Environmental Litigation

Environmental litigation is particularly complex and can take the form of short-term administrative or writ proceedings or longer-term litigation and appeals. There is an interplay between state and federal laws and regulations, policy considerations and a variety of competing interests. Results can have widespread, long-term implications for future development projects and entire communities. 

Best Best & Krieger LLP maintains a large focused Environmental Litigation practice, with nearly 25 percent of our attorneys regularly handling all phases of trial and appellate proceedings. Our environmental litigators are among the most highly qualified and experienced in the nation and have represented clients in many of the nation’s and California’s most significant and contentious matters. Often, these are precedent-setting and high-stakes disputes. BB&K attorneys have an excellent record of favorably resolving multi-party and multi-district environmental challenges and citizens’ suits in federal and state courts. 

Our environmental attorneys also resolve matters beyond the courtroom through arbitration, mediation and negotiated settlements, and we have extensive experience representing public and private clients in investigations and enforcement actions and hearings before federal, state and local regulatory agencies including: 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency
  • The California Public Utilities Commission
  • Air quality management districts 
  • Departments of public health
  • State and regional water resources control boards
  • The Department of Toxic Substances Control
  • Land use and zoning authorities 


Unrivaled Depth & Breadth
Our team has the necessary combination of scientific knowledge, regulatory experience and litigation skill, plus broad-based experience representing clients from a wide variety of industries. These include agri-business, energy, chemical, health care, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and transportation. We represent public entities, cities, water and other special districts and utilities. This breadth of experience provides us with insights into the perspectives of the various players. We know the challenges and how to work around them and, through decades of handling environmental matters, we have established an outstanding reputation with judges and good working relationships with regulators, which means that our clients are in the best possible position to get their issues resolved.

Comprehensive Service
We have effectively resolved a wide array of challenges involving:


As counsel to public agencies that collectively provide water to more than two-thirds of California’s population, we have brokered water rights disputes between states and have developed water policies internationally. 

Our Approach
Our litigation teams are appropriately staffed with litigators and paralegal support, and are structured to deliver cost-efficient, effective legal solutions based on each client’s specific needs and goals. Further, we employ the latest technologies to streamline document review, efficiently manage litigation and enhance the presentation of evidence in court.

Representing clients in and out of court, we have litigators fighting the lawsuit, former members of the media helping to communicate our clients’ messages and legislative advocates conveying our clients’ position to legislators and agency officials.

  • Successfully defended the Santa Margarita Water District against six separate lawsuits all challenging the District’s approval of the Cadiz Project under CEQA, which would secure an annual average of 50,000 acre-feet of water, over 50 years, for delivery to SMWD and other water users in Southern California. Following weeks of oral argument, the trial court rejected every one of the petitions and upheld the SMWD’s approvals. (Tetra v. Santa Margarita Water District, Orange County Superior Court, Case No. 30-2012-00576715; et al.)
  • In the Consolidated Delta Smelt Cases, 747 F.3d 581 (9th Cir. 2014), successfully litigated the State Water Contractors’ challenge against the federal government for failing to perform any NEPA review prior to approval and implementation of a biological opinion with drastic water supply impacts.
  • Successfully defended the Coachella Valley Water District in the Quantification Settlement Agreement litigation, obtaining a ruling from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the environmental review performed under the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Air Act for the Colorado River Water Delivery Agreement were valid. (People of the State of California Ex Rel. Imperial County Air Pollution Control District, et al. v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., U.S. District Court, Case No. 09-02233.) Also successfully defended the Coachella Valley Water District in the related state action. 
  • Successfully defended the City of Riverside’s approval of the Riverside Transmission Reliability Project, an approximately 12-mile long transmission line that would introduce a section source of bulk power delivery to the City. Although the petitioner in the case alleged that the City’s EIR was inadequate, the trial court rejected the lawsuit in its entirety – upholding the City’s approvals. (City of Jurupa Valley v. City of Riverside, et al., Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case No. BS143085.)
  • Successfully defended the City of Pasadena against a CEQA challenge to its approval of the Glenarm Power Plant Project, which would replace an outdated and inefficient steam turbine with a cleaner, more efficient and more reliable combined cycle turbine. (California Clean Energy Committee v. City of Pasadena; Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. BS 142693.)
  • Resolution of CEQA litigation involving the Perris Valley Line commuter rail project. Successfully negotiated the dismissal of the case, the resolution of all issues, and the preclusion of any appeal or federal litigation through a settlement process. (Friends of Riverside’s Hills v. Riverside County Transportation Commission et al., Riverside County Superior Court, Case No. RIC 1113896.)
  • Resolution of two CEQA lawsuits filed by a local community group and the Attorney General of California regarding a warehouse development. Ultimately, the settlement fully resolved the CEQA claims before the administrative record was prepared or the briefs were written, thus avoiding substantial legal fees and delay. (Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice v. County of Riverside et al., Riverside County Superior Court Case No. RIC 1112063.)
  • Successfully represented – at both the trial and appellate levels – the Riverside County Transportation Commission in an action before the Department of Toxic Substances Control involving the approval of a Remedial Action Plan related to property purchased for a regional transportation project.
  • Represented the City of Colton in approximately 10 state and federal lawsuits spanning almost a decade. The cases recently settled with Colton recovering almost all of its damages, and the responsible parties agreeing to clean up the perchlorate contamination. 
  • Represented the City of Merced in case involving more than 2,200 plaintiffs claiming damages for toxic torts, and seeking injunctions under RCRA and the Clean Water Act. Merced settled for a relatively minor amount.
  • Represented the County Los Angeles in administrative proceedings before the California Department of Toxic Substances Control regarding the BKK Landfill in Carson, Calif. Cost recovery involves numerous public agencies and private corporations, including the California Department of Transportation, which owns a portion of the former landfill and excavated waste for its construction of the San Diego (405) Freeway.  
  • Represented the City of Avalon in the cleanup of legacy contamination from a municipal gas plant before the DTSC.
  • Represented the City of Ontario before the Regional Board Water Control Board regarding alleged contamination from its wastewater treatment plant and the Ontario International Airport.
Russell G. Behrens

Russell G. Behrens

Partner

(949) 263-6569

Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | General & Special Counsel | Public Agency Litigation | Special Districts | Water
Piero C. Dallarda

Piero C. Dallarda

Partner

(951) 826-8338

Areas of Focus: Municipal Law | Special Districts
Jeffrey V. Dunn

Jeffrey V. Dunn

Partner

(949) 263-2616

Areas of Focus: Economic Development, Real Estate & Affordable Housing | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | Public Agency Litigation | Special Districts | Water
Sarah Christopher Foley

Sarah Christopher Foley

Associate

(213) 787-2560

Areas of Focus: Endangered Species | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | Special Districts | Water | Water Quality | Water Rights
Paeter E. Garcia

Paeter E. Garcia

Partner

(213) 787-2543

Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | General & Special Counsel | Special Districts | Water
Eric L. Garner

Eric L. Garner

Partner

(213) 787-2561

Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | Special Districts | Water | Water Rights
T. Brent Hawkins

T. Brent Hawkins

Partner

(916) 551-2086

Areas of Focus: Economic Development, Real Estate & Affordable Housing | Environmental Litigation | Government Relations | Municipal Law | Public Agency Litigation
John H. Holloway

John H. Holloway

Partner

(213) 617-7495

Areas of Focus: Eminent Domain | Environmental Litigation | Hazardous Waste | Municipal Law | Public Agency Litigation
Tammy L. Ingram

Tammy L. Ingram

Paralegal*

(951) 826-8343

Areas of Focus: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Public Agency Litigation
Deborah J. Kollars

Deborah J. Kollars

Associate

(916) 551-2823

Areas of Focus: Education Litigation | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Municipal Law | Special Districts | Water
Todd R. Leishman

Todd R. Leishman

Of Counsel

(949) 263-6576

Areas of Focus: Business | Business Litigation | Environmental Litigation | Public Agency Litigation
Arthur L. Littleworth

Arthur L. Littleworth

Partner

(951) 826-8207

Areas of Focus: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) | Endangered Species | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Special Districts | Water Rights
Steven G. Martin

Steven G. Martin

Associate

(619) 525-1314

Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | General & Special Counsel | Government Policy & Public Integrity | Special Districts | Water
Heather A. McCoy

Heather A. McCoy

Paralegal*

(951) 826-8212

Areas of Focus: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) | Eminent Domain | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation
Andre Monette

Andre Monette

Partner

(619) 525-1374

Areas of Focus: Education Law | Environmental Litigation | Water | Water Quality
Michelle Ouellette

Michelle Ouellette

Partner

(951) 826-8373

Areas of Focus: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) | Endangered Species | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
Sarah E. Owsowitz

Sarah E. Owsowitz

Of Counsel

(925) 977-3308

Areas of Focus: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Renewable Energy | Water
Danielle G. Sakai

Danielle G. Sakai

Partner

(951) 826-8328

Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Hazardous Waste | Municipal Law | Public Agency Litigation | Special Districts
Charity B. Schiller

Charity B. Schiller

Partner

(951) 826-8223

Areas of Focus: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) | Special Districts | Water
Ann M. Siprelle

Ann M. Siprelle

Partner

(916) 551-2834

Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | General & Special Counsel | Municipal Law | Public Contracts & Construction | Special Districts
Andrew M. Skanchy

Andrew M. Skanchy

Of Counsel

(916) 551-2854

Areas of Focus: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
Gene Tanaka

Gene Tanaka

Partner

(925) 977-3301

Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Hazardous Waste | Public Agency Litigation | Water
Kara K. Ueda

Kara K. Ueda

Partner

(916) 551-2822

Areas of Focus: Elections | Environmental Litigation | Government Policy & Public Integrity | Land Use, Planning & Zoning | Municipal Law | Public Agency Litigation | Special Districts
Roderick E. Walston

Roderick E. Walston

Of Counsel

(925) 977-3304

Areas of Focus: Endangered Species | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Water
Kevin Wang

Kevin Wang

Associate

(916) 551-2095

Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | Public Agency Litigation | Public Contracts & Construction
Wendy Y. Wang

Wendy Y. Wang

Of Counsel

(213) 787-2554

Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | Public Contracts & Construction | Special Districts | Water
Alisha M. Winterswyk

Alisha M. Winterswyk

Partner

(949) 263-6565

Areas of Focus: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) | Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
Katherine L. Wisinski

Katherine L. Wisinski

Of Counsel

(925) 977-3320

Areas of Focus: Environmental Litigation | Government Policy & Public Integrity | Municipal Law | Public Agency Litigation
Deborah A. Wordham

Deborah A. Wordham

Of Counsel

(213) 787-2542

Areas of Focus: Environmental Law & Natural Resources | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | Public Agency Litigation | Special Districts | Water
Shelby M. Young

Shelby M. Young

Paralegal*

(213) 617-7493

Areas of Focus: Eminent Domain | Environmental Litigation | Municipal Law | Public Agency Litigation
Event Jun 12-13, 2017

Coping with Drought, Floods and the New Federal Administration

Argent's 2017 California Water Law & Policy MCLE Conference

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

Event May 18-21, 2017

AEP 2017: Bridging the Gap

California State Conference

Event May 18, 2017

Groundwater Sustainability Plans: Potential Challenges And Solutions

The American Ground Water Trust Conference

Event May 5, 2017

Land, Air and Water: Navigating Complex Environmental Issues in the Inland Empire

State Bar of California Environmental Law Section

Event Apr 25, 2017

Water Laws and Regulations

HalfMoon Education Seminars

Event Apr 20, 2017

2017 Federal Civil Practice Seminar

Federal Bar Association Inland Empire Chapter

Art Museum Can Proceed Following BB&K CEQA Victory
Client Successes Mar 30, 2017

Art Museum Can Proceed Following BB&K CEQA Victory

Court Strikes Down Challenges to City’s Approval of Pomona College Master Plan Update

Press Releases Mar 23, 2017

Sacramento Business Journal Again Ranks BB&K as a Top Litigation Firm

Based on Number of Attorneys

BB&K Breaks on to Los Angeles Business Journal’s Top Law Firms List
Press Releases Mar 23, 2017

BB&K Breaks on to Los Angeles Business Journal’s Top Law Firms List

Firm’s Los Angeles Office Makes Debut at No. 173

Authored Articles & Publications Mar 16, 2017

Public Trust Doctrine & Water Rights

The Walker Case: Does the Public Trust Doctrine Apply to Water Rights Established in Judicial Decrees?

Event Mar 3, 2017

Advanced CEQA Workshop (Costa Mesa)

Association of Environmental Professionals

Event Feb 28, 2017

Advanced CEQA Workshop (Riverside)

Association of Environmental Professionals

Client Successes Feb 8, 2017

BB&K Represents Water District in Historic Indian Water Rights Settlement

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indian Water Rights Settlement Act

WOTUS Rule on Hold in Sixth Circuit
Legal Alerts Jan 25, 2017

WOTUS Rule on Hold in Sixth Circuit

Challenge to Waters of the U.S. Rule Delayed Pending Supreme Court Review

Press Releases Jan 20, 2017

Southern California Super Lawyers 2017

Five BB&K Partners Receive Honor

Waters of the U.S. Rule to Go to Supreme Court
Legal Alerts Jan 18, 2017

Waters of the U.S. Rule to Go to Supreme Court

Nation’s High Court Agreed to Hear Challenges to Controversial Rule

Event Jan 18-20, 2017

ESA Implementation in California and the West

Mid-Pacific Region Water Users’ Conference

CEQA Document Filing Fees Increase
Legal Alerts Dec 13, 2016

CEQA Document Filing Fees Increase

Fee Increase for CEQA Notices of Determination Effective Jan. 1

John Holloway Video Bio
Videos Nov 30, 2016

John Holloway Video Bio

Partner

Deborah Wordham Video Bio
Videos Nov 30, 2016

Deborah Wordham Video Bio

Of Counsel

Eric L. Garner Video Bio
Videos Nov 18, 2016

Eric L. Garner Video Bio

Managing Partner

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

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

BB&K Partner Jeffrey V. Dunn Named One of the Top 100 Lawyers in California
Press Releases Sep 21, 2016

BB&K Partner Jeffrey V. Dunn Named One of the Top 100 Lawyers in California

Resolutions in Two Major Water Rights Matters Cited by the Daily Journal

BB&K Partner Kara Ueda Among 2016 Sacramento Business Journal’s Best of the Bar
Press Releases Aug 31, 2016

BB&K Partner Kara Ueda Among 2016 Sacramento Business Journal’s Best of the Bar

This is Her Third Consecutive Year on the List

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

California Supreme Court Requires State to Fund Local Stormwater Programs
Legal Alerts Aug 29, 2016

California Supreme Court Requires State to Fund Local Stormwater Programs

Funding Sources Potentially Impacted for Cities and Counties

Press Releases Jul 8, 2016

Congratulations to BB&K’s Attorneys on the Northern California Super Lawyers and Rising Stars Lists

Eight Attorneys Recognized for Their Professional Achievements

Press Releases Jul 6, 2016

Three BB&K Attorneys Listed as Top Lawyers in Coachella Valley

Palm Springs Life Magazine’s Annual List Includes Partners Robert Hargreaves, Douglas Phillips and G. Henry Welles

Client Successes May 13, 2016

BB&K Secures CEQA Appellate Victory in Water Project

Six Challenges to Public-Private Partnership Effort Overcome

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Beneficial and Reasonable Use
Videos Apr 21, 2016

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Beneficial and Reasonable Use

Video Series

Press Releases Apr 21, 2016

BB&K Partners Shawn Hagerty and Andre Monette Honored by IMLA

They Received an Amicus Service Award for Their Work on a Maui Water Quality Matter

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Prescriptive Rights
Videos Feb 24, 2016

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Prescriptive Rights

Video Series

Water Rights with Eric Garner: California Groundwater Rights
Videos Feb 2, 2016

Water Rights with Eric Garner: California Groundwater Rights

Video Series

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Appropriative Rights to Surface Water
Videos Jan 6, 2016

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Appropriative Rights to Surface Water

Video Series

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Riparian Water Rights
Videos Dec 8, 2015

Water Rights with Eric Garner: Riparian Water Rights

Video Series

Summary of Appellate Cases Decided by the Courts in 2014-2015
Authored Articles & Publications Nov 4, 2015

Summary of Appellate Cases Decided by the Courts in 2014-2015

Association of California Water Agencies

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

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