James L. Pray is a member of BrownWinick and the Chair of the Environmental Law practice group. Jim also chair's the firm's Information Technology Committee and is the Chief Technology Officer of the firm. His practice includes both consulting and litigation services to the business community with an emphasis on assisting with environmental, cyber security, and energy matters.
Environmental. Jim has been involved with numerous environmental investigations cleanups around the state of Iowa and the rest of the country. His practice includes assisting with contract negotiation, risk assessments, commercial development feasibility studies, brownfields projects, and mergers and acquisitions. Jim has also provided due diligence, development, environmental and transportation advice to more than three dozen ethanol and biofuel projects around the country. His clients also include meat processing plants, pharmaceutical development companies, municipalities, food processors, manufacturers, wind and solar developers and organic waste composting facilities. Jim successfully defended the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company against a claim that it should conduct a remediation caused by the Rock Island Railroad. In Blue Chip Enterprises, et. al. v. State, Dept. of Natural Resources, 528 N.W.2d 619 (Iowa 1995) Jim won a ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court that held that Iowa would not follow the federal practice of automatically imposing strict clean-up liability on landowners that did not cause the underlying contamination.
Energy. Jim’s experience in the utility and energy field includes siting, negotiating power purchase and interconnection agreements, compliance and due diligence for lenders providing financing for renewable energy projects. He frequently takes a lead role to define the scope of work needed for wind projects and manages the legal aspects of the project through completion. He has worked on a total of eight large wind projects with a total of 465 MW of generating capacity. Jim was co-counsel in a challenge to the Iowa Utility Board that resulted in a nationally-recognized ruling in which the Iowa Supreme Court held that the “behind the meter” direct sale of electricity generated from solar power arrays and using a power purchase agreement that sold the electricity on a cents-per-kWh basis did not render the seller a “public utility.” SZ Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Eagle Point Solar v. Iowa Utilities Board, 850 N.W.2d. 441 (July 11, 2014).
Cyber Security. Jim has provided services to banks, credit unions, pension administrators, and businesses to assist them with the legal aspects of responding to malicious hacks and cyber-attacks. In that capacity he works with IT forensic specialists to determine what state and federal laws may be implicated and to help design and manage notifications to affected customers. He has also represented IT professionals who have been sued or accused of exceeding their authorization under federal criminal statutes protecting critical federal and private computing and networking infrastructure and has defended or prosecuted property loss claims arising from hacking or software defects in federal court.
Litigation. Jim's litigation practice includes administrative litigation and civil litigation at the district court level, before the Iowa Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals for the Eighth and Sixth Circuits. Jim's experience includes conducting hearings before administrative agencies, such as the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, conducting jury and bench trials in the Iowa District Courts and United States District Courts in both the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa and arguing appeals before both the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa Court of Appeals. Much of his practice involves representing businesses in disputes with governmental agencies, including the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Transportation, the Surface Transportation Board, Federal Railroad Administration, the Agriculture and Land Stewardship Agency, the Iowa Utilities Board, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Office of Surface Mining.
Jim is currently serving as Chair of the Iowa Bar Association's Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section and has also served as Chair of that Section's DNR Procedural Rules Revision Committee. Jim has also served as Chair of the Administrative Law Section of the Iowa Bar Association. He was also a member of the Iowa State Bar Association's Task Force on Administrative Law, which prepared an extensive redraft of Iowa's administrative laws. Since 2006, Jim has been selected for inclusion in Best Lawyers® for Environmental Law and in 2013 and 2017 was named Best Lawyers' Lawyer of the Year in Environmental Law.
Jim received his B.S., magna cum laude, in 1980 from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and his J.D., with distinction, from the University of Iowa in 1984. He was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1985.