Michael P. O'Connell
Retired Partner
Seattle, WA

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Michael P. O'Connell


As of January 1, 2015, Michael P. O’Connell is a Retired Partner of Stoel Rives LLP. Please send all client, event and media inquiries to partner Krista K. McIntyre at krista.mcintyre@stoel.com.

Michael O'Connell is a partner of the firm practicing in the Environment, Land Use and Natural Resources practice group. He focuses his practice on natural resources, environmental, energy, water rights and Indian law matters involving project development. For more than 30 years, Michael has assisted a broad range of clients throughout the West, including public ports, energy producers (wave and tidal hydrokinetic and conventional hydropower, wind and ethanol producers; oil and gas developers; and pipeline owners), forest product producers, food processing companies, shopping center and golf course developers, general contractors, and industrial, manufacturing, commercial and other private and public clients. He also works with Indian tribes and parties engaged in business or other transactions with Indian tribes.

Michael counsels clients through federal, state and tribal environmental review, project siting and permitting matters involving the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act (stormwater, wastewater and wetlands permits, citizen suits and water quality certifications), coastal zone management, National Historic Preservation Act compliance regarding cultural resources and historic properties (including traditional cultural properties), human remains, fossils, and water right acquisitions and transfers. In these areas, Michael also assists clients in transactional due diligence, regulatory compliance and litigation.

In Indian law matters, Michael assists clients on projects (on and outside of Indian reservations) that affect tribal interests, including financial transactions, leases and rights of ways over tribal land, taxation and employment issues, negotiation of waivers of tribal sovereign immunity and litigation. He also regularly speaks at seminars on environmental, natural resources and Indian law.

Representative Work

  • Represented utility in Washington Supreme Court in successful defense of utility commission action allowing rate recovery of costs of tax imposed by the Yakama Indian Nation, Willman v. WUTC.
  • Advise wave energy developer on permitting issues for project on Oregon coast, including Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing and historic property consultation issues.
  • Advised tidal energy client in New York on permitting issues.
  • Counseled client in negotiating lease of tribal land, and assisted in obtaining federal legislation confirming tribe's authority to lease fee land.
  • Counseled client in negotiating lease of tribal land for shopping center.
  • Advised clients in settlements of Clean Water Act citizen suit notices without filing of threatened federal court suits.
  • Assisted client acquiring forestry mill with water rights due diligence and negotiation of escrow to protect client's water supply rights.
  • Assisted data center owner located in desert area in acquiring water rights necessary to cool servers.
  • Assisted land purchaser in resolving dispute with seller over ownership of water rights.
  • Negotiated settlement agreement for client with Indian tribes and federal and state agencies for voluntary removal of dam licensed by FERC.
  • Resolved historic property and cultural resources issues necessary for Corps of Engineers permits issued to wind and biofuel energy clients.
  • Counseled utility clients in negotiation of rights of way with Indian tribes.
  • Counseled client developing gas-fired, off-reservation energy facility in resolving tribal water rights claims.
  • Advised general contractor in negotiating a construction contract with an Indian tribe for casino and resort complex.
  • Obtained dismissal of tribal court employment suit against general contractor.

Professional Honors & Activities

  • Selected by Best Lawyers® as Seattle Native American Law Lawyer of the Year, 2013
  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America® (currently: Environmental Law, Native American Law), 2007-2015
  • Member of Native American Law practice rated National Tier 1 by U.S. News & World Report "Best Law Firms in America," 2011
  • Adjunct professor, "Water Law," Seattle University School of Law, 2010-2014
  • Editor, Washington State Bar Association, Environmental and Land Use Law Newsletter, 2008-2012
  • Vice chair, Hydro Committee, 2008-2009, Section on Energy, Environment, Resources, American Bar Association
  • Former chair, Indian Law Section, WSBA
  • Former chair, Native American Resources Committee, Section on Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, American Bar Association


  • "Linear Project Permitting," Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Special Institute on Public Land Law, Regulation and Management, Santa Fe, NM, May 9, 2014
  • "Sovereign Immunity, Forum Selection and Enforceability," Tribal Energy in the Southwest Conference, Albuquerque, NM, Dec. 10, 2013
  • "Handling and Resolving Water Rights Disputes: Adjudication Procedures and Litigation Tips," Water Rights in Washington Conference, Seattle, WA, Oct. 30, 2013
  • "Taxation and Tribal Energy Development," Tribal Rights, Sovereignty & Economic Development Conference, Las Vegas, NV, Oct. 10, 2013
  • "Tribal-State Tax Sharing Equity Act - A Modest Proposal," Tribal Sovereignty and Economic Development Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 18, 2012
  • "Permitting Marine Renewable Energy Projects," Global Marine Renewable Energy Conference, Washington, D.C., Apr. 26, 2012
  • "Efforts and Policies to Resolve Regulatory and Permitting Issues," Ocean Renewable Energy Conference IV, Portland, Oregon, Aug. 3, 2011
  • "Agree on Regulatory Changes Needed," Ocean Renewable Energy Workshop, Washington, D.C., May 25, 2011
  • "Tribal Cultural Resources and Energy Projects on Public Lands," Stoel Rives Renewable Energy WebEx, Portland, Oregon, Mar. 30, 2011; San Diego, California, Mar. 31, 2011
  • "Fundamentals of Contracting By and with Indian Tribes," Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation CLE, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mar. 3-4, 2011
  • "Getting Projects Built and Operational – A Boost for Tidal/Wave Power," Buying & Selling Electric Power (Law Seminars International), Seattle, Jan. 13-14, 2011
  • "Mitigation Tips for Specific Types of Projects on Public Lands," Energy Development on Public Lands, Denver, Colorado, Aug. 17, 2010
  • "Current Siting Issues under NEPA and Other Significant Federal Legislation," EUCI Webinar, May 19, 2010
  • "Deal Structures and Enforceability, Waivers of Sovereign Immunity, Forum Selection, Tribal Energy in the Southwest," May 3-4, 2010
  • "Clean Water and Stormwater: New Permits and Practical Strategies for Compliance," Seattle, Washington, Apr. 8, 2010
  • "Tax Issues Associated with Energy Development on Tribal Lands, Tribal Tax Planning and Partnership Structure," Feb. 22, 2010
  • "Hydrokinetic Energy Projects: FERC and MMS," Jan. 15, 2010
  • "Business Activity and Taxation: Issues in Indian Country," 22nd Annual University of Washington Indian Law Symposium, 2009
  • "Renewable Energy Development and Indian Tribes," Tax Management for Tribes Conference, 2009
  • "Energy Projects on Tribal Land," Energy Resource Development and Litigation in Tribal Lands," American Bar Association Webinar, 2009
  • "Geothermal Projects: Cultural Resources and Historic Properties," Geothermal Energy Finance, Technology and Development Workshop, 2009
  • "Structuring and Financing Tribal Renewable Energy Projects," Federal Bar Association, 2009
  • "Doing Business with Indian Tribes," Stoel Rives LLP Webinar, 2009
  • "Energy Project Permitting," Permitting Strategies Conference, 2009
  • "Private Water Rights Transactions," Water Rights Sales and Transfers, Lorman, 2008
  • "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2007 Nationwide Permits and the RGL 07 02 Permit Exemption for Certain Ditches," Clean Water and Stormwater Conference, Law Seminars, 2008
  • "Siting Ocean and Tidal Energy Projects," Ocean Use, Development and Permitting, Law Seminars, 2008
  • "Home Builders: Back to Sierra Club v. Babbitt," Endangered Special Act, 2008
  • "Tax Neutrality Agreements and Business Development on Indian Reservations," Tax Management for Indian Tribes, 2008
  • "U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Nationwide Permits and Compensatory Mitigation," Clean Water and Stormwater Conference, Law Seminars, 2007
  • "New Opportunities for Windpower on Tribal Lands," AWEA National Conference, Los Angeles, 2007
  • "Basics of Successful Natural Resource Development Projects in Indian Country," Natural Resources Development in Indian Country, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, 2005
  • "Shopping Center Development and Leases on Indian Reservations," U.S. Shopping Center Law Conference, 2005
  • "Easements on Indian Reservations," University of Washington School of Law, 2005
  • "Tax Considerations in Natural Resource Development Projects on Indian Lands," Natural Resources Development in Indian Country, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, 1999

Civic Activities

  • Board of Directors, L'Arche Noal Sealth of Seattle, 2007-2013
  • Board of Directors, Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition, 2008-2013


  • "School Trust Land - Federal Reserved Water Rights," Environmental and Land Use Law Newsletter, Washington State Bar Association, 2012
  • "Water Quality Chapter," Land Use and Environmental Law, King County Bar Association, 2012
  • "Hearth Act: Indian Tribes Can Lease Tribal Land Without BIA Approval," Environmental and Land Use Law Newsletter, Washington State Bar Association, 2012
  • "Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Lease Agreements" and "Siting and Permitting Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Projects," The Law of Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy: A Guide to Business and Legal Issues, Stoel Rives LLP, 2011 (formerly The Law of Ocean and Tidal Energy.)
  • "Siting Ocean and Tidal Projects," Bloomberg Law Reports: Sustainable Energy, 2008
  • Chapter, "Tribal Energy: Wind Energy Projects on Tribal Land," The Law of Wind: A Guide to Business and Legal Issues, Stoel Rives LLP, 2008
  • "Significant Recent Federal Environmental Decisions," Environmental & Land Use Law Newsletter, Washington State Bar Association, 2008
  • "Indian Tribes and Project Development Outside Indian Country," Natural Resources & Environment, 2007
  • "Labor Board Extends Jurisdiction to Indian Tribes," Indian Law Newsletter, Washington State Bar, 2004
  • "Citizen Suits Against Tribal Governments and Tribal Officials Under Federal Environmental Laws," Tulsa Law Journal, 2000


  • University of Denver College of Law, J.D., 1977
    Editor, Denver Law Review
    Order of St. Ives
  • Brockport State College, B.A., Political Science, 1969


  • Washington
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Washington, Arizona and Colorado
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Puyallup Tribal Court
  • Tulalip Tribal Court

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