EPA headquarters EPA headquarters. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Erik Baptist, a former senior lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency and for the oil and gas industry’s largest U.S. trade group, has signed on with Wiley Rein as a partner in Washington, D.C.

Baptist joins Wiley’s environment and product regulation practice after two years at the EPA, where he was senior deputy general counsel and a deputy assistant administrator in the office of chemical safety and pollution prevention. He previously worked as a senior counsel at the American Petroleum Institute.

He said he joined Wiley Rein over other firms in D.C. for three reasons: He viewed Wiley as the “premier law firm for the intersection of law, policy, government, and business”; the firm had expertise in chemical regulation and litigation; and he found the firm’s people to be bright, friendly, and thoughtful.

Baptist said he knew when he entered President Donald Trump’s administration that he would wind up at a law firm when he left, rather than return to a trade association, because of the administration’s ethics pledge. He said he promised his wife that his new gig at Wiley would be his “last job” and that he intends to remain there as long as the firm will have him.

Baptist’s role in reevaluating government chemical regulation at the EPA was noted by The New York Times last summer, and when he joined the Trump EPA the hire drew the attention of conservationists warning of regulatory capture by polluting industries, with one group calling him an “oil lobby man.” Baptist said he laughed off such labeling, which environmental activists attributed to his work for the API.

He added that he thought it was important to consider all criticism while at the EPA, noting he met with environmental groups to help the agency better accomplish its goals.

Baptist said the administration’s deregulatory agenda was interpreted by critics as scaling back environmental protections, but he said he thought implementing overly broad regulations was an “easier out,” and he described the EPA’s approach under Trump as simultaneously protecting the environment and promoting business.

Among the accomplishments at the EPA he was most proud of, Baptist cited the agency’s efforts on pesticides and interagency work involving the Endangered Species Act.

Before his time in the Trump administration, Baptist was an associate at McDermott, Will & Emery and an attorney at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.