Bret Sumner

Shareholder

303-407-4436 | direct

303-407-4499 | firm

800-886-6566 | fax

bsumner@bwenergylaw.com

“Energy involves the intersection of law, policy, politics, and business. I have extensive experience in all four of these arenas, and I strive to maximize and leverage this depth of knowledge to advance and achieve my clients' goals and objectives. The relentless pursuit of excellence and stellar client service are the foundational cornerstones of my practice.”

Printable Bio

OVERVIEW

 

Bret Sumner focuses his practice on oil and gas and environmental matters.  Bret specializes in advising clients on large scale development projects and permitting issues, involving multiple states and jurisdictions (federal, state and local) and a wide range of industry, agricultural, local government, and other stakeholder interests.   

 

Bret represents companies in litigation, permitting, enforcement, and administrative proceedings. He regularly defends permits and projects from challenges by environmental and anti-industry groups.  He represents clients in federal and state courts, and before administrative adjudicatory entities.

 

He also specializes in counseling clients on front-end regulatory authorization and environmental compliance matters, with the twin goals of expediting project approvals from federal, state, and local agencies, and minimizing litigation risk.  He counsels companies on the preparation of environmental documentation and permit applications, works with federal and state agencies to facilitate efficient processing of permits, and works with clients confronted with state and federal investigation and enforcement proceedings.

 

Bret advises companies on compliance with federal statutes, such as the:

  • National Environmental Policy Act

  • Endangered Species Act

  • Clean Air Act

  • Clean Water Act

  • National Historic Preservation Act

  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act

  • Federal Land Policy and Management Act

  • National Forest Management Act

 

He works with companies in navigating issues involving a variety of federal departments and agencies, such as the:

  • U.S. Department of the Interior

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • Bureau of Land Management

  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Environmental Protection Agency

  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

  • U.S. Forest Service

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs

  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  • U.S. Coast Guard

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

 

Bret regularly counsels oil and gas companies on obtaining and operating mineral leases on federal and Indian lands.  He also works with federal regulators and legislators to create, revise, and interpret new laws, regulations and policies related to the energy industry and federal lands and minerals.

 

Prior to joining Beatty & Wozniak, P.C. in 2009, Bret practiced in the Washington D.C. Office (1998 to 2006) and Denver Office (2007 to 2008) of the international law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski, L.L.P.

 

SELECT EXPERIENCE

Litigation

  • Represent oil and gas industry through two trade associations as defendant-intervenors in legal challenge filed by environmental plaintiff groups against federal oil and gas lease sales in three states regarding climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and related air quality issues.

  • Defend oil and gas companies in legal challenges including ESA, NEPA and Clean Air Act causes of action filed by environmental plaintiffs challenging leasing, and exploration and development projects.

  • Represent oil and gas trade associations in legal challenge to decisions by the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to amend federal land use plans with prohibitive and restrictive management prescriptions related to greater sage grouse in 11 western states. 

  • Represent a coalition of oil and gas, ranching, and agricultural trade associations in litigation involving BLM decisions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

  • Represent oil and gas companies in federal court litigation related to plaintiff groups’ challenge to USFWS’ decisions not to list a species as threatened or endangered under the ESA.

  • Represented oil and gas industry trade association as defendant-intervenor in successful defense to challenge to EPA rule regarding Clean Air Act non-attainment classification in the Uinta Basin in Utah.  U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit adopted arguments in decision favorable to industry.

  • Represented three independent oil and gas companies as Appellees in successfully defending against lawsuit filed by a coalition of environmental plaintiff organizations challenging authorization of an oil and gas development project by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service in southwestern Colorado. 

  • Represented independent oil and gas companies as defendant-intervenor in a legal challenge to Utah Bureau of Land Management federal land use plans brought by a coalition of environmental groups. 

  • Represented two large independent oil and gas companies and an affiliate gathering company as defendant-intervenors in successful defense against a lawsuit focused on wildlife issues related to BLM's authorization of oil and gas development in Pinedale Resource Area in Wyoming.

  • Represented large independent oil and gas company as defendant-intervenor in challenge to federal land use plan and BLM decision to lease certain oil and gas parcels on the Roan Plateau.  Successfully negotiated settlement with oil and gas lessees, State of Colorado, U.S. Department of the Interior, and environmental plaintiff organizations and resolved decades-long dispute in a manner that allowed for continued development. 

  • Represented independent oil and gas companies in a challenge to a Secretarial Order regarding development of oil and gas and potash in southeastern New Mexico.  Successfully negotiated resolution and settlement that allowed companies to achieve their business and development objectives.

 

Environmental Compliance and Permitting

  • Served as lead counsel to project proponent in complex, large scale water-flood and infill development project involving 8,500 oil and gas wells and related roads, gas plants and infrastructure covering approximately 120,000 acres in the Uinta Basin, Utah.  Representation covered all aspects of project proposal and permitting, including compliance with NEPA, ESA, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and numerous other federal and state environmental laws and regulations.

  • Counsel companies on navigating Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance and permitting, Section 7 consultation for project-level authorizations, development of conservation strategies and policy level engagement with the U.S. Department of the Interior and USFWS, as well as BLM and Bureau of Indian Affairs related permitting matters.

  • Represent oil and gas companies and other mining and development companies before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and/or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding threatened and endangered species and ESA compliance issues in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, and New Mexico.

  • Advise clients on project planning, conservation and mitigation strategies and risk assessment related to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s expanding interpretation of its scope of enforcement authority under the MBTA. 

  • Represent clients on matters involving wetlands and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and related permitting issues involving the Army Corps of Engineers.

  • Represent companies facing EPA enforcement actions related to Section 404 and Section 311 of the Clean Water Act.

  • Counsel companies on navigating ESA compliance and ESA Section 7 consultation for project-level authorizations, including development of conservation strategies and policy level engagement with the Department of the Interior and USFWS, as well as BLM and Bureau of Indian Affairs related permitting matters

  • Represent oil and gas companies and trade associations in drafting comments on various USFWS proposals for the establishment and designation of critical habitat under Section 4 of the ESA for listed species.

  • Advise clients on project planning, conservation and mitigation strategies, and related NEPA and ESA compliance for aquatic species related to the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program and the South Platte Water Related Activities Program, Inc. (SPWRAP). 

  • Advise clients on compliance with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, including project level conservation measures, consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under Section 7 of the ESA, and formulation of landscape level conservation plans for use in programmatic and project-specific Biological Opinions under the ESA. 

  • Advise clients on compliance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Programmatic Water Depletion Biological Opinion for the Green River and White Rivers in Utah and Colorado. 

 

Policy and Legislation

  • Represent companies and trade association in the formulation of federal policy and legislative proposals regarding the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Historic Preservation Act.

  • Draft state legislation regarding the contours of local government regulation of oil and gas activities.

  • Represent trade associations in drafting regarding proposed conservation and mitigation policies at the state and federal levels, including USFWS and National Marine Fisheries Service’s revisions to their Habitat Conservation Plan Handbook.

Industries

  • Oil & Gas

  • Energy

  • Industrial Development

Practice Areas

  • Litigation

  • Environmental Compliance and Regulatory Counseling

  • Permitting and Leasing

  • Risk Management

  • Policy and Legislation

Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court

  • U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado

  • U.S. District Court for the District of Utah

  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

  • U.S. Courts of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Professional Activities

  • Western Energy Alliance  (an industry trade association of over 300 companies)

    • Board of Directors

    • Vice Chair of the Board for Government and Public Affairs

    • Board Executive Committee

  • Denver Petroleum Club (Board of Directors)

  • 50 for Colorado, Class of 2007, Executive Development Program, Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado

  • Selected as a “Rising Star” Energy and Natural Resources Attorney in the 2009 and 2010 Colorado Super Lawyers publications

Education

  • Juris Doctor, Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, 1998

    • Note and Comments Editor of The Catholic University Law Review

  • Bachelor of Science, Political Science and History, James Madison University, 1992

    • Magna Cum Laude

 

Speeches and Publications

  • Climate Change Litigation, Beatty & Wozniak Seminar (March 2018)

  • EPA’s Role in the NEPA Process, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, Special NEPA Institute (November 2017)

  • Federal Policy Update, Petroleum Association of Wyoming (August 2017)

  • Greater Sage Grouse Federal Land Use Plan Amendments and Litigation Update, University of Wyoming Energy Conference (October 2016)

  • The Endangered Species Act: Overview, Case Studies and Strategies for Oil and Gas Companies, The Center for American and International Law, 66th Annual Oil & Gas Law Conference (February 2015)

  •  Federal Master Leasing Plans, EUCI Seminar (April 2013)

  • Managing Regulatory and Litigation Risks Associated with Hydraulic Fracturing, EUCI Conference (February 2012)

  • Current BLM Leasing Policy, Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, Denver University School of Law (February 2012)

  • Federal Regulatory and Environmental Issues Relevant to Lease Access, NALTA Annual Conference (September 28, 2011)

  • BLM Regulatory Changes & Implications for Producers, IPAA Access and Resource Development Conference, Colorado Springs, Colorado (June 2010)

  • Legal Update: Recent Cases and Legal Challenges involving Air Quality and GHGs, Rocky Mountain Environmental, Health, and Safety Peer Group, Quarterly Meeting (October 2009)

  • Legal Update: Recent Cases and Legal Challenges, IPAMS Annual Meeting and Summer Conference (June 2009)

  • Projects in Sensitive Areas: How to Facilitate Authorization and Minimize Litigation Risks, Colorado Oil and Gas Association Annual Conference, Rocky Mountain Energy Epicenter (July 2008)

  • Legal Update: Wilderness Characteristics; Global Warming, Climate Change and GHG Emissions, IPAMS Annual Meeting and Summer Conference (June 2008)

  • Federal Land Access: Current Issues and Future Challenges, 2008 Business Summit of the West.

  • Leasing Due Diligence on Federal Lands: Procedures and Strategies, Denver Association of Petroleum Landmen’s Fall Land Institute, Denver, Colorado (October 2007)

  • Look Before You Lease RMPs and Post-Pennaco Leasing Issues, American Association of Professional Landmen's Santa Fe Land Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico (September 2006)

  • Fighting Pseudo-Science with Hard Science: How to Combat Legal Challenges to Oil & Gas Projects Under NEPA and FLPMA, Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s 16th Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado (August 2006)

  • NEPA Process Applied to Federal Land Development Decisions: The Powder River CBM Experience, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute on NEPA and Federal Land Development, Denver, Colorado (February 2006)

  • Federal Land Access Issues, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association Annual Conference, Santa Fe, New Mexico (October 2005)

Please reload