Overview

About Ryan

Ryan Steen devotes his practice to clients who use and develop natural resources. He represents clients in high-stakes environmental litigation and helps clients navigate regulatory, permitting, and policy processes. Ryan’s clients include trade associations and individual organizations in the oil and gas, fisheries, forestry, hydroelectric power, mining, tourism, and geophysical exploration industries. His expertise covers a wide range of natural resources and environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and federal laws governing access to mineral resources. Ryan’s clients know him to be extremely responsive and focused on providing practical advice.

Before starting his legal career, Ryan worked as a fisheries biologist for the University of Washington. In that position, he managed a large-scale salmon research program in Southwest Alaska, studied salmon habitat and ecology, and advised a commercial fishery on the population dynamics and run timing of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon.

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Experience

Experience

Litigation

      Oil & Gas

  • Successful representation of major oil and gas company in defense of two federal district court lawsuits filed by advocacy groups challenging lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska based alleged National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) violations.
  • Successful representation of trade association and seismic exploration companies in Interior Board of Land Appeals proceedings challenging Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s denial of permit applications to conduct offshore seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Represent trade associations and seismic exploration companies as intervenor-defendants in two federal lawsuits filed by South Carolina municipalities and environmental advocacy groups challenging Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) incidental take authorizations related to proposed seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Counsel to trade association in successful defense of three separate district court lawsuits, and associated Ninth Circuit appeals, filed by advocacy groups challenging MMPA incidental take regulations applicable to North Slope oil and gas operations.
  • Counsel to major oil and gas company in two successful lawsuits obtaining preliminary injunctive relief enjoining environmental activists from interfering with Arctic exploration vessels and activities. 
  • Counsel to trade association in successful defense of challenges by various advocacy groups to the polar bear Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing and 4(d) rule.
  • Representation of trade associations in federal district court and appellate litigation involving challenges to the ESA listings of Arctic bearded seals and ringed seals.
  • Representation of trade associations in federal district court and appellate litigation involving challenge to the polar bear ESA critical habitat designation.
  • Counsel to trade association as an amicus participant in defense to claims challenging EPA’s approval of Oregon and Washington’s impaired waters lists under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

      Fisheries

  • Counsel to trade association in successful defense of claims by advocacy groups asserting that regulations governing Pacific tuna quota for Hawaii deep-set longline fishery violated various federal laws.
  • Counsel to fishing company in federal district court and Ninth Circuit litigation involving challenges to individual transferable quota program applicable to West Coast groundfish fishery.
  • Counsel to trade association in successful defense of claims by two advocacy groups that authorization of Hawaii longline fishery violates ESA Sections 7 and 9 and other federal statutes.
  • Counsel to trade association in successful defense of claims by advocacy groups concerning the formation of a take reduction team under the MMPA to address fisheries interactions with marine mammals.
  • Counsel to trade association in litigation involving successful state and industry challenges to the Steller sea lion biological opinion and associated regulations in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands.

      Forestry

  • Represent trade association in federal district court litigation brought by advocacy group alleging that state authorization of timber practices in two Oregon counties violates Section 9 of the ESA.
  • Successfully defend timber company in an administrative appeal of a forest practices authorization raising issues of statewide importance regarding road maintenance and abandonment plans.

      Mining

  • Counsel to an Alaska Native regional corporation in the successful defense to advocacy group claims that a CWA site-specific water quality criterion applicable to Alaska mine harmed native fish stocks.
 

Regulatory, Policy, and Enforcement

      Oil & Gas

  • Counsel to trade associations and individual companies on matters involving the leasing and permitting of exploration and development activities under federal laws, including advice regarding NEPA review, ESA regulation, climate change issues, and onshore and offshore permitting laws and regulations.
  • Counsel to trade associations and individual companies regarding multiple federal rulemaking processes applicable to proposals to list species under the ESA and to designate critical habitat.
  • Counsel to the oil and gas and geophysical exploration industries regarding the regulation of seismic exploration activities in the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Counsel to trade association in federal rulemaking process for promulgating MMPA incidental take regulations for North Slope oil and gas operations, including related ESA consultation and NEPA review.
  • Testify on behalf of trade association to U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources regarding proposed amendments to the MMPA.
  • Counsel to oil and gas company regarding the procurement of ESA and MMPA authorizations associated with a seismic exploration program in Cook Inlet, Alaska.
  • Advise developer regarding federal environmental law compliance for the development of a first-of-its-kind LNG conversion, storage and marine LNG fueling facility in Washington.
  • Counsel to an entity formed by the Alaska State Legislature on matters involving the NEPA review and associated permitting of a 737-mile natural gas pipeline project designed to bring North Slope natural gas to south-central Alaska.

      Fisheries

  • Advise commercial fishing associations regarding compliance with numerous federal laws including the ESA, Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, MMPA, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, NEPA, and U.S. laws implementing international fisheries management treaties.
  • Counsel to trade association as Section 7 applicant in numerous ESA consultations involving two Hawaii-based longline fisheries.
  • Serve as a fishing industry representative on the federal False Killer Whale Take Reduction Team, initiated by NMFS to address interactions between Hawaii commercial longline fisheries and false killer whales.
  • Advise fishing company regarding compliance with federal individual transferable quota rationalization program.
  • Counsel to fishing company on enforcement-related matters involving alleged violations of MMPA and related federal laws.
  • Counsel to fishing company regarding alleged vessel-discharge violations under the CWA and Oil Pollution Act.

      Forestry

  • Advise trade association regarding the impacts of species listings under Section 4 of the ESA and associated 4(d) rules.
  • Assist major forest products company with the development and implementation of a compliance system to satisfy certification requirements for controlled wood.

      Hydro

  • Represent public utility district in the development and implementation of ESA permitting strategies related to hydropower projects’ habitat conservation plans and associated hatchery mitigation programs, including the successful development of Hatchery Genetic and Management Plans and obtaining ESA Section 10 incidental take permits.
  • Counsel to public utility district regarding alleged CWA violations related to operation of hydroelectric facilities.

      Tourism

  • Advise trade association regarding application of federal laws, such as the MMPA and ESA, to cruise vessels navigating waters off Alaska.
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Honors

Honors & Activities

  • Named a Top 50 Energy & Environmental Trailblazer, National Law Journal, 2016
  • Included in The Best Lawyers in America© (currently: Litigation – Environmental, Natural Resources Law), 2015-2019
  • Selected as one of “America’s Leading Lawyers for Business” (Washington) by Chambers USA (currently: Environment), 2015-2019
  • Listed in Washington Super Lawyers® (Environmental Litigation, Environmental, Energy & Natural Resources), 2013-2014, 2016-2018 
  • Board Member, Arctic Encounter Symposium, 2017
  • Member, Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Permanent Advisory Committee, 2015-2017
  • Member, Attorney Advisory Committee, Western Resources Legal Center, 2015-present
  • Member, Executive Committee, Alaska Bar, Environmental and Natural Resources Section, 2013-2015
  • Vice Chair, American Bar Association, Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, Endangered Species Committee, 2009-2012
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Insights & Presentations

Insights & Presentations

  • Presenter, “Updates in Section 4 Listings,” 25th and 26th Annual Endangered Species Act Conferences, Seattle, WA, The Seminar Group, Jan. 2018 and 2019
  • Presenter, “MMPA/Offshore Legal Issues Workshop,” International Association of Geophysical Contractors and International Association of Drilling Contractors, Houston, TX, Oct. 2018
  • Panelist, “Unlocking Natural Resources – An Exploration of Environmental Regulatory Challenges to Development in the Arctic,” 4th Annual Arctic Encounter Symposium, Seattle, WA, April 2017 
  • Presenter, “Introduction to the Endangered Species Act,” Endangered Species Act Conference, Seattle, WA, The Seminar Group, Jan. 2015, 2016 and 2017
  • Co-chair; presenter, “Key Litigation and Regulatory Developments”; moderator, “ESA Recovery Planning in Alaska,” Permitting Strategies in Alaska, Anchorage, AK, The Seminar Group, April 2016
  • Presenter, “The Marine Mammal Protection Act: A Looming Giant for Offshore Permitting,” National Ocean Industries Association, Scottsdale, AZ, Oct. 2015  
  • Presenter, “Managing Interactions between Commercial Fisheries and Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles and Sea Birds,” Endangered Species Act Conference, The Seminar Group, Honolulu, HI, April 2015
  • Panelist, “Acoustic Permitting for Ocean Activities,” Environmental Law Institute, Oct. 2014
  • “Succeeding in Today’s Litigious Regulatory Landscape,” Resource Review, Resource Development Council for Alaska, April 2014
  • Featured Speaker, “New Frontiers: Environmental Considerations for US Geological & Geophysical Activities Workshop,” International Association of Geophysical Contractors, Houston, TX, Mar. 2014
  • “Oceans and Ice: Scientific Uncertainty in the Regulation of Protected Species,” (coauthor) ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, Summer 2013
  • Presenter on emerging ESA topics, “Pacific Northwest Timberlands Management” seminar, Portland, OR, The Seminar Group, 2012 and 2014
  • Program co-chair and speaker, “Annual Permitting Strategies in Alaska” seminar, Anchorage, AK, The Seminar Group, 2013 and 2014
  • Speaker, “Fisheries & Hatcheries - Legal and Regulatory Frameworks” seminar, Seattle, WA, The Seminar Group, 2009, 2010, and 2013
  • Speaker, “The Preoccupation of NGOs with Alaska Resources: Past, Present, and Future,” 34th Annual Alaska Resource Development Council Conference, Anchorage, AK, Nov. 2013
  • Speaker, “Arctic Issues: Polar Bear, Ice Seals and Walrus Listing Decisions and Oil and Gas Drilling,” 19th Annual Endangered Species Act Conference, Seattle, WA, The Seminar Group, Jan. 2012
  • Presenter, “Managing Interactions between Commercial Faculty Fisheries and Marine Mammals - Perspectives from the Commercial Longline Industry and Federal Regulators,” Endangered Species Act Conference, Honolulu, HI, The Seminar Group, April 2013
  • Program co-chair and speaker, “Annual Regulation of Water in Alaska” seminar, Anchorage, AK, The Seminar Group, 2011 and 2012
  • Speaker, “ESA on the Hot Seat: Climate Change, Species and Petroleum,” Fifteenth Institute for Natural Resources Law Teachers, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Skamania, WA, May 2011
  • “The Status of Environmental Litigation Affecting Alaska Development,” Energy in Alaska, Anchorage, AK, Law Seminars International, Dec. 2011
  • “District Court Upholds Federal Rule Listing the Polar Bear as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act,” Environmental & Land Use Law Newsletter, Washington State Bar Association, 2011
  • “ESA and Climate Change,” ESA: Emerging Issues in Alaska, Anchorage, AK, Law Seminars International, Feb. 2010
  • “Oil and Gas in Alaska: Legal Developments and the Ongoing OCS Debate,” Alaska Oil and Gas Congress, Anchorage, Alaska, 2009
  • “The Polar Bear Listing Story: Efforts to Regulate GHG Emissions Using the Endangered Species Act” (coauthor), presented at the 39th Annual American Bar Association Conference on Environmental Law, Keystone, Colorado, Mar. 12-15, 2009



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