Natural Resources

With more than 35 attorneys comprising a single Natural Resources Group, Downey Brand has one of the most extensive environmental and natural resources practices in California. With a practice that spans border to border, the firm is known statewide for its industry knowledge and extensive experience in natural resources law.

The Natural Resources Group is a well-coordinated, multi-disciplinary team with deep experience handling litigation and regulatory compliance in a wide spectrum of specialties including all aspects of surface and ground water, land, and air. Many matters in natural resources law are multi-faceted and involve numerous public agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), state and federal government agencies, and other stakeholders with whom Downey Brand attorneys have built decades of credibility and relationships. Clients know that whatever environmental or natural resource issue arises, Downey Brand attorneys can guide these matters through to a satisfactory resolution.

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Environmental and Land Use Litigation and Compliance

Our attorneys provide counselling and advice in all of the key areas of environmental law, representing clients before local, state, and federal regulatory agencies in administrative and enforcement proceedings, as well as in litigation before state and federal courts. The firm’s environmental experience is extensive and crosses the litany of state and federal environmental statutes, including CAA, CWA, CERCLA, CEQA, CZMA, EPCRTKA, ESA, FIFRA, FLPMA, MMPA, NEPA, RCRA, TSCA, HWCL, OPA, Porter-Cologne, Proposition 65, SDWA, SMCRA and SWDA.  

Our environmental litigation team initiates and defends lawsuits for public and private sector clients at the trial and appellate level, and frequently resolve these actions before trial through mediation, consent decrees, or private settlement agreements. Our experience encompasses complex, multi-party Superfund, RCRA, Clean Water Act, natural resource damage, and nuisance/trespass litigation – as well as environmental toxic tort actions involving personal injury and property damage claims.

Our land use attorneys have a broad range of experience in reviewing or securing entitlements and permits, and undertaking environmental review for proposed projects.  Our land use practice often encompasses California planning and zoning laws, the common law public trust doctrine, endangered species protections, tribal and historical resources, wetlands and other waters, climate change, and air quality requirements.  Downey Brand attorneys are particularly skilled and experienced in CEQA and its federal counterpart, NEPA – both in terms of CEQA/NEPA compliance, but also litigation on behalf of both project proponents and opponents.  

Downey Brand’s Natural Resources Group includes several of the top water quality specialists in the state addressing wastewater and storm water from industrial and municipal facilities and recycling of municipal and industrial wastewater. Our specialists excel at permit negotiations and enforcement defense, with particular skills in negotiating attainable NPDES/WDR permits and reasonable settlements for enforcement actions brought under the federal Clean Water Act and the state Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act.  

Our lawyers have substantial experience in environmental remediation and brownfields redevelopment: minimizing risks of liability, identifying and pursuing potentially responsible parties, coordinating among multiple participants in a cleanup project, and working with regulators to shape the scope of investigations and cleanups. Downey Brand has extensive solid/hazardous waste experience with landfill and transfer station regulation, permitting, siting, closure, and post-closure maintenance, as well as hazardous waste handling and disposal requirements.

Our air quality attorneys have significant experience in stationary source permitting, emission credits, asbestos demolition, and compliance/enforcement with Bay Area AQMD and other regulatory agencies. They have been involved with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on mobile source permitting and greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting, and are up to speed on climate change regulations.

Water Law

Downey Brand has worked at the cutting edge of California water law since its founding in 1926. The Firm’s long history of work for water users and suppliers, which began in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and now stretches statewide, provides an unmatched depth of experience and institutional knowledge.  Downey Brand attorneys provide strategic and substantive expertise in water rights, water supply including recycled water, water transfers, water quality, federal reclamation law, and all aspects of public agency law in meeting the challenges of ever-increasing demand in an evolving legal and political framework.

Downey Brand’s long history in the water sector includes providing exceptional service to water agencies throughout California. Specifically, the Firm routinely represents water districts, irrigation districts, reclamation districts, counties, and cities as both special counsel and general counsel.  

As Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) compliance has begun, Downey Brand represents numerous entities regarding SGMA implementation and planning in many sub-basins throughout the state.

Our attorneys guide clients regarding acquiring, perfecting, and defending water rights, and regularly prepare and prosecute applications matters before the California State Water Resources Control Board.  Firm attorneys also routinely analyze and evaluate water rights including pre-1914 rights, riparian rights, groundwater and underflow rights, or general appropriative rights.

Downey Brand is a leader in efforts to reduce flood risk in California’s Central Valley and throughout the Western United States. Our flood protection attorneys play key roles in advising public agencies, landowners and developers in formulating and constructing flood protection projects and guiding them through regulatory, permitting, and funding challenged under state and federal law.  

Energy Infrastructure

With decades of experience in environmental compliance and the energy sector, the attorneys at Downey Brand advise and defend oil and gas pipeline and terminal companies on a wide spectrum of legal matters including permitting, CEQA/NEPA, endangered species, emergency response, enforcement defense, and other related litigation.  Downey Brand attorneys have extensive experience navigating the many agencies involved in regulating energy facilities and pipelines in California, the western region, and in Washington D.C.  

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