The news, when it came, was devastating, even if not unexpected. Those three brief paragraphs released on June 9 by the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island unleashed a collective gasp, as thousands of energy industry professionals, business associates and legislators received news of the passing of Kevin Rooney.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am deeply saddened to announce the untimely passing of Kevin Rooney…our friend and our leader as the long-time CEO of the Oil Heat Institute of L.I.
Over the course of almost four decades, Kevin had become far more than our Association CEO; he was the face of and voice for our industry’s interests to consumers, the media, governmental and elected officials at every level. No one loved this industry more than Kevin, and no one worked harder to preserve, protect and promote our industry than he did.
It is said that no one is irreplaceable, but Kevin came very close to achieving that unique status. His skills, talent, enthusiasm and total dedication to our industry and our association will be sorely missed.”
Kevin was a leader among leaders, with a big smile, a bigger laugh and a will of steel. He straddled worlds, whether his native England or his adopted America. He was equally at home in the hallowed halls of the White House as he was in classrooms or conference halls. And he gave each person in those rooms his full attention, even while commanding theirs.
To many in the energy industry, Kevin was the energy industry. CEO of OHILI for the past 36 years, board member of the New England Fuel Institute, Co-CEO of the New York State Energy Coalition, and Investment Committee member of the American Energy Coalition. Prior to joining OHILI, Kevin served as Director, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. under President Ronald Reagan (who appointed him to the position); as the Reagan campaign’s energy policy advisor; and as Director of Legislative and Public Affairs for the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) and the Edison Electric Institute.
He was also a visionary – a key player in New York’s move toward biodiesel-blending standards, including the downstate B5 standard, which went into effect at the beginning of this month. Additionally, under Kevin’s direction, OHILI launched a myriad of aggressive consumer outreach initiatives, including the Long Island Oilheat-Realty Partnership Program, the LI Loves Oilheat campaign, EnergySmart Long Island, and the Upgrade & Save Rebate program, which he described in a 2015 interview as “the absolute best thing we have done in my now 34 years at OHI.” He was honored for his contributions to the industry with the OESP Lifetime Achievement Award and NEFI’s Legends of Oilheat Award.
When Kevin came to OHILI, home heating oil was a little under $1 per gallon and more than half the homes in Nassau and Suffolk used Oilheat. He kept a calm head as prices rose to more than $4.20 per gallon and then dropped and rose again. He led us through the volatility of unchecked institutional hedging, the poaching of our customers by the utilities, and the de-funding and reauthorization of NORA.
Industry leaders, unanimous in their praise of Kevin while he was alive, have joined together again in sharing their memories of the man and his many great accomplishments. “Kevin Rooney was one of the bright lights in the industry, a very engaging mind, with a compelling personality,” said John Huber, President of the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA).
“I was very happy to work with Kevin in establishing the national laboratory for NORA on Long Island, and combining it with the technical education that the downstate New York groups provided.”
Huber added: “It is very sad to see someone of his talent pass away so early, when they had so much more to give. He is already greatly missed.”
Richard Rutigliano, of Long Island-based marketing agency PriMedia, Inc., remembered Kevin for his special combination of geniality and tenacity. “Kevin’s is perhaps one of the kindest souls this industry has ever encountered,” he said. “At the same time, he fought intensely for Main Street Oilheat and worked for his association members until the very end, even sending out OHILI newsletter updates just a few days after coming home from the hospital.” Rutigliano paused for reflection. “We’ll all miss Kevin dearly, but his life made such a mark. His passion and commitment have left an indelible legacy.”
“I’ve known Kevin Rooney since the late 1990s,” said New York Oil Heating Association (NYOHA) CEO Rocco Lacertosa. “I always found him to be an exceptional person and an exemplary association leader who was eager to share his knowledge with others and to lead by example.”
Lacertosa continued: “I had the privilege to work with him since I took over as CEO of NYOHA in 2015, and I got to know him a lot better on a personal and professional level since then. Even while terminally ill, he managed to play an indispensable role in the development of New York’s downstate B5 Bioheat® fuel standards and other initiatives that stand to help carry our industry into the future. He will definitely be missed.”
“Kevin was an association leader and a staunch advocate for the heating oil dealer not only in New York but nationwide,” noted NEFI President & CEO Sean Cota. “He was an astute observer of people and politics, and his strategic vision helped map-out a brighter future for our industry that will endure long after his passing.”
Nick Damadeo of Damadeo Law agreed: “Kevin Rooney was a warrior for the oil heat industry. He was armed with an incredible arsenal of knowledge of the issues and political contacts to get things done. He was combative when he needed to be to protect his industry and to advance its cause, but always with passion and never with malice.”
Likewise, success and accolades never went to Kevin’s head. “Kevin was pretty humble,” said Damadeo. “There is an autographed picture of Ronald Reagan on his office wall and nearby there is a Reagan poster. It contains a Reagan quote that sums up all that Kevin was to his industry: ‘There is no limit to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.’”
Mike Woloz, of Connelly McLaughlin & Woloz, recalled, “I met Kevin 18 years ago and he immediately struck this ‘kid’ starting out in the business of advocacy as one of the most thoughtful advocates I’ve ever met and remains so to this day — a fierce advocate for the industry but also for sensible ideas, kindness and respect for one another. He will be missed.”
Above all, Kevin Rooney was a family man and a friend. He is survived by Elaine, his loving wife of 45 years; his three children Susanne Sweeney (wife to Peter), Kristen Masotto (wife to Emil), and Brian (husband to Jackie); his brother, Patrick; and the joys of his life, his seven grandchildren Emma, Julia, Grace, Isabel, Katherine, William and Madelyn.