PETER STEENLAND, JR. has been a key participant in the development of federal environmental law for over three decades. Mr. Steenland’s practice involves environmental counseling and litigation, with an emphasis on advising energy companies, railroads, electric utilities and other entities on compliance with federal environmental obligations in connection with federal permitting for large scale projects.
Mr. Steenland’s representative activities include advising on the environmental aspects of constructing a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope of Alaska to the contiguous United States, issues relating to a proposed oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast and review of the proposed modernization of an important freight rail tunnel that runs under a portion of an East Coast city.
For over 30 years, Mr. Steenland was a lawyer at the United States Department of Justice. Mr. Steenland joined the Department of Justice in 1970, just as Congress was enacting a number of federal environmental statutes, including, among others, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Endangered Species Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act. He participated in preparing the first federal appellate brief addressing the National Environmental Policy Act. First as an appellate lawyer, and later as the Chief of the Appellate Section in the Environment & Natural Resources Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, Mr. Steenland participated directly in the formative litigation shaping and interpreting NEPA and these other measures. He has argued more than 150 cases in the federal courts of appeals, and worked closely with the Office of the Solicitor General when the Division’s cases reached the Supreme Court.
Mr. Steenland’s federal practice also included successfully representing the Federal Aviation Administration in environmental disputes involving airport and airspace improvements. He has successfully litigated and supervised some 35 cases where the FAA has prevailed in environmental disputes. Mr. Steenland’s other litigation responsibilities included issues arising from the management and use of national forests, national parks and other federal lands, federal eminent domain activities, and federal Indian law. He was the lead federal negotiator in talks between the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe in Arizona that ultimately resolved a 100 year old inter-tribal dispute to contested reservation lands. He also settled a claim on behalf of a California Indian Tribe for damages caused by flooding of tribal lands from irrigation activities.
From 1995 until 2002 when he joined Sidley, Mr. Steenland served as Director of the Office of Dispute Resolution at the Department of Justice where he was the federal government’s leading proponent of the use of dispute resolution as an alternative to litigation. Under his leadership, use of mediation and other forms of ADR by the federal government quadrupled.
Mr. Steenland received the John Marshall Award for Appellate Advocacy from the Attorney General of the United States in 1985. In 1996, he received the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service. In 1999, he was one of 30 executives who received the Presidential Award for Distinguished Public Service.