Colin G. Harris



Colin’s “strong reputation in the oil and gas space, notably acting on high-profile pipeline-related litigation and air quality enforcement” (Chambers USA 2018) is just one reason that leaders in the energy industry consistently select him to meet regulatory compliance, infrastructure growth, enforcement and litigation challenges, and capitalize on 21st century opportunities. Prominent companies in other sectors partner with Colin for legal and commercial solutions to environmental, regulatory and related litigation problems, ranging from mining (natural resource damages) to manufacturing (air quality permitting and toxic tort) to agriculture (air and water).

Client Service and Collaboration

Colin is action-oriented, personable and meets high-stress or crisis situations with an irrepressible spirit. His understanding of the businesses and industry segments he serves — especially the energy sector — enables him to collaborate seamlessly with clients. Colin understands that clear, timely and proactive communication is the key to the successful attorney-client relationship. He is equally at home in the board room advising executives on the commercial ramifications of a legal strategy and in the oil patch, interviewing employees who bring a different perspective to a company problem.

Trailblazing Midstream Lawyer, Including PHMSA Counseling, Defense and Appeals

Leveraging nearly 30 years of regulatory, enforcement and oil and gas industry experience, Colin is a recognized leader in the liquids and gas pipeline industry. He manages an active counseling and litigation docket before the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Of the eight federal appellate court challenges to PHMSA Final Orders ever filed, Colin has been lead counsel in two and co-counsel in another. Colin currently defends three separate EPA and state enforcement cases resulting from pipeline leaks into navigable waters.

Air Quality and Climate Change Experience in Dynamic Energy and Other Industries

Air quality challenges require an understanding of unique legal, policy, commercial and technical aspects. Colin’s experience includes groundbreaking cases, such as EPA national enforcement initiatives, methane regulation, novel injunctive claims, Indian Country dispute, and municipal climate change litigation. Many Colorado Front-Range industries, including a refiner and a major brewer, rely on Colin to navigate the state’s increasingly stringent air quality regulations.

Clean Water Act/OPA

Colin’s Clean Water Act and OPA experience spans multiple issues over 20 years. His experience includes several of the most publicized pipeline leak incidents in the past decade. He routinely assists pipeline, upstream, refining and other clients on spill planning and response matters and has successfully litigated these matters. Colin has defeated EPA allegations that intermittent streams constitute “waters of the U.S.” and that facilities should have spill plans due to their proximity to regulated waters.

Remediation and Natural Resource Damages

Colin represents energy and mining clients in Natural Resource Damages cases arising from spills or legacy operations in three states. His remediation experience ranges from litigation involving groundwater plumes at a refinery and manufacturing facilities to managing legacy liabilities at Superfund-listed mining sites from Missouri to Colorado.

Litigation and Crisis Management

Colin combines industry knowledge with a deep and nuanced understanding of substantive and administrative law to leverage successful results in cases that require a proven ability to innovate and advocate. He has a proven track record of substantially reducing fines and minimizing injunctive relief, thereby avoiding operational constraints. Clients rely on his 25 years of citizen suit and “toxic tort” experience to defend against new waves of litigation based on creative exposure theories and rising citizen suit activity. Colin litigates on the cutting edge of climate change litigation, and represents oil and gas companies in commercial disputes, such as joint operating agreements, and oil and gas commission proceedings. Colin helps clients understand when quick settlement is best. In other cases, he knows from experience that aggressive discovery and motion practice may leverage a highly successful outcome.

Colin is adept at handling the on-set of a crisis in anticipation of government enforcement and commercial, landowner or tort claims. Colin helps clients respond rapidly and strategically, informed by the knowledge that pre-suit emergency response and crisis management, evidence preservation, early resolution of claims, communication with multiple agencies, and coordination of related litigation are critical.

Public Lands and Other Diverse Experience

Colin has broad experience in Interior Board of Land Appeals matters; endangered species and migratory bird statutes cases; Hazardous Materials Transporation Act compliance, alternative energy development diligence and permitting; transactional matters; and assisting in criminal environmental matters, including CAA, CWA and associated potential violations of Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code.


Bar Admissions


Court Admissions

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota


American University Washington College of Law
J.D. (1988)

University of Colorado
B.A. (1985)

Insights & Events

Other Perspectives
  • Transmission and Gathering Line Leaks and Spills: How the Upstream and Midstream Sector Needs to Plan, Respond and Defend
    Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute April 24, 2018 NO. 2 RMMLF-INST 6
  • Cooperative Federalism Under the Clean Air Act: New Horizons in State Regulatory and Enforcement Primacy Under a Trump EPA
    Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special InstituteFebruary 6-7, 2018 NO. 1 RMMLF-INST 13,
  • What Is the Impact of the New Trump Administration on Energy Expansion, Cooperative Federalism, and Citizen Lawsuits?
    Faegre Baker Daniels Energy & Environmental Symposium: What Can We Expect From the New Administration and Congress, 2017
  • EPA's Energy Extraction Regulatory and Enforcement Initiative: The Storm is Here
    Kentucky Mineral Law Conference, October 2016
  • Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid: Dealing With Public Perceptions of Risk in Oil and Gas Development
    Rocky Mountain Mineral Law InstituteJuly 16, 17 & 18, 201561 RMMLF-INST 26-1 (2015)
  • Air Quality Regulation of Oil and Gas Development: Hydraulic Fracturing Leads to Evolving and New State and Federal Standards, and Increased Efforts to Ban Development at the Local Level
    Environmental, Mass Torts & Products Liability Litigation Committees’ Joint CLE Seminar, American Bar Association, January 2015
  • Regional Perspectives on Environmental Challenges to Controversial Development Projects
    Environmental, Mass Torts & Product Liability Litigation Committees’ Joint CLE Seminar, Environmental Breakout, American Bar Association, Snowmass Village, Colorado, January 2015
  • EPA’s Indian Country Minor Source Rule: How Is It Working?
    Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute on Air Quality Issues Affecting Oil and Gas and Mineral Development, Denver, Colorado, March 2013
  • There’s Something in the Air: New and Evolving Air Quality Regulations Impacting Oil and Gas Development
    Rocky Mountain Mineral Law InstituteJuly 19, 20 & 21, 2012 58 RMMLF-INST 6-1 (2012)

Leadership & Community

Professional Associations

  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (RMMLF) — Trustee, 2013-15; Special Institutes Committee, Current


  • Chambers USA — Colorado, Environment, 2016-23
  • Law Week Colorado — Barrister’s Best, Environmental Lawyer, 2023
  • Denver Business Journal — Who's Who in Energy, 2016-18
  • Super Lawyers — 2006
Awards Methodology
No aspect of these recognitions has been approved by the highest court of any state.
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