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OHILI, NYOHA, Leave ESEA, Make NYSEC

New York’s downstate and upstate fuel oil associations go their separate ways

By Stephen Bennett

Two trade associations that represent fuel oil companies in New York City and Long Island, and fuel marketer Petro, have quit the Empire State Energy Association, citing dissatisfaction with its performance.

The Oil Heat Institute of Long Island and the New York Oil Heating Association, along with Petro, said they had formed the New York State Energy Coalition.

Dan Donovan, a board member of Star Gas Partners, Stamford, Conn., the parent company of Petro, said, “We thought that this organization”–the New York State Energy Coalition–“would do a better job for us in getting more of the downstate New York voices heard. It’s a new venture and I think it’s going to work out pretty well.”

The lobbying firm Shenker, Russo & Clark of Albany, N.Y., has been retained, and Michael Trunzo of that firm is representing NYSEC’s legislative and regulatory interests, said Kevin Rooney, CEO of OHILI, which is based in Hauppauge, N.Y., and represents heating oil companies on Long Island.

“For the last year or more we have been less than satisfied with the level of communication” by Empire State “on a range of issues,” Rooney said. He cited problems such as “finding out about [issues] after the fact” and “not being involved in legislative strategy or planning or legislative outreach.”

Rooney continued, “There’s nothing worse than being in the dark and then finding out from someone else that something is happening in Albany that you should have known about from your state association and didn’t.”

Thomas J. Peters, ESEA’s CEO and its executive vice president, did not return phone calls. By email he said, “I have no comment.” Rumors that Peters had left his position could not be confirmed. Joseph Mirabito of Mirabito Fuel Group in Binghamton, N.Y., who is listed as ESEA’s chairman, did not reply to messages asking for comment.

Rooney said both downstate associations had been chapters of the Empire State group for more than thirty years. He said the board of directors of the new group, NYSEC, consists of himself; Donovan; Bruce Fuhrmann, president of Swezey Fuel Co., Patchogue, N.Y.; Ray Hart, president of Hart Home Comfort, Oakdale, N.Y.; Allison Heaney, president of Skaggs-Walsh Fuel Oil Co., College Point, N.Y.; Rocco J. Lacertosa Jr., CEO of NYOHA, based in New York City; and Dan Vessio, president of Nulite Heating, Plumbing & Fuel Oil Co., in College Point.

Asked why it was necessary to create a new association, Rooney said, “We actually didn’t create a new association. What we did was we created an entity on paper only for the singular purpose of representing us–all three entities–in Albany on both legislative and regulatory affairs.” He added, “It’s not an association that has any offices, any staff, any overhead. It’s simply a paper entity. And we called it the New York State Energy Coalition.”

The Coalition, which Rooney said is registered in Albany for lobbying purposes, was created “simply to collect money and then hire outside contractors whether they’re a lobbying firm or regulatory affairs or whatever to represent our interests.”

Rooney said he collects and manages the money for NYSEC. “I send out the invoices, I collect the dues.” He added, “All three entities are paying the same amount to NYSEC as we used to pay to Empire State Energy Association.”

Funds for the National Oilheat Research Alliance continue to be collected by OHILI and NYOHA from their respective members, Rooney said.

While emphasizing that there are no plans to build NYSEC into a full-fledged trade association, Rooney said that “if other heating oil companies in the Hudson Valley or upstate New York think that their legislative and regulatory interests are better served through NYSEC than through ESEA” then they would be welcome to support NYSEC. “If something’s being done and you like it, and it’s good—effective–then maybe you should financially support it,” Rooney said.

The break with ESEA and the creation of NYSEC became effective May 1, Rooney said.

Lacertosa, the CEO of NYOHA, based in New York City, said NYSEC was just getting started and “will start to take shape over the summer.”

Trunzo, in addition to working for Shenker, Russo & Clark, is a former president and CEO of the New England Fuel Institute. He remains an advisor for public policy and industry relations for NEFI, which is based in Lexington, Mass.

Trunzo said he would be providing “full-service government relations” to NYSEC, which he said involved monitoring “all state and local government activities relative to their issues.” Natural gas expansion is one of those issues. A proposed bill within the past year that would have helped natural gas utilities extend service to more than one million homes in New York State passed in the Senate, Trunzo said, but it lacked “an Assembly companion,” and as a result “the bill didn’t go anywhere. But for a short period of time it was under active discussion. That was a concern” to the downstate associations. Trunzo added that he expected to be working actively on legislation for biodiesel blending.

The downstate associations will continue to retain the services of their regulatory counsel, Emilio Petroccione, and to support the Petroleum Marketers Association of America and NEFI, Rooney said.

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