The most prominent group pushing to expand coal exports in Washington state has fired its spokeswoman and may be shifting its strategy in the aftermath of a hot mic incident.
The spokeswoman, Lauri Hennessey, was secretly recorded at a coal conference this fall. Among other lighthearted comments, she called the Puget Sound “so weird” and said an executive once scolded her for telling a Seattle journalist that coal companies are concerned about climate change.
Hennessey’s last day with the group, Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, was Saturday. She is being replaced by Mariana Parks.
The switch may signal a strategy change for the Alliance, which is organizing the push to ship hundreds of millions of tons of Wyoming and Montana coal through Pacific Northwest terminals to Asia. In Washington, terminals have been proposed for Cherry Point in Whatcom County and Longview in Cowlitz County.
The Alliance had been trying to establish a moderate reputation to appeal to the environmentally-conscious Pacific Northwest.
Hennessey has worked with local nonprofits, Democratic politicians and the Environmental Protection Agency. She is one of several “green strategists” coal companies have hired to push their proposals.
Parks has typically worked with business groups and conservatives, and served as a spokeswoman for Republican 2012 gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.
And another communications firm expected to take a larger role, the DCI Group, one of the more prominent voices for climate-change deniers.
Parks dismissed any suggestion of a strategy shift.
“It’s not a partisan issue,” she said. “It’s much more about how do you get the message about the implications of the proposals out to the broader public.”
Hennessey referred questions to Parks.