Colin L. Pearce


  • Colin L. Pearce
  • Phone: +1 415 957 3015

    Colin L. Pearce - LinkedIn Import to Address Book

  • Duane Morris LLP
    Spear Tower
    One Market Plaza, Suite 2200
    San Francisco, CA 94105-1127
  • Duane Morris LLP
    865 South Figueroa Street, Suite 3100
    Los Angeles, CA 90017-5450

Colin L. Pearce is an environmental, land use, water, energy and regulatory attorney, with extensive experience and a record of success as a trial lawyer and litigator in state and federal court, in administrative proceedings, and in appellate courts. He has extensive experience representing public entities, private entities and individuals in a wide range of matters, from administrative proceedings and mediations to lengthy jury trials of complex water disputes. His practice focuses on environmental, water and land use litigation, and litigation involving public entities, but he has substantial experience litigating a broad range of matters, including complex business and land use disputes. His vast extensive experience with state and federal appeals includes handling the appeal of complex water right matters, CEQA cases, civil rights actions and business and commercial disputes. 

Mr. Pearce developed specific experience handling cases and proceedings involving water rights, water contamination, property damage, energy, CEQA, land use, representation of public entities, and a wide range of environmental matters. Mr. Pearce has handled a number of matters before the California State Water Resources Control Board and various Regional Water Quality Control Boards. He has negotiated settlements with state and federal regulatory agencies, including complicated settlements involving water diversion and use, water contamination and water transfers. He has prepared and filed water rights applications, petitions and appeals before the California State Water Resources Control Board and defended actions brought by the Board and has extensive experience handling water-related matters with and before various Regional Water Quality Control Boards.He has handled cases and disputes involving water rights, groundwater and surface water contamination, water transfers, water supply requirements, water rates, groundwater pumping, water banking, waste discharge orders, water right applications, irrigation, stream flow requirements, water right permits and recycled water.

In addition to his litigation and administrative experience, Mr. Pearce regularly advises cities, water districts, and other public entities, as well as corporations, developers, land owners and other entities and individuals in connection with a wide range of environmental, regulatory, water, land use, energy and governmental issues.  For more than 15 years Mr. Pearce has served as the primary water attorney for the City of Bakersfield.  In addition to representing Bakersfield in litigation involving water rights, agreements and supplies, Mr. Pearce regularly advises the City on a wide range of water related issues, matters, and policies, as well as related environmental, planning and land use issues.   

Mr. Pearce has significant litigation and trial experience in connection with land use matters on behalf of public and private entities and individual landowners, including cases involving general plan amendments, zoning, development projects, and all aspects of CEQA.  He has substantial experience handling matters involving real property, including real estate disputes, land use issues, property damage claims, sales of residential and commercial property, commercial lease disputes, unlawful detainer actions, underground storage tanks and land use planning. He has represented private landowners in the prosecution and defense of multiple actions involving easements, boundaries, development, wells and environmental matters.

He has extensive experience in matters involving a broad range of federal and state environmental statutes and regulations, including CEQA, CERCLA, NEPA, the Endangered Species Act, California's Proposition 65, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, RCRA, as well as related regulations.  He has substantial experience in water-related matters and California and Western water law, including legal issues surrounding surface water, appropriative rights, riparian rights, groundwater, and issues involving the State Water Project and Central Valley Project.  He has handled a significant number of CEQA actions and has taken several CEQA cases to trial.  Mr. Pearce advises clients on energy-related matters and has represented private and public entities and individuals in proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission involving energy, including energy deregulation and rates as well as railroad crossings and transfers of public utility assets.

 Mr. Pearce has extensive and in-depth experience with a broad range of public law issues on behalf of and involving public entities. He has tried cases in federal and state court on behalf of public entities in matters involving condemnation, water rights, construction, excessive force, water rates, water transfers, municipal code enforcement, zoning, Proposition 218 claims and public contracts. He has advised and represented public entities in a number of diverse disputes and proceedings, including matters involving CEQA, energy issues, land use, water quality, water supply and planning, water transfers, development, elections, civil rights claims, police defense, personnel matters, government finance (including Propositions 13 and 218), water rates, groundwater pumping, groundwater contamination, water supply assessments, storm water runoff, zoning, employment discrimination allegations, Brown Act compliance and claims, railroad crossings, contracts, leases and construction disputes.  

He has represented private companies in a wide range of commercial and business disputes, including actions involving trademarks, premises liability, commercial leases, construction, products liability, franchise agreements, professional negligence and liability, wrongful death, securities broker's claims, slip and fall, and other types of personal injuries.  

A member of The State Bar of California, Mr. Pearce is a 1988 graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.

Representative Matters

  • Obtained dismissal of a land use lawsuit against D. R. Horton, one of the nation’s largest residential developers and homebuilders; defended a lawsuit challenging the environmental review of a residential development after having secured its approval by the City of Coachella.

  • Obtained on behalf of a city a dismissal of a case brought by a community organization alleging the city and individual city council members violated conflict of interest laws by accepting excessive campaign donations in exchange for the city council's approval of two high end luxury hotels in the city.

  • Successful defense of action in Monterey County Superior Court challenging land use initiative ballot arguments.

  • Lead trial and appellate counsel on behalf of property development firm in action interpreting and enforcing General Plan provisions affirming developer's ability to proceed with a residential development in the City of Orange in Southern California, setting a precedent confirming the powers of local legislative bodies to interpret and apply their own general plans to development projects.

  • Lead trial counsel for the City of Bakersfield in a lengthy and complex case involving the forfeiture of "pre-1914" appropriative water rights on the Kern River. The case lasted more than 12 years and Mr. Pearce tried the case twice, first in a four-month trial, and several years later in a two-month trial of certain remanded issues, and handled the lengthy appeal of the matter. (North Kern Water Storage Dist. v. Kern Delta Water Dist. (2007) 147 Cal.App.4th 555.)
  • Lead counsel in a one-month federal jury trial and related complex litigation on behalf of more than 100 homeowners in an action involving contamination of a groundwater basin and drinking water supply with perchlorate.

  • Lead trial counsel for a California city and a number of its police officers in a five-week federal jury trial involving the successful defense of an action involving civil rights claims and allegations of excessive force. Mr. Pearce was also lead counsel in the appeal of the matter. (Paine v. City of Lompoc, 160 F.3d 562 (9th Cir. 1998).)
  • Lead trial counsel for California city in federal action accusing police department and officers of civil rights violations, discrimination and sexual harassment. Obtained a verdict for all defendants after a two week jury trial.

  • Lead trial and appellate counsel on behalf of large water district in successful defense of CEQA action involving the use of an exemption for the adoption of groundwater pumping rates. (Great Oaks Water Co. v. Santa Clara Valley Water District (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 956.)
  • Lead trial counsel in successful prosecution of CEQA action against water district based on use of an addendum to an outdated EIR for a large water project.

  • Lead trial counsel for county water authority in the jury trial of lost-profits claim arising out of condemnation of property for installation of State Water Project pipeline. Obtained jury verdict in favor of client after five-day trial.

  • Ongoing representation of large Southern California City in litigation alleging conflict of interest violations against City Council members in connection with hotel developments.

  • Lead trial and appellate counsel of successful defense of action by multiple water districts challenging State Water Resources Control Board orders granting petition of City of Bakersfield to declare the Kern River no longer "fully appropriated."

  • Representation of numerous clients regarding preparation and defense of state and federal environmental documents for hydropower and water development projects, including CEQA, NEPA, streambed alteration agreements, CWA 401 certifications, etc.

  • Representation of City of Bakersfield in connection with preparation of Environmental Impact Report for large municipal water project connected with increasing and restoring flows of water in the Kern River.

  • Representation of State Water Contractors in defense of challenge to EIR for Lake Oroville Facilities Relicensing.

  • Representation of statewide private water company in connection with water supply issues, regulation, planning, preparation of Urban Water Management Plans, and water transfers.

  • Represented large European solar power developer in efforts to find water supply for solar power project in Mojave Desert.

  • Ongoing representation of Northern California county water district in State Water Resources Control Board proceeding and related water supply efforts.

  • Represented City of Bakersfield in litigation involving distribution of property tax revenues.

  • Representing private water company in ongoing mediation involving groundwater pumping levels and negotiation of related conjunctive use agreement involving the City and County of San Francisco.

  • Represented City of Bakersfield in a number of civil actions involving groundwater banking, appropriative water rights, water supply assessments and development, and related issues involving the sufficiency of water supplies for development, groundwater pumping and the use of recycled water.

  • Represented agricultural food processor in administrative proceeding and related civil action against Regional Water Quality Control Board involving alleged violations of state Clean Water Act and waste discharge permit requirements.

  • Representing City of Bakersfield in ongoing proceeding before the State Water Resources Control Board involving petition to revise the fully appropriated status of the Kern River and related application to appropriate surplus water.

  • Defended California city in State Water Resources Control Board proceeding involving alleged violations of waste discharge order.

  • Represented international transportation company in defense of stormwater discharge violation charges by Regional Water Quality Control Board.

  • Successful defense of Lake Tahoe business owners in enforcement action by local regional planning agency.

  • Represented California city before the California Public Utilities Commission in proceeding involving city's challenge to lease for coastal power plant and related water discharge issues.

  • Represented French energy company in California wrongful death action involving Bay Area wind farm.

  • Represented county water district in litigation against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California over water wheeling rates and water transfers.

  • Defended large water district in multiple actions involving challenges to district's groundwater pumping rates, and use of funds collected through pumping rates, under a number of theories, including violations of Proposition 218.

  • Represented construction company in dispute over installation of the "SCADA system" for the water system of a large city.

  • Represented private water company in negotiation of water transfer agreements and exchanges involving banked water in the Central Valley.

  • Defended private landowners in State Water Resources Control Board enforcement action involving alleged excessive diversions from the Kaweah River.

  • Represented Kern River interests in FERC proceeding involving attempted energy development along Kern River.

  • Defended City of Bakersfield in EPA enforcement action involving jurisdictional issues and permitting requirements.

  • Represented large municipal utility district in lengthy Public Utilities Commission proceedings involving energy deregulation, distribution rates and privatization.

  • Advised coastal water management agency on groundwater and water quality issues, and represented agency in dispute over groundwater charges.

  • Successfully blocked transfer of large power plant in Public Utilities Commission proceeding.

  • Represented multiple private companies in defense of actions based on California's Proposition 65.

  • Defended construction company and surety in action brought by county involving installation of cable lines.

  • Represented large Bay Area water district in quiet title action involving rights to stream flow.


  • California
  • Supreme Court of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of California


  • Notre Dame Law School, J.D., 1988
  • University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1984


  • Duane Morris LLP
    - Partner, 2001-present
    - Associate, 1999-2000
  • Hatch and Parent, Santa Barbara, California
    - Associate, Senior Associate, 1990-1999
  • Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro, Los Angeles, California
    - Associate, 1989-1990

Professional Activities

  • The State Bar of California

Selected Speaking Engagements

  • Presentation, "The Kern River SWRCB Proceeding," California Water Law and Policy Program, San Francisco, California, April, 2013
  • Speaker, "Case Studies: Meeting Water Challenges for Energy Projects," Law Seminars International's "The Water/Energy Nexus in California" Program, San Diego, California, June 2011
  • Speaker, "Water/Energy Nexus Conference," San Diego, California, June, 2011
  • Panelist, "Recent Developments in Groundwater Management," Association of Environmental Professionals Conference, Monterey, California, March, 2011
  • Presentation, "California Water Supply Issues and Options for Solar Power Developers," Siting Workshop, Solar Energy Industries Association, San Diego, California, December, 2010
  • Panelist, CEQA Issues, Seminar on Water Rights Sales and Transfers" San Francisco, California, January, 2010. Presentation, "The Logistics of Stormwater: Legal Issues," Seminar on Stormwater Compliance, Issues and Answers, San Francisco, California, February, 2007
  • Presentation, "California Water: Overview and Update on Legal Issues and Challenges," California County Counsel Association, San Francisco, California, December, 2010
  • Panelist, "Perchlorate 2006: Progress Toward Understanding and Cleanup," Santa Clara, California, January, 2006
  • Guest Speaker, "Environmental Legal Forum," radio station KFNX in Phoenix, Arizona, November 15, 2000