Thursday, October 26, 2006

As the revolving door turns: ex-Bush official joins law firm with big polluter clients

AIR POLLUTION: Former EPA official joins firm representing utilities, refiners
Darren Samuelsohn, Greenwire senior reporter

A law firm that represents some of the nation's largest electric utilities and petroleum refiners has hired the former head of U.S. EPA's air pollution division under President Bush.

Jeff Holmstead ran EPA's air office from 2001 until he left last summer for a year-long trip around the world with his family. He is joining Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani, to direct an "environmental strategies group" in Washington, the firm said...

Bracewell & Giuliani represents many of the country's biggest utilities, including TXU Corp., Southern Co. and Duke Energy Corp., as well as the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association and Valero Energy Corp. Wind turbine developer FPL Energy is also a client.

During his tenure at EPA, Holmstead was criticized by some in the environmental community as he advanced many of the Bush administration's most controversial environmental policies. He was a chief architect of the "Clear Skies" legislation for power plants that failed to make it out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He also played a key role on regulations to overhaul the New Source Review permitting program and to allow market-based trading of mercury emissions from electric utilities.

A federal appeals court earlier this year unanimously rejected one of the major NSR rules Holmstead worked on. Litigation challenging the mercury rules is not expected to be resolved until next year at the earliest.

Frank O'Donnell, head of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, called Holmstead's move to the law firm "a classic example of the revolving door syndrome."

But O'Donnell also conceded Holmstead gives the firm added punch. "He is a very smart guy," O'Donnell said. "The move does tend to solidify the perception that Bracewell Giuliani has become the most influential of private law firms when it comes to clean air policy."

Holmstead's resume includes a four-year stint in the White House general counsel's office as an environmental adviser to former President George H.W. Bush. Before joining EPA, Holmstead also worked at Latham & Watkins in Washington representing industry clients.
[from Dow Jones]

O'Donnell: "After working for years in the government to help industry, it's time for Holmstead to cash in."

Holmstead defended his government record. "When I was in the government, I always did what I thought was the right thing to do," he said, adding that "one of the appeals of Bracewell is a lot of their clients are companies that really are trying to do the right thing."

Bracewell Giuliani has hired a number of other top environmental policymakers from the Bush administration, including Ed Krenick, chief of the EPA's congressional affairs office, and Lisa Jaeger, who was the EPA's general counsel.

"They're like a sports team that's stocking up on expensive free agents," said O'Donnell.

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