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

U.S. Supreme Court Greatly Narrows the Definition of Wetlands in the Clean Water Act

06-5-2023 On May 25, 2023, the United States Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated decision in the Sackett v. EPA case. At issue was whether “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) could include wetlands that are not directly and continuously connected to navigable waters. All nine justices were unanimous in finding that the EPA overstepped its statutory...
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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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2024 Great Plains Super Lawyers and Great Plains Rising Stars Feature BrownWinick Attorneys

05-23-2024 BrownWinick is excited to announce the following attorneys were selected for inclusion in the Great Plains Super Lawyers directory for 2024. The Great Plains Super Lawyers and Rising Stars listings include the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska.  Eight BrownWinick attorneys were selected for inclusion in the 2024 Great Plains...
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BrownWinick Attorneys Named to 2024 Best Lawyers® List

08-17-2023 BrownWinick is pleased to announce that 33 lawyers have been included in the 2024 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. BrownWinick would like to congratulate the following attorneys named to the 2024 The Best Lawyers...
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Attorney James Pray is Elected to the American College of Environmental Lawyers

07-27-2023 BrownWinick is proud to congratulate attorney James Pray for his recent election into the American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL). The ACOEL recently welcomed 27 new Active Fellows to membership in the College this year. Each individual in the ACOEL’s Class of 2023 is an environmental lawyer selected for their distinguished experience,...
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2023 Great Plains Super Lawyers and Great Plains Rising Stars Feature BrownWinick Attorneys

06-1-2023 BrownWinick is excited to announce the following attorneys were selected for inclusion in the Great Plains Super Lawyers directory for 2023. The Great Plains Super Lawyers and Rising Stars listings include the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska.  Nine BrownWinick attorneys were selected for inclusion in the 2023 Great Plains...
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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 Kendell -...
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Assistant

Michelle Messer

515-323-8828 

Undergraduate

University of Nebraska

B.S., magna cum laude, Political Science, 1980

Legal

University of Iowa College of Law

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, 1996-2007; 2014-2020; Chair, 1998-1999; 2004-2007; 2018-2019
  • American College of Environmental Lawyers (ACOEL)
    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