. Funding for the organization comes from member fees from more than 250 members.

“The industry is facing a frontal assault,” said Mr. Ellis. “It was inevitable that the two groups would join together.”

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