About Aaron

Aaron Courtney is a partner practicing in the Environment, Land Use and Natural Resources group. He represents energy, municipal, industrial, agricultural and developer clients on compliance, permitting and litigation issues under the Clean Water Act (CWA) (with a particular emphasis on Section 404 and Section 10 permitting), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) (focusing on Bureau of Land Management rights-of-way authorizations), and federal and state clean-up laws. Aaron’s energy infrastructure work focuses on linear project development (transmission and pipeline) and renewable energy generation project permitting (wind and solar). Aaron also has extensive experience representing clients in formulating mitigation strategies to facilitate such permitting, as well as advising clients in the development of natural resource mitigation banks. His public sector work includes representing numerous public wastewater treatment entities on water quality and distribution matters. He also applies his extensive practical skills in conducting environmental due diligence in support of major mergers and acquisitions matters, (a course he teaches as an adjunct faculty member at Lewis & Clark Law School).

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  • CWA Section 404 and RHA Section 10 Permitting. Counseling clients on CWA permitting and compliance matters throughout the United States. This includes advising clients on Section 404 and Section 10 for project impacts to wetlands or other jurisdictional waters, and on compliance with the related state and federal environmental and natural resource regulatory programs that accompany these authorizations (e.g., ESA, NEPA, CWA Section 401). The CWA work also entails wastewater and stormwater permitting under the CWA’s Section 402 NPDES program. Representative current and past projects involving such legal assistance are:
    • Columbia River Shoreline Industrial Entities (ongoing). Represent several major industrial entities along the Lower Columbia River in ongoing Section 404, ESA, and NEPA compliance matters relating to regular maintenance dredging, dock construction and maintenance, berth construction and general in-water operational expansions.
    • Mitigation Banks (ongoing). Represent wetland, ESA, and Natural Resource Damage mitigation banks in the Western U.S., including permitting the significant in-water and upland activities fundamental to the creation of the banks and associated habitat enhancements.
    • Sand and Gravel Mining (ongoing). Serving as general counsel to gravel mining and cement/asphalt processing company on permitting and compliance issues for island and several other waterfront facilities in downtown Portland, as well as for numerous sites in the Columbia River Gorge.
    • Missouri River Dredgers Permitting and Appeal. Representation of sand and gravel mining company on an appeal of Section 404/10 proffered permit (and associated NEPA record) for sand mining across 550 miles of the Missouri River.
    • Nationwide Permit Rulemaking (ongoing). Represent renewable energy trade association and certain members in providing extensive comments on the periodic reissuance of the CWA Section 404 and RHA Section 10 Nationwide Permit Program.
    • Agricultural Operations (ongoing). Representing a 90,000-acre Oregon agricultural operation (one of the largest dairy and organic farms in the United States) on permitting and public outreach matters. The representation has included creating a habitat conservation agreement under the ESA, acquiring and trading water rights to achieve mitigation credit for salmon habitat impacts associated with irrigation activities, overseeing dairy (CAFO) permitting, strategizing on issues related to the development of the farm’s unprecedented sustainable, closed-loop operations, and permitting the development and operation of several digesters.
    • Industrial and food and seafood processing environmental regulatory compliance and enforcement defense work (ongoing). Assisting several regional specialty goods manufacturing and food and seafood processing clients on state and federal environmental permitting compliance and in defense of state and federal and third-party enforcement actions.
    • Watershed Permitting (ongoing). Assisting a wastewater treatment public utility that serves 12 Oregon cities in obtaining and complying with its unprecedented watershed-based CWA permit. The permit is based on an effluent trading program within the Tualatin River basin that responds to ESA and total maximum daily load (TMDL) requirements.
    • Public Wastewater Permitting (ongoing). Representing the city of Gresham, Oregon, on treatment plant water quality matters, including pretreatment programs, stormwater (MS4), TMDL and ESA issues.
  • Energy Project Permitting. Overseeing state and federal environmental and land use permitting (CWA (emphasis on Section 404), ESA, NEPA, FLPMA) relating to wind, solar, natural gas, ethanol, and other energy development projects throughout the United States. This includes counseling clients on facility siting, managing generation and pipeline and transmission permitting and construction, facilitating regulatory and public (NGO) outreach, and defending project proponents against regulatory enforcement actions and third-party environmental lawsuits. Representative current and past projects involving such legal assistance are:
    • Gateway West Transmission Project (pending). IBLA appeals defense.
    • Pembina Propane Export Facility (pending). State and federal permitting of major international propane export facility on the Columbia River.
    • Wind Farm Permitting (ongoing). Regularly provide federal public lands and CWA permitting and NEPA and ESA compliance assistance to numerous national and international wind power developers across the United States.
    • Ruby Pipeline (in service 2011). Approximately 675-mile, 42-inch natural gas transmission pipeline, beginning at the Opal Hub in Wyoming, crossing Utah and Nevada and terminating at interconnects near Malin, Oregon. At the time of construction, it was the largest federal lands pipeline project in the nation in more than a decade.
    • Palomar Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline (pending FERC project). Proposed 220-mile, 36-inch diameter underground natural gas pipeline in Oregon that will cross BLM, USFS, private and Tribal lands.
    • Coos County Pipeline (in service 2005). 60-mile, 12-inch pipeline extending from Roseburg, Oregon, across the Coastal Range to Coos Bay.
    • Zephyr Power Transmission Project (pending). Proposed 900-mile, 500-kilovolt DC transmission line from Wyoming, across Colorado and Utah, terminating in southern Nevada.
    • PGE Cascade Crossing. Proposed 200-mile, double-circuit, 500-kilovolt transmission line, from Boardman, Oregon, to Salem that will cross BLM, USFS, private and Tribal lands.
    • EDP Renewables (formerly Horizon Wind Energy) Oregon Projects (pending). Several large wind farms under development in central and eastern Oregon on private and public lands and involving significant wildlife, CWA Section 404 permitting and state environmental regulatory compliance/permitting issues.
    • Cascade Grain (completed). The largest corn ethanol processing plant on the West Coast (113.2 million gallons a year) in Clatskanie, Oregon, involving significant ESA and Section 404 permitting issues.
    • Longroad Energy and SunPower solar projects (pending). Numerous federal lands solar projects in California and Arizona currently in the nascent phases of permitting.
  • Served as lead environmental counsel in numerous mergers and acquisitions, including the $2.15 billion sale of Longview Fibre Company in its wood products facilities and timber holdings located across the country, and the $124.5 million sale of the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay Resort, one of the largest hotel sale transactions in the U.S.
  • Providing legal support for the establishment (through federal legislation) of the 20,827-acre Opal Creek Wilderness, the 13,538-acre Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area, and the 3,066-acre Wild and Scenic River corridor, and associated timberland transfers and mine tailings remediation.
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Honors & Activities

Professional Honors and Activities

  • Named by Best Lawyers® as Natural Resources Law “Lawyer of the Year,” 2021
  • Included in The Best Lawyers in America® (Natural Resources Law), 2012–2024
  • Selected as one of “America’s Leading Lawyers for Business” (Oregon) by Chambers USA (Environment), 2019–2023
  • Recipient of Corporate INTL Global Awards for “Environmental Law—Lawyer of the Year in Oregon—2022” and “Natural Resources Law—Lawyer of the Year in Oregon—2022”
  • Faculty, Lewis & Clark Law School, 1999–2002
  • Adjunct Faculty, Lewis & Clark Law School
  • Environment Committee, Oregon Business Association
  • Former Vice Chair, Marine Resources Subcommittee, American Bar Association
  • Vice Chair, Public Lands Committee, American Bar Association
  • Member, Oregon State Bar
  • Member, Multnomah Bar Association

Civic Activities

  • Board member, Oregon Ballet Theatre
  • Board member, Illahee—Environmental Forum
  • Served on Federal Advisory Council, Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area
  • Former board member, Planned Parenthood of the Columbia Willamette
  • Former board chair, Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center
  • Former coach, Portland Youth Soccer
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Insights & Presentations

Insights & Presentations

  • “Tribal Laws and Land Issues” (co-author), Chapter 10, The Law of Solar: A Guide to Business and Legal Issues, Stoel Rives LLP, Sixth Edition, 2022
  • “Federal Land Issues with Siting and Permitting” (co-author), Chapter 5, The Law of Wind: A Guide to Business and Legal Issues, Stoel Rives LLP, Ninth Edition, 2022
  • “Tribal Laws and Land Issues” (co-author), Chapter 6, The Law of Wind: A Guide to Business and Legal Issues, Stoel Rives LLP, Ninth Edition, 2022
  • “Superfund Redevelopment—The Star of the Universe in Reuse!” Oregon Brownfields & Infrastructure Summit, Northwest Environmental Business Council, October 2020
  • “Linear Project Rights of Way,” Easements and Access, The Seminar Group, Portland, OR, June 2018
  • “Process and Practice Tips for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Administrative Appeals,” Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation's Special Institute on Challenging and Defending Federal Natural Resource Agency Decisions, Westminster, CO, September 2016
  • Regular Moderator, Infocast Annual Transmission in the West Conference, San Diego, 2013–2015
  • “Ocean Dumping and Marine Pollution Law,” Ocean Law and Policy (American Bar Association), 2008 and 2015
  • “Linear Project Permitting,” Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Special Institute on Public Land Law, Regulation and Management, Santa Fe, NM, May 9, 2014
  • AWEA Wind Project Siting Seminar, New Orleans, LA, 2014
  • Presenter, AWEA WINDPOWER 2012 Conference & Exhibition, Atlanta, GA, June 2012
  • AWEA Wind Project Siting Seminar, Las Vegas, NV, 2012
  • AWEA Wind Project Siting Seminar, Kansas City, KS, 2011
  • “Combining NEPA Compliance with Other Statutes: the National Historic Preservation Act and the Endangered Species Act” Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Special Institute on NEPA, Denver, CO, October 2010
  • “Oregon Greenhouse Gas Reduction” and “Oregon Toxics in Water Reduction,” Oregon Insider (Envirotech Publications), October 2007
  • Environmental Law Institute, Annual Environmental Law Bootcamp, Washington, D.C., 2003–2006
  • “Legal Strategies for Combating Invasive Species,” Proceedings of the International Conference on Invasive Species, IUCN (World Conservation Union), 2006
  • “Marine Resources” and “Invasive Species,” Year in Review (American Bar Association), 2002–2006
  • International Conference on Invasive Species, Yokohama, Japan, 2004
  • “Multijurisdictional Regulation of Cruise Ship Discharges,” Natural Resources & Environment (American Bar Association), summer 2004
  • “Industry Targeted for Compliance with Stormwater Requirements,” The Real Estate Finance Journal (West Publications), summer 2004
  • Sea Grant Law Center Conference on Interjurisdictional Fisheries Management, Toledo, OH, 2003
  • Council of Great Lakes Fishery Agencies 2001 Annual Meeting, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
  • “Challenging NMFS’ 2000 Biological Opinion,” The Osprey (Federation of Fly Fishers), September 2001
  • “Individual Area Relationships: The Relationship Between Animal Population Density and Area,” Ecology, March 2000
  • “Developments in Private Party Cost Recoveries and UST Cleanups,” Oregon Environmental & Natural Resources Law News (Oregon State Bar), summer 1996
  • Society for Conservation Biology 1992 Annual Meeting, Blacksburg, VA
  • Regular presenter at regional environmental law seminars

Related News & Publications

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