© 2012 The Texas Lawbook.
By Natalie Posgate
Staff Writer for The Texas Lawbook
A former senior advisor and lawyer at the U.S. Department of Energy is now a new partner in Gardere Wynne Sewell’s Austin office.
Erika Benson, a former lawyer at Patton Boggs and Troutman Sanders, worked at DOE’s Office of Policy and International Affairs. At Gardere, she will practice in the Dallas-based firm’s government affairs and practice group.
While at the DOE, Benson was the staff lead for the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA). She has more than 13 years of expertise in energy, government relations and Latin America law.
Benson says she will advise clients on policy and regulatory issues, provide counsel to companies investing in generation and transmission assets and new and emerging technologies, as well as developers, investors, and energy product manufacturers navigating new markets of entry in the Americas.
Benson said that in regard to her practice, lately there has been an increased amount of interaction between governments and the private sector.
“Transparency of policies, regulations, laws and codes is more important today – on a state and federal level – in an environment where companies of all sizes and nationalities participate,” she said. “In my opinion, more open and candid private sector input to government decision making for energy, water and infrastructure challenges is reshaping the role of government affairs.”
Benson has experience with cross-border electricity transmission development and policy issues between the U.S. and Mexico, and is a veteran of developing best practices and policies to maximize electricity regulatory framework development in Latin American nations.
Currently Benson is working for the World Bank on a report called “Green and Resilient Cities,” which was originally developed jointly with the DOE as a template for sustainable development in Latin America for the 21st century.
She believes that Latin America is often an overlooked economy that has significant potential – especially in the energy sector.
“I have seen the successes and the failures in the United States, Canada, Europe as well as individual U.S. states regarding electricity market development and energy policy in general,” she said. “I see the Latin American market in a great position to take advantage of these lessons learned and continue economic success with the right policies, regulations and investors.”
In January, Benson started her own consulting firm called Benson International Group Inc. that specializes in strategic advisory services in the Southwestern U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean. It provides regulatory and policy guidance for the electricity generation sector and for equity firms looking to expand into emerging renewable energy markets.
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