Ex-House Speaker, A Gas Industry Ally, Joins Gas Utility

Jun 16, 2020

A day after leaving his post as speaker of Pennsylvania's House of Representatives, Mike Turzai has become general counsel for Peoples Gas, the Pittsburgh-based natural gas division of Essential Utilities Inc., the company said Tuesday.

Turzai, a Republican from suburban Pittsburgh, was an ally of Pennsylvania's natural gas industry while in office, including helping to rebuff efforts to impose a tax on production from the vast Marcellus Shale reservoir.

The Associated Press reported in January that Turzai was said to have received an offer from the company before Turzai announced that he would not run for re-election.

Turzai said no one made a formal offer until last week, when he resigned as speaker. He said he made a lot of connections during his time in the House.

"That’s just how it is. You have to interact with folks from all walks of life, and opportunities present themselves."

When asked if he will lobby his former colleagues, Turzai said Peoples Gas already has lobbyists.

"I’m not a lobbyist. I’m the chief legal officer and I’m part of the corporate executive team and that’s my role," he said.

It is not clear who might succeed Turzai as speaker. Next in line in GOP leadership is House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County.

Earlier this year, Bryn Mawr-based water utility Aqua America Inc. closed on its $4.3 billion purchase of Pittsburgh-based gas utility Peoples to become Essential Utilities. Peoples says it serves 760,000 homes and businesses.

In 2017, Turzai announced a run for governor, but dropped out when the Republican State Committee voted to endorse a rival in the primary. He also had expressed an interest in running for governor again in 2022, when Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is barred from seeking another four-year term.

Turzai was speaker for all five and-a-half years during Wolf’s time in office after serving four years as majority leader.