AWEA’s top lobbyist to step down

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, January 20, 2014

The wind industry’s top lobbying group is losing one of its leading advocates at the beginning of a year expected to see an invigorated campaign to reinstate a key tax break.

Chris Chwastyk is resigning as vice president for federal legislative affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, where he has been a registered lobbyist since 2009. Chwastyk has led a team in charge of AWEA’s direct lobbying of lawmakers and congressional aides as well as overseeing its grass-roots and political action committee activity.

His tenure at AWEA included the high-profile 2012 push for an extension of the production tax credit that ended with a yearlong extension being included in the broader “fiscal cliff” legislation enacted last January to prevent most individual tax rates from rising.

The credit expired again Dec. 31, but the extension included an eligibility expansion that has provided some breathing room for companies in the wind industry (Greenwire, Dec. 19, 2013). Still, winning another extension remains a top priority for AWEA.

Chwastyk is expected to stay with AWEA for at least a couple more weeks to manage the transition and has not told colleagues where he will be going next, said Rob Gramlich, the group’s senior vice president for public policy, who oversees Chwastyk and other vice presidents. The group recently promoted Liz Salerno to vice president of industry data and statistics, Susan Williams Sloan to vice president of state policy and Tom Vinson to vice president of federal regulatory affairs.

Taking over for Chwastyk on an interim basis will be Aaron Severn, a seven-year veteran of AWEA’s federal legislative department who currently serves as its director of grass-roots and legislative affairs. Severn previously worked for former Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) as a legislative assistant for energy, environment and energy tax issues.

Gramlich said the group has not yet identified who will replace Chwastyk on a permanent basis.

Before joining AWEA, Chwastyk had a long career on Capitol Hill, most recently serving as chief of staff to Texas Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards, according to Legistorm, a database of congressional employees.

AWEA spent about $1 million on its own lobbying through the first nine months of 2013, the most recent figures that were available, according to public disclosure records. That’s down from about $1.8 million over the same period of 2012 and a total of $2.4 million spent internally for the entirety of that year.

The group spent nearly $700,000 to retain outside lobbying firms over the first three quarters of 2013, compared with more than $850,000 to outside firms during the same portion of 2012.