Petroleum Institute Lawyer Picked for EPA Legal Counsel

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By Catherine Douglas Moran

A lawyer picked to be one of the EPA’s senior attorneys says he is learning about areas of the agency that he “did not touch” during his lobbying experience for an oil and natural gas trade association.

“The litigation and lobbying efforts I worked on revolved around fuel issues,” Erik Baptist, former senior counsel at the American Petroleum Institute and the Trump’s administration’s pick for the Environmental Protection Agency’s senior deputy general counsel, told Bloomberg BNA. “Those were in small particular areas relating to what EPA does overall.”

Baptist’s selection was among almost four dozen political appointees hired to fill various positions under Administrator Scott Pruitt, according to a June 27 memo sent by EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson. These political aides do not require Senate confirmation.

Baptist was a registered lobbyist from 2012 to 2016 during his six years as the counsel and then senior counsel at the American Petroleum Institute, the national trade association for oil and natural gas producers. While at the institute, he lobbied on issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline, the renewable fuel standard, and transportation of crude oil.

As senior deputy general counsel, Baptist will provide legal advice to the agency’s policymakers for implementing environmental laws. Baptist said that his game plan is to “work hard, learn a lot, and listen to those who have the internal knowledge here at EPA about the regulations and laws that affect the nation’s environment in addition to providing legal advice to the EPA policy staff.”

Baptist is the latest EPA appointee with ties to the fossil fuel industry. Pruitt has been criticized by environmental groups for his close ties to the energy sector. Several other agency officials who have worked in or represented fossil fuel companies include:

  •  Troy Lyons from the congressional relations office who previously worked at BP and Hess Corp.;
  •  Patrick Traylor, the deputy assistant administrator for enforcement who represented several fossil fuel companies while at Hogan Lovells; and
  •  Lee Forsgren, a new addition to the EPA water office who is a former NASA official and ex-lobbyist whose clients included General Electric Co. and Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises Inc.

Government, Private Sector Experience

Prior to his work at the American Petroleum Institute, Baptist was an attorney focused on investigations at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s enforcement office for two years. Before that, he was an associate at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, where he worked primarily on commercial litigation.

“Erik is a very accomplished lawyer and we wish him all the best in his new role at EPA,” API spokesman Michael Tadeo wrote in an email.

Baptist brings expertise in energy law and years of legal experience in the private and government sector that have shown his ability to master new subject areas quickly, colleagues say.

“He takes his work extremely seriously without taking himself too seriously,” Jeremy Medovoy, a longtime friend and colleague of Baptist, told Bloomberg BNA. “He works very hard to master a subject.”

Medovoy, an attorney-adviser at FERC, said that he’s been “joined at the hip” with Baptist since they met on their first day of law school in 2001 and stayed close friends when they both worked at McDermott Will & Emery and then FERC. Medovoy said that Baptist will bring a fair and balanced approach to the agency.

Joshua Rogaczewski, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, told Bloomberg BNA that he has known Baptist for 13 years since he started as a summer associate at the law firm. He said that while Baptist was a generalist at the firm, he has honed skills in energy and resource law at FERC and the American Petroleum Institute.

“I’d say Erik’s expertise is identifying issues and coming up with creative solutions,” Rogaczewski said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Douglas Moran in Washington at cmoran@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

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