EPA headquarters. Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ

After 17 years in government at the Environmental Protection Agency and in Congress, Byron Brown has left the EPA and will join Crowell & Moring as senior counsel later this month.

Brown, who was deputy chief of staff under ousted EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, left the agency on Friday. He said his decision to leave government work was “independent” of his beleaguered boss’ July exit, which Brown said he first learned about via Twitter on returning from a vacation.

Brown previously served as senior counsel for Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and a prominent skeptic of human-caused climate change. Brown also spent a decade in the Office of General Counsel at the EPA.

While he entertained other options outside of government that he did not identify, he said Crowell was his “top choice” for his post-EPA career.

Byron Brown (courtesy photo)

“Crowell is really well known in the environmental and regulatory government affairs space,” Brown said. “I was drawn to that firm and this opportunity because of their reputation, especially in environmental matters.”

He said he is eager for the chance both to grow Crowell’s existing practice and to build his own, including work beyond the environmental realm.

When he formally joins Crowell’s Environment & Natural Resources and Government Affairs groups beginning Aug. 27, Brown will legally be able to influence policymaking quicker than many other government workers passing through the revolving door. He did not sign President Donald Trump’s ethics pledge, so he’s not constrained by its lobbying restrictions. In Brown’s case, the pledge would have included a five-year ban on lobbying related to the EPA.

Enough time has also elapsed since Brown’s tenure on the Hill to allow him to legally lobby Congress too.

While noting the relative lack of restrictions he faces, Brown emphasized that he takes his ethical obligations “very seriously” and will follow professional standards and hew to all legal requirements regarding conflicts of interest.

“Byron offers a broad understanding on environmental policy on a national scale, both in his service at the EPA and on Capitol Hill,” said Philip Inglima, Crowell’s chairman. “He will provide invaluable insight to clients navigating the federal environmental rulemaking process. We are excited to welcome Byron to the firm.”

Brown said he viewed the opportunity ahead of him as a “really great launching pad,” citing the “energetic” government affairs practice in place at Crowell.

He said Crowell’s record of using former government attorneys’ strengths to build their own practice was particularly appealing. In recent months, Crowell hired Chuck Rosenberg, former head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, as senior counsel in Washington too.

Brown did not rule out re-entering government in the future, but said he has no plans to do so. He said he was not aware of anyone else planning to leave the EPA for the private sector and he thinks the leadership in place in the aftermath of Pruitt’s departure is “really strong.”

Brown described his final months at the EPA as “challenging” for the agency, but said the EPA is in good hands with acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, who he said “is the right person at the right time.”