I am a member here at the BrownWinick law firm. I practice in a wide variety of areas but the term that captures the essence of what I enjoy doing is “Industrial Law.” This includes nearly all aspects of the complex systems that make an industrial operation work. My core area is environmental law, which I’ve been specializing in for more than thirty years. In that area I help my clients navigate compliance with a diverse and highly complex number of laws and regulations. This includes offering advice regarding the air, wastewater, and solid waste permits that allow my industry clients to operate legally and profitably without harming the environment. I’ve also represented a large number of railroads and heavy industries that rely on negotiating successful track, car, lease, and transportation agreements that allow goods to come in and go out of those businesses. Finally, industry cannot survive without ready access to adequate and reliable energy, whether that energy takes the form of gas or electric power. Again, when regulations or other parties try to block renewable energy solutions, I’ve taken those parties to court to open break open competition. During my career I have helped thousands of businesses deal with environmental investigations and cleanups, had a hand in providing legal guidance to more than three dozen ethanol and biodiesel plants, and managed the legal due diligence for a dozen very large wind projects.
When clients bring a complex issue to me to handle I work to identify potential issues as soon as possible. If there is no accepted solution I try to create new solutions. When those problems turn out to be caused by third parties, I try to work out a reasonable agreement. If that does not work then litigation may be the only solution. In the environmental area I’ve challenged government agencies and won precedent-setting decisions. As an example, in Blue Chip Enterprises, et. al. v. State, Dept. of Natural Resources, 528 N.W.2d 619 (Iowa 1995) I won a ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court that held that the State could not impose clean-up liability on landowners that did not cause the underlying contamination. The same is true in the energy field. I helped take a case to the Iowa Supreme Court which held that the “behind the meter” power purchase agreements to sell solar power on a per kWh was unregulated. SZ Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Eagle Point Solar v. Iowa Utilities Board, 850 N.W.2d 441 (July 11, 2014).
More About Me
Ask my long-term clients and they will likely tell you that I am personally driven by the desire to understand the systems that my clients have to deal with, whether those clients are manufacturers, wind energy companies, developers, or even governments. A lot of times I find that the answer to a problem lies in an understanding of what makes things work the way they do. I’ve found that if I can have a firm grasp of what the client does or wants to do then the solutions sometimes present themselves. Many times those solutions are not “legal” as much as they are practical. This even carries over into technology. In addition to managing the law firm’s IT staff, I have provided services to banks, credit unions, pension administrators, and businesses to assist them with the legal aspects of responding to malicious hacks and cyber-attacks. I’ve also represented IT professionals in federal court who have been sued or accused of exceeding their authorization under federal criminal statutes protecting critical federal and private computing and networking infrastructure.
I am currently serving as Chair of the Iowa Bar Association’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section and have served on numerous bar committees charged with helping to write administrative litigation rules. I have been selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers® for Environmental Law and Best Lawyers® for Environmental Law. In 2013 and 2017 I was named Best Lawyers’ Lawyer of the Year in Environmental Law.
Jim received his B.S., magna cum laude, in 1980 from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and his J.D., with distinction, from the University of Iowa in 1984. He was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1985.
- Environmental law (air, water, solid waste, pharmaceutical)
- Energy law (renewable, power purchase agreements, pipelines)
- Rail transportation law
- Cyber security
- Litigation (federal, state, district and appellate)
- Iowa Department of Natural Resource
- Iowa Department of Transportation
- Surface Transportation Board
- Federal Railroad Administration
- Agriculture and Land Stewardship Agency
- Iowa Utilities Board
- United States Environmental Protection Agency
- United States Office of Surface Mining