Biography

Chris Locke, a former chair of the environmental law practice at Farella, has more than 35 years of experience counseling and representing clients in all aspects of environmental law, environmental litigation, and enforcement defense. He is a Fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL), a former Director of the Environment Law Institute (ELI), and is recognized by Chambers USA as a leading California lawyer in environmental law.

Chris’ practice includes defense of federal and state enforcement actions, representation in actions involving CERCLA, RCRA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other federal and state statutory and common law claims, as well as cost recovery litigation and citizen suit defense. Drawing on his experience as a former federal prosecutor, Chris’ practice includes internal investigations, grand jury representation, and defense of criminal enforcement actions. Chris also assists clients with regulatory compliance, permitting and representation, project development strategies, and NEPA/CEQA/land use proceedings and related litigation.

Chris’ clients span a broad range of representation of both public and private interests, including energy, manufacturing, mining, real estate development, scientific research, technology, telecommunications, transportation, and wine businesses. Throughout his career, he has been recognized by clients for his strategic approach, whether in trial or appellate courts, regulatory or land use proceedings, or long-term business planning and risk management.

Chris is described by clients as a “master strategist and exceptional litigator,” and has been commended for his skill and efficiency in understanding and achieving clients’ goals. His experience is summarized here and includes:

  • Defense judgment for transportation company following month-long trial of state Superfund contribution action relating to former wood treating site, in federal District Court in Washington.
  • Successful challenge to Air District permit conditions for renewable energy project which, following evidentiary hearings by review board, were found not supported by BACT criteria.
  • Dismissal with prejudice, affirmed on appeal, of claims against wineries for alleged failure to warn of arsenic, in Los Angeles Superior Court and the California Court of Appeal.
  • Representation of geothermal energy company in federal and state lease and license renewals, including CX determinations under NEPA and CEQA, in California.
  • Dismissal of Clean Water Act citizen suit for alleged storm water discharge violations at university construction and industrial sites, in federal District Court in California.
  • Decline of prosecution by District Attorney for alleged hazardous waste and water quality violations at surface mining facility in Alameda County, California.
  • Favorable settlement following partial summary judgment for transportation company in 230-plaintiff action relating to alleged groundwater contamination and vapor intrusion.
  • Successful defense, resulting in judgment on the pleadings, in defending Supervisors’ approval of EIR for expansion of Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California.

Chris began his career as a Legislative Assistant to then-Congressman Christopher Dodd, and as a Research Analyst/Investigator for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee on Assassinations, evaluating the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and recommending legislative reforms. Prior to private practice, Chris served in the Attorney General’s Honor Law Graduate Program, as a federal prosecutor with the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C, assigned to the Appellate Section and the Organized Crime Strike Force; and later as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, in San Francisco.

Chris is a frequent lecturer and author on developments in environmental law, renewable energy, criminal enforcement and defense, trial strategy, and evidence. He is also a member of ELI’s Leadership Council, and formerly served on the boards of directors of ELI, the Marin County Bar Association and Legal Aid of Marin, and was a co-chair of Farella’s Diversity Committee.

Distinctions

  • Chambers USA, Environment - California, Band 3 (2011-Present)
  • Best Lawyers in America, Environmental Law; Litigation–Environmental; Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions - Defendants (2011-Present)
  • The Lawdragon Green 500: Leaders in Environmental Law (2023-Present)
  • Who's Who Legal: Environment (2017-Present)
  • Northern California Super Lawyers, Environmental Litigation (2004-2008, 2010-Present)

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Fellow, American College of Environmental Lawyers (2017-present)
  • Advisory Council, American College of Environmental Lawyers Foundation (2023-present)
  • Member, Leadership Council, Environmental Law Institute (2002-present)
  • Steering Committee, ELI Leadership Council (2014-present)
  • Section on Energy, Environment and Resources, American Bar Association
  • Environmental Litigation Committee, Section on Litigation, American Bar Association
  • Member, Board of Directors, Jack London Park Partners (2024-present)                                                                            
  • Member, Board of Directors, Marin County Bar Association (2020-2022)
  • Member and Past President, Board of Directors, Legal Aid of Marin (1996-2003, 2010-2017)
  • Member, Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Environmental Law Institute (2002-2010)
  • Assistant U.S. Attorney, Northern District of California (1983-1986)
  • Trial Attorney, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice (1981-1983)
  • Research Analyst/Investigator, Select Committee on Assassinations, U.S. House of Representatives (1976-1978) 
  • Legislative Assistant, Congressman Christopher J. Dodd, U.S. House of Representatives (1975-1976)