Chris Carr is widely regarded as one of the leading project development, environmental, and energy lawyers in the United States. Drawing on his experience with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Carr represents businesses, land developers, public agencies, and nonprofits in all areas of environmental and natural resource law, including energy, transportation, water, forestry, mining, coastal and marine resources, and agriculture.
In particular, his practice focuses on permitting and litigation under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as well as their California counterparts: the California ESA, the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
He is experienced in local, state, federal, and international laws, regulations, initiatives, and programs promoting the development of renewable energy and infrastructure.
Mr. Carr frequently defends permits, approvals, and environmental review documents for utility-scale renewable energy and other infrastructure projects in federal and state courts, and defends against “citizen suits” brought under federal environmental statutes.
Mr. Carr is Chair of the Paul Hastings Environment and Energy Practice. He was head of Morrison and Foerster’s Global Energy & Environment Practice and co-chair of its Cleantech Practice Group from 2010 – 2017. He also co-chaired its Autonomous Vehicle and Drone Practice group from 2015 – 2017. He is a regular speaker at Berkeley Law and Stanford Law School.
Among his representative clients, he counts: Vistra Corp., Terra-Gen Power, 8minute Solar Energy, Brookfield Power, EDF Renewables, Genentech, West Basin Municipal Water District, Green Diamond Resource Company, The Wine Group, Jackson Family Wines, and Structurlam Mass Timber Corp.
- The Legal 500 USA, Energy: Renewable/Alternative Power (2022)
- The Legal 500 USA, Environment: Litigation (2022)
- The Legal 500 USA, Environment: Regulatory (2021-2022)
- Chambers USA, Environment (2022)
- Chambers USA, Environment (2018-2021)
- Recommended by Chambers USA (2015-2016)
- Recognized as San Francisco Natural Resources Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers (2013, 2016)
- The Legal 500 U.S. (2012-2016)
- Best Lawyers (2009-2017)
- University of California at Berkeley, Ph.D., 2004
- University of California at Berkeley, J.D., 1994
- University of California at Berkeley, B.A., 1990
- Represented renewable energy developers in land use, permitting and environmental review for utility-scale wind, solar, and battery energy storage projects.
- Represented renewable energy trade groups before California Fish and Game Commission to secure emergency regulation authorizing incidental take of Joshua tree under California Endangered Species Act for 15 renewable energy projects and defend regulation against CEQA challenge.
- Defended Panoche Valley Solar project in federal and California courts against motions for preliminary injunction alleging violations of protected species, wetlands, and CEQA requirements.
- Advised San Francisco Department of the Environment on local, state, and federal permitting and environmental review (CEQA/NEPA) requirements for siting, in collaboration with PG&E, tidal energy project in San Francisco Bay, and wave energy project off Ocean Beach.
- Prosecuted Nevada state court challenge to Nevada Public Utilities Commission order altering the tariff for rooftop solar energy on behalf of Solar City and Sunrun.
- Represented West Basin Municipal Water District in local, state, and federal permitting for Ocean Water Desalination Project and defended CEQA challenge to EIR.
- Prosecuted challenges to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Opinion for delta smelt and National Marine Fisheries Service Biological Opinion for salmonids restricting operation of California and federal water projects.
- Represented Genentech and tech company coalition to defend the City and County of San Francisco’s employee shuttle program against CEQA challenge.
- Secured dismissal for Avalon Bay Communities, Inc., of a CEQA lawsuit (affirmed on appeal) brought by the Carpenters Union to stop development of transit-oriented apartment complex.
- Represented national trade associations as intervenors to defend 2019 revisions to Endangered Species Act implementing regulations against litigation challenge.
- Represented timberland owners and timber companies in permitting operations and defending against state and federal litigation challenges involving CEQA/NEPA, protected species, and water quality.
- Advised California Department of Food and Agriculture on PEIR and implementing regulations for cannabis cultivation licensing and on Joint PEIS/PEIR for Wildlife Damage Management Program (with USDA-WS).
- Advised Island Conservation on legal issues and requirements for projects to eradicate invasive species from islands to restore native seabird populations.
- Advised The Nature Conservancy on legal requirements for program to auction rights to flood rice fields for migratory bird habitat and on marine conservation projects, including fleet reduction/buyback program.
- Secured dismissal (affirmed by the Ninth Circuit in a published decision) of a citizen suit alleging that California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials violated the ESA by removing an endangered plant that had been illegally transplanted to site to block proposed residential development.
Engagement & Publications
- Panelist, California Forestry Association Annual Meeting
- Speaker, Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act Modernization
- Moderator, ACORE Renewable Energy Grid Forum
- Moderator, Pacific Rim Offshore Wind
- Moderator, San Francisco Energy Dialogues Podcast
- Author, "Energy Infrastructure on Tenuous Winning Streak in the Courts," POWER Magazine
- Author, "Energy Storage: Ready for Takeoff," Law360
- City of San Francisco’s Clean Technology Advisory Council
- Wine Institute’s Public Policy Committee
- California Forestry Association’s Legal Affairs Committee
- National Advisory Council of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley