Two Environmental Protection Agency officials are moving into the lobbying biz -- and the enviros are yelling foul.

The Natural Resources Defense Council attacked the plans of John Pemberton, chief of staff to EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation, to go to work for Southern Co. just "a week after the Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule gutting a key Clean Air Act provision."

Southern, an electric utility holding company, is "a major polluter that lobbied heavily for the rule," the NRDC said in a news release, referring to the EPA's decision to allow thousands of the nation's dirtiest coal-fired power plants and refineries to upgrade their facilities without installing costly anti-pollution equipment, as they now must do. The Clean Air Act enforcement program is known as New Source Review.

Industry officials charged that the current enforcement system is confusing and has discouraged investment.

"Industry bought and paid for the Bush administration's assault on our clean air protections, so it's fitting that one of the nation's biggest polluters should reward this EPA official by putting him on its payroll," John Walke, director of NRDC's Clean Air Project, said in a written statement.

While Walke's statement was referring to Pemberton, who is joining Southern next week, Greg Wetstone, the NRDC's advocacy director, said the group is also concerned about Edward D. Krenik, EPA's associate administrator for congressional and intergovernmental relations, who started Tuesday at Bracewell & Patterson. The law firm represents the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a utility advocacy group that lobbied for the rule change.

EPA spokeswoman Lisa Harrison issued a response: "John and Ed know their ethical requirements, have been briefed by EPA's ethics office, and will follow to the letter the ethical requirements of the federal government. John recused himself from all issues involving the utility industry, like NSR, as soon as he began discussing any future job. And John says he played a minimal role in NSR throughout the last 21/2 years."

Dwight Evans, Southern's executive vice president for external affairs, said the utility contacted Pemberton "in the last couple of weeks" when officials learned that he was looking to make a career change. Pemberton will be director of federal affairs, responsible for dealing with the Senate, not EPA.

"The day we contacted him, he recused himself" from issues involving Southern, Evans said. He added that Southern will spend $4.5 billion over the next 10 years on improving air quality.

In an interview yesterday, Krenik, now a senior director for government affairs at Bracewell, said, "I made no decisions on NSR. I had nothing to do with the NSR rule."

Krenik said he joined Bracewell because he had "known the guys here for many years." He said former representative James Chapman (D-Tex.), now a partner at the firm, wanted him to work on appropriations issues. Before joining the EPA in 2000, Krenik was legislative director for Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and staffed the appropriations subcommittees for him.

Others Move to Bracewell's D.C. Office

Speaking of Bracewell . . . the firm has gone on a hiring spree. It also recently hired Milam D. Mabry, previously legislative assistant to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), as director of government affairs. In August, Bill Brack, a chief of staff to then-Sen. Hank Brown (R-Colo.) joined as a partner. Frank V. Maisano, a veteran press secretary on the Hill, joined in June as director of strategic communications.

JPMorgan Chase Recruits Ex-Cheney Aide

After a relatively brief stint with the Capitol Hill Consulting Group, Stephen Ruhlen is moving on to open and head the new Washington office of JPMorgan Chase. Ruhlen was deputy assistant for legislative affairs to Vice President Cheney until last February, when he joined the Capitol Hill Consulting Group. He previously worked on Capitol Hill for 16 years.

Ruhlen will work with Cory N. Strupp, co-head of government affairs, until his retirement on Nov. 28. L. Thomas Block, who shared government affairs responsibilities with Strupp, had become global head of government affairs and is based in New York.

NFIB Adds Mason, Jackson to Its Staff

The National Federation of Independent Business has brought on Jacque Mason as vice president of political and Ianthe Jackson as press secretary.

Mason, who earlier worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican National Committee and GOPAC, will be in charge of NFIB's political work through grass-roots campaigns and candidate endorsements.

Jackson earlier was communications director for Rep. Kenny C. Hulsholf (R-Mo.).

Francis Creighton has joined the Mortgage Bankers Association of America as director of government affairs, specializing in lobbying the House. Creighton most recently was legislative director for Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.).

Josh Mathis, formerly political director for Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), joins the Petrizzo Group as vice president.

Edward Merlis, who had been senior vice president of legislative and international affairs at the Air Transport Association and a senior adviser at Xenophon Strategies, moves to the U.S. Telecom Association in mid-September as senior vice president for law and policy.