Ronald J. Tenpas draws on a breadth of high-level government experience, focusing his practice on environmental litigation and counseling under environmental statutes, representing clients in criminal investigations related to alleged environmental violations, import and customs matters, and other US federal government agency matters. Ron also represents companies and trade associations in preparing comments related to proposed regulations and in subsequent litigation challenging new regulatory provisions.
Ron brings his Justice Department experience working with federal environmental agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to the advice he offers clients on regulatory compliance questions under environmental laws and related compliance programs. He also handles due diligence issues involved in transactional settings.
Ron previously served as Assistant Attorney General (AAG) for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the US Department of Justice, a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed position. In that role, he managed a 700-person division that included 400 lawyers, and oversaw civil and criminal litigation arising under more than 150 environmental and natural resources laws. He also advised Cabinet and White House officials on policy and litigation risks associated with the environmental laws. The Division’s major client agencies were the EPA and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and Interior. Ron oversaw litigation in which regulated entities challenged new regulatory commands, and matters in which the government sought to enforce environmental requirements arising under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, CERCLA (Superfund), RCRA, the Pipeline Safety Act, and other statutes. Ron received the Edmund Randolph Award, the Justice Department’s highest honor, for his service.
Before serving as AAG, Ron served as an Associate Deputy Attorney General, as the US Attorney in the Southern District of Illinois (also requiring Senate confirmation), and as an Assistant US Attorney in the District of Maryland and the Middle District of Florida. In these positions, he investigated and tried white collar matters related to healthcare fraud and public corruption. He has testified five times before Congress on multiple topics, including environmental enforcement, healthcare fraud, insider trading, and identity theft. He chaired the Justice Department’s healthcare fraud coordinating committee, served on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of US Attorneys, and served as executive director of the 17-agency Identity Theft Task Force.
Ron has an active pro bono practice, chairing the Washington, DC, office’s Pro Bono Committee and serving on the Board of the DC Legal Aid Society.
Ron served as law clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of the US Supreme Court, Judge Louis H. Pollak of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Judge Howard Holtzmann of the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Ron was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University.
Representing an oil and gas services company in responding to a Congressional committee investigation and information request related to hydraulic fracturing practices.
Representing a ship’s chief engineer in a federal criminal prosecution related to false statements and false record-keeping, securing a highly favorable final resolution of one year’s unsupervised probation and a $2,000 fine.
Representing a pipeline inspection company in a criminal investigation related to improper inspections; secured declination of criminal charges.
Representing a publicly-traded shipping company in connection with alleged oil pollution and false record-keeping; secured declination of charges against parent holding company.
Representing company employees in a criminal investigation of illegal wood imports.
Representing a fuel company against the EPA in connection with an alleged failure to secure appropriate renewable fuels trading credits and resolving the matter for a de minimis penalty without concession of liability.
Representing foreign ATV and motorcycle manufacturers in successfully resolving alleged violations related to the import of non-conforming products under the Clean Air Act, including securing conditions allowing the companies to continue or resume exports to the U.S.
Representing a refinery in a post-incident accident investigation and associated environmental enforcement actions after a refinery fire, including negotiating a favorable non-court settlement with the EPA.
Representing an energy company in connection with an internal investigation and in associated consumer product and related disclosure work after the company received indications it had been supplied defective product, successfully avoiding all claims as to potential liability.
Representing a food logistics company and a beverage manufacturer before the EPA on claims that chemical spills were not timely reported to federal and state agencies.
Counseling a chemical company with respect to clean-up obligations and in negotiations with the EPA at multiple Superfund sites.
Representing a chemical company in an administrative law trial before the EPA’s chief administrative law judge and before the agency appeals board regarding allegations that the company failed to report alleged adverse risk information.
Representing a surgeon excluded from billing in federal health care programs, securing a federal district court reversal of HHS’s decision to exclude, the first such reported case in which a district court overturned such an agency exclusion action.
Representing a health care company in preventing a federal regulatory agency from disclosing confidential company business information in response to a freedom of information act (FOIA) request.
Representing chemical and refining companies in asserting confidential business information claims to protect information under FOIA.
Representing a not-for-profit organization in defeating a request to provide documents and discovery to a foreign litigant seeking the discovery through the US federal district court and successfully defending the win before the federal court of appeals.
Representing an industry trade associate in a successful court of appeals and Supreme Court challenge to new EPA air regulations related to greenhouse gas emissions.
Counseling a utility on its compliance program related to avian protection.
Counseling a real estate developer in opposing a Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to designate company-owned land as critical habitat for endangered species, successfully persuading the Service to substantially reduce the acreage designated.
Counseling a mining company regarding its successful application to secure mining rights on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management and abutting areas with sensitive species, including in providing comments related to the proposed environmental impact statement and associated proposed mitigation requirements.
Representing a publicly owned utility in federal court First Amendment litigation over whether the utility’s poles should be made available to post attachments requested by a local religious organization and opposed by local municipal authorities.
Performing due diligence related to multiple compliance areas in transactions related to energy, manufacturing, and chemical facilities.
University of Virginia School of Law, 1990, J.D.
University of Oxford, Balliol College, 1987, B.A.
Michigan State University, 1985, B.A., With High Honors
District of Columbia
Clerkship to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of the US Supreme Court (1991 - 1992)
Clerkship to Judge Louis H. Pollak of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (1990 - 1991)
Clerkship to Judge Howard Holtzmann of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal - The Hague, Netherlands (1992 - 1993)
Awards and Affiliations
Ranked, Environment, District of Columbia, Chambers USA (2018)
Member, Practice Group of the Year, Environmental, Law360 (2017)
Ranked, Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business (2011–2017)
Recognized, Litigation – Environmental, Washington, DC, The Best Lawyers in America (2017–2019)
Recommended, Environment: Litigation, The US Legal 500 (2014, 2016)
Recognized, Who’s Who Legal (2016)
Council Member, ABA Section of Public Utility Communications and Transportation (PUCAT); Chair, Environment Committee
Member, American Association of Rhodes Scholars
Recipient, Edmund J. Randolph Award for Outstanding Service, US Department of Justice
Recipient, Secretary of the Navy, Distinguished Service Award