Preaching the Gospel of “˜Clean Coal’

Sheehan: New voice of the ACCCE.
National Journal
Oct. 1, 2013, 5:59 p.m.

Laura Shee­han star­ted last month as seni­or vice pres­id­ent for com­mu­nic­a­tions at the Amer­ic­an Co­ali­tion for Clean Coal Elec­tri­city, but en­ergy has been a part of her life for as long as she can re­mem­ber.

Grow­ing up in Fairb­anks, Alaska, Shee­han watched the Trans-Alaska Pipeline be­ing built in the 1970s. Her grand­fath­er was a chef on an oil rig and her fath­er worked in seis­mic ex­plor­a­tion in the Gulf of Mex­ico. “My back­ground has al­ways been tied to en­ergy,” she said. “It’s al­ways been a part of my life in some way or an­oth­er.”

Shee­han gradu­ated from Bowie State Uni­versity with a bach­el­or’s de­gree in Eng­lish lit­er­at­ure in 1994 and earned a mas­ter’s de­gree in pub­lic com­mu­nic­a­tions and pub­lic re­la­tions from Amer­ic­an Uni­versity the fol­low­ing year. She began work­ing on Cap­it­ol Hill as a press sec­ret­ary for former Sen. Chris­toph­er Dodd, D-Conn., in 1996 and later worked in the of­fice of Rep. John Din­gell, D-Mich. From there, she went on to be­come com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or for the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee — a job that so­lid­i­fied her in­terest in en­ergy policy.

As com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or, Shee­han was in­volved in a host of high-pro­file en­ergy is­sues cul­min­at­ing in the En­ergy Policy Act of 2005. “While on the com­mit­tee I found my­self really fall­ing in love with en­ergy policy,” she said. “The is­sues we worked on and the de­bate around them were really in­triguing.”

In 2008, Shee­han got an in­sider’s view of the en­ergy in­dustry when she took a job as vice pres­id­ent of com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing at the Amer­ic­an Gas As­so­ci­ation. She stayed at the AGA for a little over two years and also worked as the as­so­ci­ation’s seni­or vice pres­id­ent for pub­lic af­fairs.

Shee­han heard about the job open­ing at the AC­CCE and jumped at the op­por­tun­ity to work on clean-coal ad­vocacy. “I’m not ashamed to ad­mit I was ag­gress­ive in go­ing for the po­s­i­tion,” she said. “Coal right now is crit­ic­al. It’s a fun­da­ment­al part of the en­ergy sup­ply chain and we need to en­sure it’s go­ing to be here for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

With the re­cent re­lease of En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing new coal-fired plants to use equip­ment that can cap­ture car­bon emis­sions — oth­er­wise known as clean-coal tech­no­logy — the AC­CCE has been thrust in­to the cen­ter of a de­bate over how quickly and at what cost the tech­no­logy can be ad­op­ted on a wide­spread com­mer­cial scale.

“There’s an in­cred­ible chal­lenge fa­cing the in­dustry right now with the EPA’s new reg­u­la­tions,” Shee­han said.

“We’re very pro­act­ive in telling our story through a vari­ety of chan­nels,” she ad­ded. “We’re get­ting our mes­sage about the im­port­ance of coal out there and people are listen­ing.”

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