profile headshot of James L. Pray

Specialties

I am a member here at the BrownWinick law firm. Much of my practice is concerned with renewable energy projects (wind, solar, and CO2).  I have represented clients with financing and due diligence requirements as local counsel for approximately two dozen utility scale wind projects totaling nearly 2,000 megawatts of power and working with clients to get the four largest utility-scale solar projects in Iowa. I also practice in the area of environmental law, which I’ve been specializing in for more than thirty years. In that area I help my clients navigate compliance with a diverse and highly complex number of laws and regulations. This includes offering advice regarding the air, wastewater, and solid waste permits that allow my industry clients to operate legally and profitably without harming the environment. I’ve also represented a large number of railroads and heavy industries that rely on negotiating successful track, car, lease, and transportation agreements that allow goods to come in and go out of those businesses. During my career I have helped thousands of businesses deal with environmental investigations and cleanups, had a hand in providing legal guidance to more than three dozen ethanol and biodiesel plants, and managed the legal due diligence for a dozen very large wind projects.

My Approach

When clients bring a complex issue to me to handle I work to identify potential issues as soon as possible. If there is no accepted solution I try to create new solutions. When those problems turn out to be caused by third parties, I try to work out a reasonable agreement. If that does not work then litigation may be the only solution.  In the environmental area I’ve challenged government agencies and won precedent-setting decisions.  As an example, in Blue Chip Enterprises, et. al. v. State, Dept. of Natural Resources, 528 N.W.2d 619 (Iowa 1995) I won a ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court that held that the State could not impose clean-up liability on landowners that did not cause the underlying contamination. The same is true in the energy field. I helped take a case to the Iowa Supreme Court which held that the “behind the meter” power purchase agreements to sell solar power on a per kWh was unregulated.  SZ Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Eagle Point Solar v. Iowa Utilities Board, 850 N.W.2d 441 (July 11, 2014).

More About Me

Ask my long-term clients and they will likely tell you that I am personally driven by the desire to understand the systems that my clients have to deal with, whether those clients are manufacturers, wind or solar energy companies, developers, or even governments. A lot of times I find that the answer to a problem lies in an understanding of what makes things work the way they do. I’ve found that if I can have a firm grasp of what the client does or wants to do then the solutions sometimes present themselves. Many times those solutions are not “legal” as much as they are practical.  This even carries over into technology. In addition to managing the law firm’s IT staff, I have 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. I’ve also represented IT professionals in federal court who have been sued or accused of exceeding their authorization under federal criminal statutes protecting critical federal and private computing and networking infrastructure.

I have served several terms as Chair of the Iowa Bar Association’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section and have served on numerous bar committees charged with helping to write administrative litigation rules. I have been selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers® for Environmental Law and Best Lawyers® for Environmental Law and have an AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell. In 2013 and 2017 I was named Best Lawyers’ Lawyer of the Year in Environmental Law. 

My Specialties

  • Environmental law (air, water, solid waste, pharmaceutical)
  • Energy law (renewable, power purchase agreements, pipelines)
  • Rail transportation law
  • Cyber security
  • Litigation (federal, state, district and appellate)
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resource
  • Iowa Department of Transportation
  • Surface Transportation Board
  • Federal Railroad Administration
  • Agriculture and Land Stewardship Agency
  • Iowa Utilities Board
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • United States Office of Surface Mining

BrownWinick Attorneys Successfully Represent New Fashion Pork and BWT Holdings before the Iowa Supreme Court

06-30-2022 In a major development for the agricultural industry in Iowa, the Iowa Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of a nuisance case and reversed a previous Supreme Court decision on constitutional grounds. BrownWinick attorneys James White, Jen Lindberg, and Jim Pray successfully represented New Fashion Pork and BWT Holdings before the Iowa Supreme...
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New ASTM Standard for Commercial Real Estate Phase I Environmental Site Assessments

05-17-2022 On November 1, 2021, the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) International released its revised standards for conducting an environmental site assessment of a parcel of commercial real estate. The new standard updates the previous standard released in 2013. Now referred to as ASTM E1527-21, the ASTM standard is widely used to satisfy...
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Your Company Just Enabled a Remote Workplace. . . but is it Secure?

03-31-2020   The rapid spread of COVID-19 in the US has forced many companies to establish remote access to their systems in order to continue to operate. As an attorney working with clients on data security matters, I am seeing an uptick in compromised Microsoft Office 365 accounts as companies make the transition. Office 365 is a great platform that allows...
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Targeted Cyber Attacks are Rapidly Increasing in 2019

05-10-2019 Your company, your vendors and suppliers, and your customers are currently under the biggest wave of cyber-attacks that I’ve seen since the internet was created. If you have not noticed this latest wave of attacks, your vendors and customers have or your company may simply not be aware that it has already been attacked. Along with being a...
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EPA and USACE Move to Rescind 2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule

07-6-2017 BrownWinick environmental attorney James Pray posted recently on his Iowa Environmental Compliance blog on the new rule, proposed on June 27, 2017 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Army and Army Corps of Engineers ("USACE"), to rescind the 2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule and re-codify the regulatory test that existed prior...
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BrownWinick Involved in Building Energy's First Wind Farm in Iowa

05-19-2017 Building Energy, through its subsidiary Building Energy Wind Iowa, announced the completion of its first U.S. wind farm (“Project”) in Iowa, on Wednesday, May 3, 2017.  Building Energy is a global renewable energy company with its firm headquarters in Milan, Italy. The Project will have the first turbines in the state with three megawatts of...
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BrownWinick Law Firm Attorneys Featured in 2021 Great Plains Super Lawyers and Great Plains Rising Stars

08-20-2021 BrownWinick is excited to announce the following attorneys were selected for inclusion in the Great Plains Super Lawyers directory for 2021. Seven BrownWinick attorneys were selected for inclusion in the 2021 Great Plains Super Lawyers online listing: William Brown - Tax Michael Dee – Business Litigation Thomas Johnson – Business/Corporate James...
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BrownWinick Attorneys Named to 2021 Best Lawyers in America List

08-21-2020 BrownWinick is pleased to announce that 26 lawyers have been included in the 2021 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers® has published their list for more than three decades, earning the respect of the...
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BrownWinick Attorneys Named to 2020 Best Lawyers List

08-15-2019 BrownWinick is pleased to announce that 24 lawyers have been included in the 2020 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers® has published their list for more than three decades, earning the respect of the...
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BrownWinick Attorneys Featured in 2019 Great Plains Super Lawyers and Great Plains Rising Stars

07-11-2019 Eleven BrownWinick attorneys were selected for inclusion in the 2019 Great Plains Super Lawyers online listing: William Brown – Tax Elizabeth Coonan – Employment and Labor Michael Dee – Business Litigation Alice Helle – Employee Benefits Thomas Johnson – Business/Corporate Ann Holden Kendell – Employment and Labor James Pray – Environmental Brian...
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BrownWinick Attorneys Named to 2019 Best Lawyers® List

08-16-2018 BrownWinick is pleased to announce that 27 lawyers have been included in the 2019 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers has published their list for over three decades, earning the respect of the...
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BrownWinick Attorneys Featured in 2018 Great Plains Super Lawyers and Great Plains Rising Stars

07-2-2018 Twelve BrownWinick attorneys were selected for inclusion in the 2018 Great Plains Super Lawyers online listing: Ronni F. Begleiter - Employee Benefits William C. Brown - Tax Elizabeth A. Coonan – Employment & Labor Michael A. Dee - Business Litigation Alice E. Helle - Employee Benefits Thomas D. Johnson - Business/Corporate Ann Holden...
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BrownWinick Attorneys Named to 2018 Best Lawyers List

08-15-2017 BrownWinick is pleased to announce that 26 lawyers have been included in the 2018 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers has published their list for over three decades, earning the respect of the...
Read More

BrownWinick Attorneys Featured in 2017 Great Plains Super Lawyers and Great Plains Rising Stars

07-17-2017 Ten BrownWinick attorneys were selected for inclusion in the 2017 Great Plains Super Lawyers online listing: Ronni F. Begleiter - Employee Benefits/ERISA William C. Brown - Tax Elizabeth A. Coonan – Employment & Labor Michael A. Dee - Business Litigation Alice E. Helle - Employee Benefits Ann Holden Kendell - Employment & Labor James L....
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BrownWinick Attorneys Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America 2017

08-15-2016 BrownWinick is proud to announce that 24 attorneys were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2017, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. The lawyers included are: Ronni F. Begleiter (Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law; Trusts and Estates) Marc T. Beltrame (Government...
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Assistant

Alexis Bakerink

515-248-6633

Undergraduate

University of Nebraska

B.S., magna cum laude, 1980

Legal

University of Iowa

J.D., with distinction, 1984

Admitted

Iowa, 1985

 

Memberships & Associations

  • Polk County Bar Association
    Member; Board of Directors, 1997-1999
  • Iowa State Bar Association
    Member; Sections on: eCommerce; Environmental and Natural Resources; Trade Regulations
    Administrative Law Council, 1992-1995; Chair, 1993-1995; Task Force on Administrative Law, 1994-1996; Environmental and Natural Resources Law Council, 1996-Present; Chair, 1998-1999; 2004-Present
  • Iowa League of Cities
    Member
  • Energy Bar Association
    Member
  • 2009 Ethanol Bankruptcies & Acquisitions Conference 
    Advisory Board Member, 2009
  • Lincoln Inne 
    Member
  • Managing Editor, The Journal of Corporation Law, 1983-1984