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Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt

David F. Stearns

David F. Stearns



David Stearns advises real estate developers, business owners, and individuals on complex environmental and natural resource issues throughout the Northwest, helping resolve disputes involving contaminated property, regulatory enforcement actions, and water rights. David has handled cases through all phases of litigation—from taking expert depositions and administrative hearings to arguing before the state court of appeals in a case that led to a favorable decision for his client.

David brings a wealth of experience from his previous position as an environmental and natural resources attorney at Veris Law Group. He represented clients in cost recovery actions under the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), construction defect claims, and condemnation proceedings. He also handled appeals and settlements of Oregon Water Pollution Control Facilities Permit civil penalties.

David began his legal career an Assistant Attorney General for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office in the Ecology Division, where he advised the State on complex water rights issues and litigated a variety of environmental matters before the Pollution Control Hearings Board. During law school, David was a judicial extern for Judge Stephen J. Dwyer on Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals.

Bar Admissions

  • Oregon State Courts
  • Washington State Courts


  • Whitman College, Bachelor of Arts degree, Philosophy, cum laude (2007)‎
  • University of Washington School of Law, Juris Doctor degree (2012)‎
Areas of Practice

Corporate Restructuring, Bankruptcy, and Litigation | Energy | Environmental Compliance and Safety | Environmental Regulation and Litigation | Land Use and Entitlement | Water Law

Professional Career

Significant Accomplishments

  • Defended and prosecuted cost recovery actions under the Model Toxics Control Act in state and federal courts.

  • Negotiated purchase and sale agreements in lieu of condemnation for contaminated properties.

  • Counseled property owners seeking regulatory closure following voluntary cleanup of contaminated properties.

  • Handled appeals and settlements of Oregon Water Pollution Control Facilities Permit civil penalties.

  • Defended more than 20 appeals of Department of Ecology decisions before the Pollution Control Hearings Board, and represented Ecology in state trial and appellate court litigation.

  • Represented Ecology in the Yakima Basin surface water adjudication, a case spanning four decades and involving thousands of parties including the United States, the Yakama Nation, and municipal and agricultural water users.

  • Advised the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council on issues relating to its review of the proposed Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal.

  • Served as lead advisor to Ecology on trust water rights, drought, the Family Farm Water Act, and water right claim amendments.

  • Briefed and argued Fox v. Skagit County before the state court of appeals, leading to a favorable decision.

  • Advised Ecology in its role as member of the Governor’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force.


  • Oregon Supreme Court Holds Hydroelectric Water Rights Case
  • Environmental Enforcement and Regulatory Updates
  • Supreme Court Upholds Spokane Instream Flow Rule Based on Protection of Fish Habitat
  • Oregon Court of Appeals Holds Hydroelectric Water Rights Do Not Automatically Convert to Permanent In-Stream Rights When Temporarily Leased for In-Stream Purposes
  • The Court of Appeals Takes on the Relinquishment Exemption for Municipal Water Rights
  • COVID-19: Impacts on Environmental Compliance, Inspections, and Enforcement (Updated 05/7/2020)
  • Norlander v. Caldwell: Five Lessons for Plaintiffs Seeking Cost Recovery Under MTCA
  • Court Finds Oregon Water Resources Department Exceeded Authority to Regulate Wells

WSG's members are independent firms and are not affiliated in the joint practice of professional services. Each member exercises its own individual judgments on all client matters.

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