Michelle Ouellette

Partner

Tel: (951) 826-8373

Location(s)

At a Glance

A Daily Journal headline about Michelle once read, “Enough CEQA Wins to Fill a Bucket."

Her habitat conservation projects have ranged from a 10-acre property that harbors one species to some of the largest plans in the nation.

Michelle is the recipient of the Daily Journal's Environmental California Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award in 2017.

Michelle Ouellette brings an in-depth understanding of environmental laws and knowledge of state and federal regulations that help her clients’ projects succeed in California. With more than 25 years of experience, she knows how to effectively and efficiently help cities, counties, special districts, developers and other clients in the private sector to navigate the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and state and federal endangered species laws. A trusted counselor and a successful litigator, Michelle works with her clients to reach their goals of building a project, developing a habitat conservation plan or defending environmental documents in court with a responsive and tenacious approach.

Customized CEQA Counsel
With hundreds of CEQA-related projects across California under her belt, Michelle’s experience reflects both depth and breadth: From a 3,000-unit residential development to major highway improvements to renewable energy projects. She provides customized CEQA counsel, depending on a client’s specific needs for projects that require compliance with the law. Her insight into the nuances of both CEQA and NEPA allows her to take a strategic approach when drafting or reviewing initial studies, negative declarations or environmental impact reports/statements so they not only comply with the law but also avoid problems that can lead to lawsuits. Michelle understands the steps required to take a project through the complicated regulatory process and works frequently with the agencies and regulators who issue the needed permits. In addition, she offers project management and advocates on her clients’ behalf before governmental bodies. Her years of experience coupled with her expertise give clients added confidence that their projects will gain approval and withstand potential legal attacks while minimizing delays and expenses.

Trusted Advisor for Habitat Conservation Plans
Michelle has successfully guided clients through the regulatory hurdles of state and federal endangered species laws, including Section 7 consultation and the creation of habitat conservation plans that protect endangered species while allowing key development to move forward. Her habitat conservation projects have ranged from a 10-acre property that harbors one species to some of the largest plans in the nation. The Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, for example, covers more than 1 million acres and protects nearly 150 species. Her commitment to these projects runs deep as they create open space for species and residents, while clearing the way for important projects and infrastructure to be built. With a proven ability to work with stakeholders and regulating agencies, Michelle is a trusted advisor who helps her clients understand each stage of the process and how the many pieces of such complex plans fit together.

Recognized Legal Practitioner and Scholar
A Daily Journal headline about Michelle once read, “Enough CEQA Wins to Fill a Bucket,” reflecting a string of courtroom victories for her clients. In 2017, the Daily Journal recognized her with the prestigious California Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award for Environmental Law and named her a Top Woman Lawyer. Her reputation as a successful attorney is so strong that her peers routinely select her for top attorney lists such as Super Lawyers® and Best Lawyers in America®. Locally, she was president of the Riverside County Bar Association. Internationally, she is senior vice chair of the International Bar Association’s Committee on Environment, Health & Safety Law. She first joined BB&K in 1989 as a member of the Environmental Law & Natural Resources practice group, and later was appointed as leader of that practice group. She quickly rose in the ranks to serve six years on BB&K’s Executive Committee, which makes key management decisions for the firm. Michelle has shared her wealth of legal knowledge by teaching classes in environmental law at the University of Southern California and at the University of California campuses in Irvine and Riverside. Additionally, she has authored several articles and frequently lectures on CEQA and endangered species laws.

Michelle lives in Riverside where she continues to improve her California native, drought-tolerant garden. She loves to cook, travel, practice yoga and dabble in creative writing. She is admitted to practice law in the State of California.

Education

  • University of Southern California Gould School of Law, J.D.
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, B.A., honors
  • The Best Lawyers in America®, Energy, Environmental and Natural Resources Law, 2006-2018
  • California Lawyer Attorney of the Year, Environmental, 2017
  • Southern California Super Lawyers, Environmental Law, 2008-2017
  • Daily Journal Top Women Lawyers in California, 2015 and 2017
  • ATHENA of Riverside, 2016
  • Diversity Journal Women Worth Watching, 2015
  • Super Lawyers Business Edition, Construction, Real Estate and Environmental,2015
  • Daily Journal Top 50 Development Attorney in California, 2014
  • The Best Lawyers in America®, Environmental Litigator “Lawyer of the Year” for the Riverside area, 2014
  • Top Rated Lawyer in Energy, Environmental & Natural Resources, American Lawyer Media and Martindale-Hubbell™, 2013
  • Los Angeles’ Women Leaders in the Law, American Lawyer Media and Martindale-Hubbell™, 2013
  • Daily Journal Top 100 Women Litigators in California, 2009

 

CEQA Not Preempted in State-Owned Rail Project
Legal Alerts Aug 3, 2017

CEQA Not Preempted in State-Owned Rail Project

California Supreme Court Decision Could Impact High-Speed Rail Project

Evaluating a Project’s “Exacerbation” on Existing Environmental Hazards
Legal Alerts Nov 10, 2016

Evaluating a Project’s “Exacerbation” on Existing Environmental Hazards

Substantial Evidence Proving “Exacerbation” Required, California Appellate Court Says

New Legislation Seeks to Expedite CEQA Administrative Record Process
Legal Alerts Sep 26, 2016

New Legislation Seeks to Expedite CEQA Administrative Record Process

Provides Opportunity to Streamline Litigation

CEQA Allows Developers to Recover Administrative Record Costs when Reimbursing Agency
Legal Alerts Sep 21, 2016

CEQA Allows Developers to Recover Administrative Record Costs when Reimbursing Agency

Appellate Victory for Developers and Public Agencies

California Supreme Court Clarifies CEQA’s Subsequent Review Rules and Standard of Review
Legal Alerts Sep 20, 2016

California Supreme Court Clarifies CEQA’s Subsequent Review Rules and Standard of Review

Decision Issued After Years of Uncertainty

Environmental Groups to Sue Fish & Wildlife Service Over Listing of 417 Species
Legal Alerts Aug 30, 2016

Environmental Groups to Sue Fish & Wildlife Service Over Listing of 417 Species

Development Projects in California May be Impacted

Legislature Passes Pair of Significant New Climate Change Bills
Legal Alerts Aug 29, 2016

Legislature Passes Pair of Significant New Climate Change Bills

Gov. Brown Expected to Sign Laws that Will Have CEQA Implications

Sweeping Six-Case Win For Water District Helps Secure Orange County’s Water Supply
Authored Articles & Publications Aug 24, 2016

Sweeping Six-Case Win For Water District Helps Secure Orange County’s Water Supply

BB&K Partner Michelle Ouellette Authors a Summary of Recent Appellate Victory for Orange County Lawyer Magazine

Sweeping Six-Case Win for Water District
Legal Alerts May 11, 2016

Sweeping Six-Case Win for Water District

Court Upholds Public-Private Groundwater Conservation and Recovery Project That Will Serve Customers Throughout Southern California

California Supreme Court Addresses the “Reverse CEQA” Problem
Legal Alerts Dec 21, 2015

California Supreme Court Addresses the “Reverse CEQA” Problem

CEQA Does Not Require Agencies to Consider the Impact of Existing Conditions on Future Project Users — Except in Certain Circumstances

California Supreme Court Decision Regarding Newhall Ranch Development Could Significantly Impact Developments
Legal Alerts Dec 2, 2015

California Supreme Court Decision Regarding Newhall Ranch Development Could Significantly Impact Developments

California Supreme Court Overturns Environmental Impact Report Related to Proposed Residential Development

Preliminary Discussion Draft of CEQA Guidelines Amendments Released
Legal Alerts Aug 13, 2015

Preliminary Discussion Draft of CEQA Guidelines Amendments Released

Comments Due to Office of Planning and Research by Oct. 12

Uncertainty of Legislative Earmarks Not Enough to Deem Mitigation Infeasible
Legal Alerts Aug 7, 2015

Uncertainty of Legislative Earmarks Not Enough to Deem Mitigation Infeasible

California Supreme Court Takes on CEQA Issue in State College Expansion Project

California Supreme Court Makes Critical CEQA Ruling Regarding Categorical Exemptions
Legal Alerts Mar 3, 2015

California Supreme Court Makes Critical CEQA Ruling Regarding Categorical Exemptions

Court Clarifies the Unusual Circumstances Exception

The Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan: Looking Forward After 10 Years
Authored Articles & Publications Jan 7, 2015

The Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan: Looking Forward After 10 Years

BB&K Partner Michelle Ouellette Co-Authors This Look at the Future of Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plans in the ABA’s Natural Resources & Environment Journal


 

Event Sep 27, 2017

Growth: The Leadership Conference for Special Districts

2017 CSDA Annual Conference

Event Sep 15, 2017

Energy Consumption Analyses: Remember Appendix F

Law Seminars International

21 BB&K Attorneys  Earn Spot on Best Lawyers in America 2018 List
Press Releases Aug 15, 2017

21 BB&K Attorneys Earn Spot on Best Lawyers in America 2018 List

Two Recognized as Lawyers of the Year

Mid County Parkway Freeway Infrastructure Project Prevails for Second Time
Client Successes Jul 19, 2017

Mid County Parkway Freeway Infrastructure Project Prevails for Second Time

BB&K Attorneys Represent RCTC; Defeat Environmental Challenges

NEPA Victory for Freeway Infrastructure Project in Riverside County
Client Successes Jun 1, 2017

NEPA Victory for Freeway Infrastructure Project in Riverside County

BB&K Team Represents RCTC in Mid County Parkway Project Dispute

Partners Michelle Ouellette and Kelly Salt Named Top Women Lawyers
Press Releases May 25, 2017

Partners Michelle Ouellette and Kelly Salt Named Top Women Lawyers

Daily Journal’s Annual List of California’s Best Female Attorneys

Appellate Court Rejects CEQA Challenges to Development in Santa Ana
Client Successes May 25, 2017

Appellate Court Rejects CEQA Challenges to Development in Santa Ana

BB&K Team Represented City

State Route 91 Express Lanes
Client Successes Mar 29, 2017

State Route 91 Express Lanes

BB&K Helped RCTC Pave the Way

BB&K Environmental Team Wins California Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award
Press Releases Mar 15, 2017

BB&K Environmental Team Wins California Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award

Congratulations to Michelle Ouellette, Sarah Owsowitz and Jennifer Lynch

Press Releases Jan 20, 2017

Southern California Super Lawyers 2017

Five BB&K Partners Receive Honor

Event Oct 20-21, 2016

Timing is Everything - When CEQA Review is Required for County Actions

Public Works and Contracts Fall 2016 Study Section Conference

Event Oct 10-13, 2016

California Special Districts Association

Annual Conference

Event Sep 12, 2016

California Land Use Law & Policy Conference

Argent Communications

Press Releases Aug 15, 2016

20 BB&K Attorneys Make Best Lawyers in America 2017 List

Two Named Lawyers of the Year

Press Releases Jul 26, 2016

BB&K Wins USC Gould School of Law Firm Challenge

Trojans Recognized for Supporting Their School

Client Successes Jun 2, 2016

CEQA, Brown Act and Planning and Zoning Law Challenges Overcome in Development Project

On Behalf of the City of Montebello, BB&K Attorneys Successful in Lawsuit

Partner Michelle Ouellette Honored with Prestigious ATHENA of Riverside Award
Press Releases May 24, 2016

Partner Michelle Ouellette Honored with Prestigious ATHENA of Riverside Award

The Award Recognizes Women for Their Professional Excellence, Community Service and Work Helping Other Women Achieve Their Full Potential

Client Successes May 13, 2016

BB&K Secures CEQA Appellate Victory in Water Project

Six Challenges to Public-Private Partnership Effort Overcome

BB&K In the News May 11, 2016

BB&K Team’s CEQA Appellate Victory in Water Transfer Project

High-Profile Case That Impacts Water Customers Throughout Southern California Discussed in News Reports

Event Feb 8, 2016

Ocean Desalination: Examining Technical, Regulatory and Practical Solutions

The Seminar Group

Press Releases Jan 22, 2016

2016 Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine Recognizes Six BB&K Partners

Honored Attorneys Represent Municipal Law, Environmental & Natural Resources and Litigation Services

Event Oct 8, 2015

The Diverse Impacts of Drought

International Bar Association Annual Conference

Event Sep 21, 2015

2015 Annual Conference

California Special Districts Association

Event Sep 18, 2015

Supreme Court Two-Step: What to Make of Berkeley Hillside's New Tests for Categorical Exemptions?

Law Seminars International

Press Releases Aug 17, 2015

19 BB&K Attorneys Included on the 2016 Best Lawyers in America List

Partner Iris Yang and Of Counsel Joseph Coomes Selected as Lawyers of the Year

BB&K Partner Michelle Ouellette Named a Top Woman Lawyer by the Daily Journal
Press Releases May 19, 2015

BB&K Partner Michelle Ouellette Named a Top Woman Lawyer by the Daily Journal

Her Environmental Litigation Work Earns Her a Place on the Prestigious List of 100 Women Lawyers

Event Mar 9, 2015

California Land Use Law & Policy

Argent Communications Group

Press Releases Jan 22, 2015

Five BB&K Attorneys Named to the 2015 Southern California Super Lawyers List

A Diverse Selection of Attorneys Represented on the Prestigious List

Client Successes Dec 12, 2014

BB&K Attorneys Successfully Defend City Client from Brown Act and Other Claims

Appellate Court Upholds City of Ontario’s Lower Court Victory

Event Oct 20, 2014

The Business of Water and Environmental Lessons from Nuclear Disasters

International Bar Association

BB&K Partner Michelle Ouellette Among Diversity Journal’s 2015 Women Worth Watching
Press Releases Oct 9, 2014

BB&K Partner Michelle Ouellette Among Diversity Journal’s 2015 Women Worth Watching

Michelle Ouellette Was Recognized for Her Positive Influence on Diversity Both Inside and Outside the Workplace in the National Magazine

Event Oct 1, 2014

Rate Setting Compliance, Social Media in Politics and CEQA

California Special Districts Association

Event Sep 19, 2014

CEQA: California Environmental Quality Act

Lorman Education Services

Event Sep 10-12, 2014

BB&K Attorneys Appeared on Panels Covering Telecommunications, the Environment, Hot Federal Issues and More

IMLA 2014 Annual Conference

Press Releases Aug 19, 2014

Thirteen BB&K Attorneys Named to The Best Lawyers in America© 2015 List

The Included Attorneys Practice in BB&K Offices throughout California

Press Releases Aug 14, 2014

Three BB&K Attorneys Among Daily Journal’s Top 50 California Development Attorneys for 2014

Partners Scott Campbell, Steven DeBaun and Michelle Ouellette Recognized for Projects that Transform the State

Client Successes Nov 13, 2013

BB&K Successfully Defends CEQA Challenge to City of Riverside Power Project

Attorneys Michelle Ouellette, Charity Schiller and Alisha Winterswyk garner victory in California