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.”