Erika K. Powers

Erika K. Powers

Barnes & Thornburg LLP

Recognized since 2018

Chicago, Illinois

Practice Areas

Environmental Law

Water Law

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Chair of the firm’s Environmental Department, Erika Powers’ practice is totally focused on nationwide water quality issues. Her ability to understand the most complex details of a matter without losing sight of the macro agenda and big-picture client objectives is critical when analyzing the intersection of science and law surrounding water quality regulation.

Notably, Erika provides veteran legal counsel regarding regulatory matters involving state and federal environmental agencies, as well as CWA administrative and judicial litigation. She advocates to support her clients’ interests in water quality rulemaking and policy development, crafts strategies to achieve client objectives while maintaining compliance with water quality regulations, helps clients contest agency decisions in federal and state courts, and defends clients against citizen suits and agency enforcement actions seeking damages and penalties.

Listed among The Best Lawyers in America in environmental law, Erika is valued for her ability to balance national water policy with the daily challenges of managing local, regional and multistate water-related initiatives. She helps clients achieve their goals while addressing agency concerns in the decision-making process. Because many of Erika’s clients are at the forefront of innovation in water quality law and face the challenge of budgetary constraints, she remains steadfastly dedicated to helping them maximize their results with limited resources while adhering to state and federal regulations.

Erika is a regular invited speaker and educator on municipal and industrial Clean Water Act issues at legal and professional associations and community groups across the country. Erika assists clients with:

  • Negotiating and modifying wet weather consent decrees between public utilities and state and federal agencies
  • Developing combined sewer overflow (CSO) long-term control plans (LTCPs) and separate sewer overflow (SSO) minimization plans
  • Developing integrated plans to prioritize municipal investments in water-related obligations
  • Working collaboratively with clients and regulators to achieve strategic municipal and business objectives while fully complying with Clean Water Act requirements
  • Participating in federal and state water policy development and rulemaking efforts
  • Challenging environmental rules promulgated by U.S. EPA and state agencies, including water quality standards and effluent limitations guidelines
  • Providing advice on obtaining, complying with, and appealing NPDES wastewater discharge permits
  • Defending against U.S. EPA and state enforcement actions and citizen suit
  • Developing and modifying municipal pretreatment programs
  • Developing site-specific water quality criteria
  • Developing, negotiating and appealing total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) established by state and federal agencies

Contact & Links


  • One North Wacker Drive, Suite 4400
    Chicago, IL 60606-2833


  • University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, J.D., graduated 1994
  • Alma College, B.A., graduated 1990

Bar Admissions

  • Illinois, Illinois State Bar Association
  • Michigan, State Bar of Michigan

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® 2023 for work in:

  • Environmental Law
  • Water Law


  • The Best Lawyers in America, 2017 to Present, Environmental Law

Professional and Community Involvement

  • Member, American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy and Resources
  • Member, State Bar of Michigan Environmental Law Section
  • Former chair, Chicago Bar Association Environmental Law Committee
  • Board of trustees member, Alma College
  • Chair, Alma College Academic Affairs Committee

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