Former Senate Aide Works on Conservation in Energy Sector

Eric Washburn has joined the Policy Resolution Group at Bracewell & Giuliani, April 2014
National Journal
Christopher Snow Hopkins
Add to Briefcase
Christopher Snow Hopkins
April 14, 2014, 3:51 p.m.

As a teen­ager, Eric Wash­burn im­mersed him­self in books about eco­logy. Home-schooled for a year on a ranch in Col­or­ado’s Yampa River Val­ley, the fu­ture aide to two Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic lead­ers shot thou­sands of pho­to­graphs of loc­al wild­life.

“I think that was the most form­at­ive year of my life,” said Wash­burn, who just joined the Policy Res­ol­u­tion Group at Bracewell & Gi­uliani. “It was that Col­or­ado ex­per­i­ence that in­stilled in me that love of nature.”

At Bracewell’s PRG, Wash­burn will draw on his ex­pert­ise — work as an en­vir­on­ment­al­ist plus a dec­ade in the Sen­ate fol­lowed by a dec­ade on K Street — to ad­vise util­it­ies and oth­er cli­ents in the en­ergy space. As oil and gas com­pan­ies ex­pand their op­er­a­tions in the West­ern U.S., Wash­burn will help them set up “hab­it­at ex­changes” to mit­ig­ate eco­lo­gic­al dam­age.

“In­ev­it­ably, you’re go­ing to have a cer­tain amount of harm to the hab­it­at, wheth­er it’s be­cause of a new oil well or a wind farm,” he said. “So you look for areas off­s­ite where you can in­vest in restor­ing that hab­it­at so that there’s no net loss.”

One of the an­im­als threatened is the great­er prair­ie chick­en, an en­dangered spe­cies that draws spec­tat­ors for its flam­boy­ant plumage and out­land­ish mat­ing ritu­al. An­oth­er is the great­er sage-grouse, which has not been clas­si­fied as an en­dangered spe­cies but has spawned con­ser­va­tion ef­forts on the state and na­tion­al levels. “We’re wait­ing to see, over time, what the mit­ig­a­tion needs are with re­spect to these two birds,” Wash­burn said.

Wash­burn, 51, who ar­rives from Blue­Wa­ter Strategies, was en­ticed to Bracewell & Gi­uliani by close friend Scott Segal, who leads the PRG. “He and I have lit­er­ally talked to each oth­er for over 10 years about the pos­sib­il­ity of “¦ work­ing to­geth­er as part­ners,” Wash­burn said. “I think we figured out that we’d bet­ter do this now be­fore we were grumpy old men.”

Wash­burn was also in­trigued by what he calls the group’s “in­teg­rated sys­tem,” which com­bines a law firm, lobby shop, and com­mu­nic­a­tions op­er­a­tion.

Born in Man­hat­tan, Kan., Wash­burn moved to Blacks­burg, Va., when he was 2. As he was grow­ing up he re­lo­cated to Stock­holm, Den­ver, south­ern Michigan, the Yampa River Val­ley, and fi­nally south­ern Maine. His step­fath­er taught deaf chil­dren and was a “very ideal­ist­ic man,” he said. “He was con­stantly strug­gling to find the per­fect edu­ca­tion­al for­um and nev­er quite achieved that. That’s why we moved as of­ten as we did.”

After re­ceiv­ing a bach­el­or’s de­gree in psy­cho­bi­o­logy from Bowdoin Col­lege, Wash­burn en­rolled at Yale Uni­versity’s School of Forestry and En­vir­on­ment­al Stud­ies but left after a year to spend nine months as a re­search as­sist­ant in the Con­gres­sion­al Of­fice of Tech­no­logy As­sess­ment, which was dis­mantled in 1995. “It was one of the un­for­tu­nate agen­cies that got elim­in­ated after Re­pub­lic­ans took power in Con­gress in 1994 and were look­ing for ways to shrink gov­ern­ment,” Wash­burn ex­plained. “OTA was one agency that didn’t have a large enough con­stitu­ency to de­fend it­self.”

Wash­burn re­turned to Yale for a semester, but then was lured to Wash­ing­ton for a second time as a con­sult­ant with the Nat­ur­al Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil. Even­tu­ally, Wash­burn re­sumed his stud­ies in New Haven and re­ceived a mas­ter’s de­gree in forest sci­ence, after which he spent sev­er­al years lay­ing the ground­work for a doc­tor­al dis­ser­ta­tion on “how the na­tion­al news me­dia cov­ers en­vir­on­ment­al is­sues,” he said. At some point, however, Wash­burn sus­pen­ded his stud­ies yet again to join the staff of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., the Demo­crat­ic lead­er in the Sen­ate from 1995 to 2005.

“At the time, I thought that I was go­ing to fin­ish writ­ing my dis­ser­ta­tion while work­ing six days a week in the Sen­ate,” Wash­burn said. “Of course, those be­came fun­da­ment­ally in­com­pat­ible. The Sen­ate won out, and I nev­er quite fin­ished my Ph.D.”

After four years as Daschle’s le­gis­lat­ive as­sist­ant, Wash­burn was pro­moted to le­gis­lat­ive dir­ect­or. Later, he be­came a seni­or ad­viser to Sen. Harry Re­id, D-Nev., which led to an ap­point­ment as Demo­crat­ic staff dir­ect­or for the Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee. But Wash­burn was bumped from that po­s­i­tion as part of a deal to en­tice then-Sen. Jim Jef­fords, R-Vt., away from his party.

“Dur­ing that peri­od, [Re­id] was ne­go­ti­at­ing with Jef­fords to switch parties and caucus with the Demo­crats,” Wash­burn said. “As part of the bar­gain­ing, Jef­fords be­came chair­man of the EPW Com­mit­tee, bring­ing with him his own staff.”

Be­fore Blue­Wa­ter Strategies, Wash­burn worked at Baker, Donel­son, Bear­man, Cald­well, and Berkow­itz. Wash­burn is the found­ing ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Theodore Roosevelt Con­ser­va­tion Part­ner­ship, a co­ali­tion of en­vir­on­ment­al groups.

Wash­burn is mar­ried to Robin Schep­per, former ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” cam­paign. They have two ad­op­ted chil­dren from Kaza­kh­stan.

What We're Following See More »
THE PLAN ALL ALONG?
Manchin Drops Objections, Clearing Way for Spending Deal
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate standstill over a stopgap spending bill appeared headed toward a resolution on Friday night. Senators who were holding up the measure said votes are expected later in the evening. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin had raised objections to the continuing resolution because it did not include a full year's extension of retired coal miners' health benefits," but Manchin "said he and other coal state Democrats agreed with Senate Democratic leaders during a caucus meeting Thursday that they would not block the continuing resolution, but rather use the shutdown threat as a way to highlight the health care and pension needs of the miners."

Source:
UNCLEAR WHAT CAUSED CHANGE OF HEART
Giuliani Out of Running For State
1 days ago
BREAKING

Donald Trump transition team announced Friday afternoon that top supporter Rudy Giuliani has taken himself out of the running to be in Trump's cabinet, though CNN previously reported that it was Trump who informed the former New York City mayor that he would not be receiving a slot. While the field had seemingly been narrowed last week, it appears to be wide open once again, with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson the current favorite.

Source:
ALSO VICE-CHAIR OF TRUMP’S TRANSITION TEAM
Trump Taps Rep. McMorris Rodgers for Interior Secretary
1 days ago
BREAKING
SHUTDOWN LOOMING
House Approves Spending Bill
2 days ago
BREAKING

The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.

HEADS TO OBAMA
Senate Approves Defense Bill
2 days ago
THE LATEST

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act today, sending the $618 billion measure to President Obama. The president vetoed the defense authorization bill a year ago, but both houses could override his disapproval this time around.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login