James R. Spaanstra

Senior Counsel


Jim Spaanstra draws from extensive public and private sector experience to drive solutions for energy, natural resources and environmental services clients operating in complex regulatory environments. He works alongside colleagues at Faegre Drinker 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.

Jim partners with Faegre Drinker Consulting’s national public-private partnership (P3) practice to implement new infrastructure recycling projects throughout the U.S.

Environmental Counseling and Compliance

Jim 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. He advises national solid and hazardous waste management companies on the siting, permitting, operation and remediation of commercial waste management facilities.

Brownfields Redevelopment

Jim helps to establish voluntary cleanup/brownfields initiatives throughout the U.S. He counsels industrial and commercial clients on the purchase and sale of contaminated properties and on environmental due diligence during the sale and acquisition of commercial and industrial facilities.

Government Energy and Environmental Leadership

Jim began his career as a staff attorney for the Council on Environmental Quality in the Executive Office of President Carter, where he advised on environmental policy.

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).

Government Appointments

  • 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

Insights & Events

Leadership & Community

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


  • Chambers USA — Colorado, Environment, 2005-22
  • Law Week Colorado—Barrister's Best: 'People's Choice, Best Environmental Lawyer, 2019 
  • 5280 Magazine — Top Lawyer, Environmental, 2018
  • 5280 Magazine — Top Lawyer, Environmental, 2015
  • American College of Environmental Lawyers — Fellow, 2009-present
  • Colorado Super Lawyers — Environmental, 2006-16, 2019-20; Environmental/Land Use, 2008-11 (Colorado Top 50, 2010)
  • Best Lawyers® Environmental Law, 2007-17, 2020-21 (Denver Environmental Lawyer of the Year, 2012); Environmental Litigation, 2017 (Lawyer of the Year, 2017)
  • International Who's Who of Environmental Lawyers

Awards Methodology

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