Environmental & Natural Resources

Balancing the needs of commerce and industry with protection of the environment is an ongoing challenge and the focus of our robust environmental law practice. Stoel Rives has become a regional and national leader in environmental, land use and natural resources law through our success in helping clients find that balance and achieve their goals. Ranked #8 in the United States according to Law360's list of largest environmental law practices, our group includes more than 60 environmental law and natural resources professionals with decades of experience representing clients across a broad range of environmental compliance and litigation.

A Top 10 Firm (#8) in the 2015 Law360 Environmental Law 100, by size of practice

Focus Areas
Within the environmental practice area, we have teams of lawyers dedicated to specific focus areas. These specialized teams foster knowledge management, deep industry knowledge and client services in:


Air Quality Environmental Insurance Claims Natural Gas, Oil and Mining Timber and Forest Products
Contaminated Lands Hydroelectric Projects Ports Water Quality
Endangered Species Land Use Renewable Energy Water Rights
Energy Facility
and Metals
Ski Areas Wetlands

Compliance Counseling
Compliance counseling is the foundation of our environmental practice. Using a preventive approach, we help our clients avoid problems before a crisis occurs. Although the complexity of environmental laws often frustrates innovation, we strive to find compliance solutions that enhance business opportunities while optimizing environmental protection. Our lawyers regularly assist clients in complying with federal, state and local environmental laws regulating the quality of air and water; the management, transportation, recycling and disposal of waste materials; and the protection of wetlands and endangered species.

Transactional Practice
A careful review of land use and environmental issues—both real and potential—is an essential step in the purchase or sale of businesses and real property, as well as in leasing and financing transactions. Our breadth of experience enables us to identify environmental and land use issues at an early stage in transactions and to help protect clients from unanticipated costs and risks. When possible, we help clients develop innovative solutions to land use and environmental problems that otherwise could frustrate business transactions. We have extensive experience in brownfield redevelopment, including negotiation of prospective purchase agreements with environmental agencies.

Strategic Planning
For many businesses, environmental compliance and liability have become a primary business challenge. We help these clients develop strategic plans to manage environmental obligations within their means. Through creative planning and conflict resolution, we assist these clients in finding long-term solutions that keep their businesses viable for the benefit of the local economy, the client's own objectives and the protection of the environment. Similarly, the firm's land use lawyers provide forward-thinking strategic advice for companies with ongoing land use needs, taking into account the future needs of facilities during the planning and permitting process.

Permitting and Development
As clients expand their businesses or start new enterprises, we assist in obtaining necessary land use, water rights and environmental permits and approvals. We are experienced in all aspects of the permitting process for new industrial, energy, commercial and residential developments, and we regularly deal with the myriad agencies that regulate development in the Western United States.

Environmental Cleanup
Stoel Rives develops and implements cost-effective strategies to address environmental cleanup issues. It represents clients regarding cleanup of state and federal Superfund sites and RCRA corrective actions, including challenging listing of sites, responding to remedial action orders, implementing remedial investigations and negotiating or challenging remedy selection. We have served as lead counsel to large groups of potentially responsible parties in negotiating settlements with environmental agencies and implementing cleanups. Stoel Rives also counsels clients on the impact of bankruptcy on cleanup liability and other environmental compliance obligations.

Proposition 65 and Other Labeling Laws
Our California lawyers are familiar with the provisions and applications of this law including its notice obligations and discharge prohibitions. Stoel Rives defends enforcement actions and citizen suits brought under Proposition 65 and other labeling laws.

Air Quality
Stoel Rives is a leading air quality firm. We represent many Title 5 permittees and have counseled numerous clients through major new source review for industrial and energy projects. We have been instrumental in the development of agency guidance and rules at the state and federal levels.

Water Quality
We have represented numerous clients in the full range of water quality issues, including issuance of, and challenge to, waste discharge permits, wetland regulation, water quality certification, cleanup and abatement orders, and cease and desist orders. We also defend clients in Clean Water Act citizen suits and enforcement matters.

Legislation and Rulemaking
Select lawyers have extensive experience in drafting legislation relating to cleanups, air quality, water quality, shore and coastline management, land use and other environmental legislation. Stoel Rives provides representation in administrative and rulemaking proceedings related to the development and implementation of environmental regulations, policies and procedures. Through service on a variety of public boards, commissions and committees and from experience working in state and federal agencies, we have built strong professional relationships with legislative and agency decision makers.

Although we emphasize communication and negotiation in resolving conflicts, litigation is sometimes the only practical means of protecting our clients' interests. The litigators in our environmental practice group possess the legal and technical experience necessary to handle environmental and land use cases skillfully and cost-effectively. We frequently litigate suits brought to recover costs of response actions taken under state and federal cleanup laws. We also negotiate and litigate with insurance carriers for coverage of environmental liabilities, defend clients in agency enforcement actions, and defend toxic tort and citizen suits.

Appellate Practice
Stoel Rives has a highly respected appellate practice that has been involved in many significant environmental law appeals in both federal and state appellate courts. Our litigators have been retained by clients, including other law firms, to argue environmental issues in both the federal circuit courts and in the United States Supreme Court.

Natural Resources

Because natural resources and the quality of our environment are significant to the western United States, the firm maintains an active and comprehensive natural resources practice. Our lawyers in this field are experienced in the environmental problems of business and industry and in transactions involving timber, minerals, oil and gas, water and other natural resources.

Acquisitions, Sales and Exchanges
We advise clients in the acquisition and disposition of timber, minerals (including energy and non-fuel minerals, oil and gas, hard rock minerals and geothermal resources), water, fisheries and other natural resources. The firm assists in negotiating and closing transactions and in obtaining necessary administrative approvals from state and federal resource management agencies. We have substantial experience representing clients before the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and resource agencies throughout the Western United States.

Natural Resource Management and Utilization
Our lawyers advise clients in the utilization of public lands and resources and in the development of hydroelectric, cogeneration and other small-scale energy projects utilizing renewable resources. We advise clients on the management, utilization and development of timber, minerals and other natural resources (both publicly and privately owned), including requirements under state forest practices acts, the Federal Mining Act of 1872, the Federal Mineral Leasing Act, the National Forest Management Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the O & C Act.

Financing and Taxation
We advise clients on current methods and alternatives in natural resource financing, including royalties, bonus bidding, mortgages, joint ventures, contracts and leases. The firm also advises clients on income and excise tax matters relating to sales of timber and extraction of minerals and on ad valorem taxation and assessments on standing timber, in-place minerals and natural resource lands.

Many of the firm's attorneys have established practices in complex case and environmental and natural resource litigation, having tried a wide variety of cases in state and federal courts. Our goal in all matters is to involve seasoned litigators at all stages of the proceedings. In that way the individual trying the case has participated from the outset and is fully familiar with the facts, witnesses and applicable law. Through our extensive litigation experience, we are skilled at preparing and trying cases, from those involving a simple single issue to the most difficult and complex.



Environmental and natural resource matters pose unparalleled business, scientific, legal, and political issues. Only when all of these facets are addressed together can a satisfactory resolution be achieved. Advice limited to legal issues may defeat long-term business goals. We work to resolve legal issues with a broader perspective.

We begin each project by gathering information about the client's business and by gaining a basic understanding of the client's goals and limitations. We also seek a general understanding of the industrial processes at issue. In most cases, this involves a visit to the client's facilities at the beginning of the project.

Critical to resolving most environmental and natural resource problems is a basic understanding of science. Many of our environmental attorneys bring a technical or scientific degree or background to their legal training. We review with each of our clients (and often their technical advisors) the science and engineering necessary to thoroughly understand and address each problem.

The complex variety of statutes, regulations, and rulings that comprise the body of environmental and natural resources law is in constant flux. To remain abreast of these changes, each member of the group concentrates on specific areas, such as water quality or endangered species. The group regularly reviews a wide variety of legal and technical publications and maintains a growing library of environmental references, legal documents, and agency guidance. Possibly more important, our attorneys typically are deeply involved in all major regulatory or statutory changes in their respective states.

Government and Public Relations
Successful resolution of many environmental problems depends as much on public perceptions as it does on reality. Through service on a variety of public boards, commissions, and committees and from experience working for state and federal agencies, Stoel Rives attorneys understand how important it is to maintain solid professional relationships with agency personnel. When appropriate, we draw upon the services of experienced public relations advisors for assistance in media relations and crisis communications management.

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