Contact Information


3200 Wells Fargo Center
1700 Lincoln Street

Denver, Colorado 80203

D: +1 303 607 3629
F: +1 303 607 3600


University of Michigan Law School
J.D. (1977)
Grand Valley State University
B.S., with highest honors (1974)

Bar Admissions


James R. Spaanstra

Of Counsel

In nearly 40 years practicing environmental law and representing stakeholders in the energy, natural resources and environmental service industries, Jim Spaanstra has cultivated in-depth knowledge of the challenges these clients face in managing state, national and international regulations.

In his robust environmental and natural resources law practice, Jim draws from extensive public and private sector experience to drive solutions for clients operating in those complex regulatory environments. He also works alongside colleagues at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting to help clients understand the potential threats and opportunities presented by the regulatory landscape — at a federal, state and local level — and to develop and execute government relations programs to achieve public policy goals.

Further, Jim leverages his public sector experience to partner with FaegreBD Consulting’s nationally leading public-private partnership (P3) practice to implement exciting new infrastructure recycling projects throughout the U.S.

Environmental Counseling and Compliance Experience

Jim has built a nationally recognized, diverse environmental law practice. He counsels commercial, industrial and governmental clients on compliance and enforcement matters involving federal environmental laws (e.g., RCRA, CERCLA, SMCRA, NEPA, EPCRA, CAA and CWA) and their state counterparts. In particular, he advises national solid and hazardous waste management companies on the siting, permitting, operation and remediation of commercial waste management facilities.

Significant environmental matters Jim has handled include:

  • Counseled Heritage Thermal Services regarding remedial, regulatory and technologies response to a malfunction at its East Liverpool, Ohio, hazardous waste incinerator in July 2013.
  • Counseled four successive owners of the Highway 36 hazardous waste treatment storage and disposal facility in Adams County, Colorado. Obtained Certificate of Designation siting approval from the Adams County Board of County Commissioners, and successively defended that approval in Colorado state courts. Applied for and obtained RCRA Subtitle C permit authorizing commercial hazardous waste treatment storage and land disposal at the Highway 36 facility, and successfully defended administrative challenges to the permit.
  • Advised the integrating contractor at DOE's Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site in Jefferson County, Colorado, regarding CERCLA, RCRA and related environmental compliance matters generated by the remediation of former production facility for plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons.
  • Participated in the siting, zoning, permitting and expansion of several non-hazardous waste landfills, transfer stations, recycling facilities and other industrial projects in the western United States.
  • Advised two primary contractors at DOE's Hanford facility in Washington on environmental statutory, regulatory, enforcement and permit compliance matters. Advised on Consent Order and Washington dangerous waste permit amendments, and assisted in administrative litigation related to amendments to the Hanford facility Tri-Party Agreement, and revisions to the site's State of Washington dangerous waste permit.

Brownfields Redevelopment Experience

Jim has been involved in establishing voluntary cleanup/brownfields initiatives throughout the U.S. Using that experience, he counsels industrial and commercial clients on the purchase and sale of contaminated properties, and on environmental due diligence issues during the sale and acquisition of commercial and industrial facilities.

Key examples of Jim's brownfield redevelopment experience include:

  • Advised Continuum Partners on environmental issues associated with the $750 million Belmar brownfields redevelopment project in Lakewood, Colorado.
  • Served as principal negotiator for the State of Colorado in a groundbreaking voluntary cleanup/Brownfields Memorandum of Agreement between Colorado and EPA Region VIII in 1996.
  • Advised scores of brownfield developers in Colorado regarding the application of the Colorado Voluntary Cleanup and Redevelop Act, and the Colorado Environmental Covenant Law. Jim co-authored both laws and subsequent amendments to those statutes.

Energy Industry Expertise

In addition to his work for waste management facilities, Jim advises a broad spectrum of energy and natural resources companies on licensing, permitting and other regulatory issues. He is at the forefront of the resurgence of strategic metal mining in North America.

Jim has advised on matters involving mining and mineral processing sites, chemical production facilities, wood treatment sites and more. Examples of Jim's work in the energy sector include:

  • Represented Energy Fuels Resources in defending the first uranium mill license issued in the U.S. in the past 25 years.
  • Advised multiple up and midstream oil and gas companies regarding project development activity throughout the Western U.S.

Government Energy and Environmental Leadership

Jim draws from his substantial experience working for and with government agencies on energy and environmental matters to advise his clients. He began his career as a staff attorney for the Council on Environmental Quality in the Executive Office of the President of the United States, where he helped advise President Carter on environmental policy.

Jim's government appointments in the energy/environment sphere include:

  • Colorado School of Mines — Board of Trustees, 2008-January 2017 (Chair of the Board; 2010-January 2017)
  • Great Outdoors Colorado — Board of Trustees, 2009-present (Treasurer, 2010-present; Vice-Chair, 2014-2015; Executive Director 2016 through February, 2017)
  • Colorado Climate Action Plan Advisory Panel, 2009

Throughout his career, Jim has helped draft and develop environmental laws and regulations at the local, state and federal levels. In 1980, he authored amendments to RCRA. Jim co-authored Colorado's Environmental Covenants Act (2001), Voluntary Cleanup and Redevelopment Act (1994), Mini-Superfund Act (1985), Hazardous Waste Siting Act (1983) and Hazardous Waste Act (1981).


  • 5280 Magazine — Top Lawyer, Environmental, 2015
  • American College of Environmental Lawyers — Fellow, 2009-present
  • Colorado Super Lawyers — Environmental, 2007-15; Environmental/Land Use, 2008-11 (Colorado Top 50, 2010)
  • The Best Lawyers in America — Environmental Law, 2007-17 (Denver Environmental Lawyer of the Year, 2012); Environmental Litigation, 2017 (Lawyer of the Year, 2017)
  • Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business — Environment, 2005-17
  • International Who's Who of Environmental Lawyers

Professional Associations

  • American College of Environmental Lawyers — Regent 
  • Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry — Industrial Waste Committee (Chair)
  • Colorado Hazardous Waste Management Society — Founding Director
  • Colorado Bar Association — Environmental Law Committee, Environmental Law Section Advisory Council
  • American Bar Association — Environmental Law Committee
  • Denver Bar Association — Environmental Law Committee
  • California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance — Past Member
  • National Association of Environmental Professionals

Civic Activities

  • Jefferson County — Colorado Planning Commission, 2002-09 (Chairman, 2004-09)
  • Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline, 2004-09 — Chairman, 2008-09


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