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DOJ hires former Southern Co. lobbyist to run environmental division

A former lobbyist for Southern Co. has been hired to run the U.S. Department of Justice's division dedicated to fighting pollution.

Jeffrey Wood was appointed as Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Justice Department on Jan. 20, according to a brief notice on the division's website.

As a partner in the Birmingham, Ala.-based law firm Balch & Bingham LLP, Wood represented Southern in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate for approximately two years prior to his appointment to the Justice Department.

Federal disclosure forms show Wood terminated his lobbying registration on Jan. 17. According to the disclosure reports, Wood lobbied for Southern on issues including the management and disposal of spent nuclear fuel, licensing new nuclear reactors, nuclear regulations and "federal energy and environmental policy."

Prior to joining Balch & Bingham, Wood served as an attorney from 2011 to 2014 for Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., President Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general. Wood joined the Trump campaign as an energy policy adviser in the fall of 2016, according to reporting by Politico.

While working on Capitol Hill, Wood also served as the Republican staff director for the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air & Nuclear Safety in the 113th Congress, and was the Republican staff director for the Senate Subcommittee on Water & Wildlife in the 112th Congress, according to a 2014 news release by Balch & Bingham announcing his hiring at the time.

The Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department handles environmental litigation on behalf of the U.S., bringing cases against polluters under laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act and others.