With more than 25 years of experience, Don Sobelman helps clients navigate the complexities of federal and California environmental law. His multifaceted practice encompasses administrative enforcement defense, civil litigation in state and federal court, compliance with regulations and permits, contaminated site cleanup and redevelopment, and transactional due diligence.

Don has tackled a diverse range of environmental law matters, including:

  • Serving as lead counsel for clients in administrative proceedings and civil litigation in trial and appellate courts involving state and federal statutes (such as CERCLA/Superfund, RCRA, the Clean Water Act, the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act, and Proposition 65) and governmental authorities (such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the California Regional Water Quality Boards (RWQCBs), and county district attorneys);
  • Litigating complex environmental tort and nuisance actions involving personal injury and property damage claims related to contamination;
  • Resolving contractual disputes and claims arising from environmental indemnities;
  • Ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal regulations and permits pertaining to hazardous materials, hazardous waste, groundwater and stormwater quality, wetlands, and indoor air quality; and;
  • Managing sites requiring investigation, risk assessment, and remediation to address vapor intrusion and/or soil and groundwater contamination, including from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as PCE and TCE, metals such as lead and hexavalent chromium, PFAS compounds, petroleum products, pesticides, and PCBs.

Don’s practice also routinely involves advising clients on the purchase, sale, and redevelopment of brownfields and other properties. He manages all aspects of the environmental due diligence process, negotiates indemnities for environmental liabilities, and assists clients with obtaining insurance coverage for environmental risks. In addition, Don helps developers navigate the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and land use entitlements process, including with respect to general plan amendments, zoning revisions, and conditional use permits. He has significant experience as lead counsel in CEQA and land use litigation in both trial and appellate courts.

Don’s clients benefit from his multidisciplinary approach to solving their problems and advancing their goals. By efficiently and effectively collaborating with technical experts with relevant specialties, he ensures that his clients obtain the best possible advice when deciding how to address complex environmental issues. 

Active in his community, Don represented pro bono the South Valley Islamic Center (SVIC) in San Martin, California with respect to the CEQA and permit process for SVIC’s Cordoba Center—a 16-acre project including a mosque, community center, and cemetery. The project was approved by unanimous vote of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in December 2019.


  • Best Lawyers in America, Litigation-Environmental (2018-2024), Environmental Law (2022-2024)
  • The Lawdragon Green 500: Leaders in Environmental Law (2023-2024)
  • Northern California Super Lawyers in Environmental Litigation (2014-2024)

Memberships and Affiliations

  • California Bar Association, Section on Environmental Law
  • Bar Association of San Francisco, Environmental Law Section
  • Association of Environmental Professionals

Firm Highlights


Lawdragon Names 7 Farella Lawyers Among “Leaders in Environmental Law”

Northern California legal powerhouse Farella Braun + Martel is pleased to announce that seven lawyers were selected to The Lawdragon Green 500: 2024 Leaders in Environmental Law . Farella lawyers selected for inclusion: Sarah...

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New PFAS Federal Drinking Water Standards Create Major Liability and Litigation Risk

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has released a final regulation setting individual drinking water maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for five per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These MCLs are incredibly stringent due to EPA’s stated concerns...

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Farella Awards 2024 Diversity Scholarships to Bay Area Law Students

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EPA Designates PFOA and PFOS as Hazardous Substances

Don Sobelman provided expert commentary in the  Chemical & Engineering News article "EPA Designates PFOA and PFOS as Hazardous Substances." Excerpt from the article: Lawyers are warning anyone purchasing an industrial site where PFOA...

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Farella Braun + Martel Attorneys Named to 2024 Northern California Super Lawyers and Rising Stars

Thirty-four Farella Braun + Martel lawyers were named to the Super Lawyers and Rising Stars lists of top attorneys in Northern California for 2024. 2024 Farella Northern California  Super Lawyers: Amy Briggs – Business...

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New PFAS Listing Under Superfund Will Lead to Major Expansion of Liability

On April 19, 2024, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced its final rule designating perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under Section 102(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation...

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