From words to action: environmental lobbyist rooted in reporting
Geoff Brown ( MS, 94 )
Director of Government Relations, Pew Charitable Trusts
What might have changed my life in some ways was Woody Plants. I'm not involved with plant biology for a living, but I understand the natural world much better now.
Always be aware of keeping a balance in your life. Where there’s crisis, there is also opportunity. Change is your friend.
As a new Yale graduate in 1988, Geoff Brown landed a job with Knight-Ridder, a now-extinct media giant that put him on the path to environmental advocacy. As a writer, he found his niche as a federal policy and transportation reporter, covering the first multimodal transportation bill, the ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991), as well as the deregulation of the railroad and trucking industries.
“It was all very interesting,” Brown said, “but after some soul searching I concluded that I actually didn’t want to be a reporter. I didn’t want to be an observer all my life.”
His search for a more meaningful career led him to pursue an advanced degree at SEAS, where he focused on federal pollution prevention initiatives at the Environmental Protection Agency, and – through the Presidential Management internship – ultimately landed a job as a legislative assistant in the office of Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont.
On Capitol Hill, Brown worked on bipartisan regional and environmental issues including brownfields, clean water, and low income heating assistance. Ultimately he became a staff member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works focused on oversight issues.
When Senator Jeffords retired in 2006, he was led to a legislative leadership role at the National Environmental Trust and then The Pew Charitable Trusts. His current job as director of government relations entails communicating Pew’s priorities and research to members of Congress, giving strategic advice in a nonpartisan way.
“Pew’s agenda is science-based, data-based, and nonpartisan. We’re trying to communicate what makes policy sense, pushing the envelope forward regardless of who’s running Congress,” he said.
Brown has worked on projects that raised fuel economy standards and protected public lands; he helped write the Vermont Wilderness Bill. Much of his success comes from making sure bad things don’t happen, like keeping damaging riders out of bills. He says the most fascinating part of his career has been energy, and he looks to this as one of the most important environmental issues today.
“We need to start to develop micro-grids and more resilient locally-produced energy,” he said.
“We will see changes in the future, including how you power your car, and houses that are net-zero emissions or even maybe negative, so the grid could get energy from your home. That’s something I’d like to see, and hopefully it will happen in the future.”