Areas of Practice

Regional Groundwater Contamination
Real Estate
Environmental/Toxics Litigation
Environmental Enforcement Defense
Environmental Remediation
Due Diligence

Clifton J. McFarland

Clif McFarland is an experienced environmental lawyer with a strong science background who represents aerospace, energy, real estate, natural resources and other companies and investor groups.

He works with clients throughout California and nationally on remediation, administrative and regulatory, enforcement and litigation matters. Clif regularly defends clients in contaminated property and regional groundwater contamination litigation. Clients also rely on Clif for advice and counsel on a broad range of environmental law and policy questions. Representative clients include Lockheed Martin, Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, General Electric, Sierra Pacific Industries, and Plains All-American Pipeline.

Clients from a variety of industries look to Clif, an MIT-trained engineer, to resolve difficult legal problems that are intertwined with complex scientific issues. He is skilled at helping clients resolve unique one-off problems where there is no “cookbook” or standard practice to follow, particularly problems involving issues of environmental law and science.

Clif is experienced in regulatory standard setting proceedings. These matters often involve complex scientific issues—from toxicology to exposure assessment. He has been active with both federal and California agencies on Safe Drinking Water Act issues, including the on-going perchlorate rulemaking.


Columbia University School of Law, New York, New York (J.D., 1988)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts (B.S., 1981)


Represented petitioners in Meghrig v. KFC Western, 516 U.S. 479 (1996), in which a unanimous Supreme Court held that cleanup costs could not be recovered under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Represented the California Manufacturers & Technology Association in a successful challenge to California’s drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium on grounds that the agency had not conducted the required economic feasibility analysis.

Lead counsel in an appeal successfully challenging certain aspects of a new water quality program devised by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board to govern return flows from irrigated agriculture.

Represented a major defendant in groundwater contamination matter brought by the City of Lodi pursuant to the federal Superfund statute and a unique municipal cleanup ordinance.

Lead counsel in an action successfully challenging the drinking water standard set by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment for perchlorate.

Counsel for an aerospace company in a major toxic tort action, including successful multi-day hearings resulting in the exclusion of plaintiff’s key groundwater experts.

Counsel to a forest products company that received a draft administrative penalty and cleanup order from the Regional Board regarding groundwater and surface water contamination from a former ash and wood waste landfill. Working directly with the Executive Officer, a significant proposed penalty was reduced to zero.

Environmental counsel for a commercial real estate developer in the redevelopment of a former petroleum tank farm into a transshipment warehouse in Los Angeles Port area.

Represented a major manufacturer in consent decree negotiations with EPA governing the largest groundwater cleanup in California.

Defended a major propane storage facility in the Los Angeles Port area in an EPA enforcement action under the risk management plan regulations. Overcame local community group and Congressional pressure to achieve a favorable settlement.

Represented a new landowner in an action against an environmental consulting firm regarding environmental conditions that were not identified in a Phase I site assessment. Obtained a settlement for full policy value prior to the outset of discovery.

Represented fuel service operator in multi-party soil and groundwater cleanup at the San Francisco International Airport.

Counsel to a group of companies that received a cleanup order from the Regional Board regarding former operations at an airport facility. Demonstrated that the groundwater contamination at issue was caused be percolation of wastewater treatment effluent and not by historical operations at the airport.

Successfully defended a party remediating a hazardous waste landfill against action brought by neighboring landowner, a residential developer, alleging damage to its property.

Represented group of tenants at Lindbergh Field Airport in San Diego against the State Tank Fund. Successfully argued that regulatory provision precluding tenants from filing separate claims against the Fund contradicted legislative intent.

Achieved favorable settlement for electronics company in multi-party groundwater contamination matter brought by the Orange County Water District.

Represented major responsible party at Operating Industries, Inc. Superfund site.  Successfully argued that the waste disposed of did not constitute a hazardous substance within the meaning of the Superfund statute.

Represented a pipeline company in a multi-party groundwater and surface water contamination matter in Los Angeles County. Following an initial environmental investigation, the Regional Board concluded the company had not contributed to the contamination.

Defended auto parts manufacturer in private party Superfund litigation involving four separate sites. Successfully argued that indemnity provision did not operate to shift cleanup liability to manufacturer.

Member of defense team defending rocket motor manufacturer in major toxic tort action. Principally responsible for fate-and-transport and causation portions of defense.

Review all environmental legislation introduced in the California legislature for a group of interested companies.

Defended aircraft manufacturer in toxic tort suit in which plaintiffs alleged groundwater contamination impacted their private well. Early demonstration that well was not downgradient of manufacturer’s operation resulted in dismissal.


City of Davis, Natural Resources Commission, Former Commissioner

Environmental Law Institute, Council of Partners, Former Member

MIT Educational Council, Member

ABA Natural Resources & Environmental magazine, Former Senior Editor

Capital Stage Theater Group, Board of Directors


Natural Resources & Environment, “Three Mile Jam,” Spring 2005, article on population issues, Author

RCRA and Superfund:  A Practice Guide with Forms, “Chapter 15:  State Involvement in CERCLA Actions,” Dec. 1993, M. O’Reilly, M. Norman & K. Kane eds., Author

Federal Bar Association’s The Alert, “Recovery of Cleanup Costs Under RCRA–Conflict Among the Circuits?  Jan. 1996, Co-authored with J. Zaimes

Natural Resources & Environment, “Cost Recovery Meets the Supreme Court,” Summer 1996, Author

Natural Resources & Environment, “Federalism and CERCLA Programs,” Summer 1994, Author

HazMat World, “Re-Inventing Superfund means ‘de-inventing’ Superfund, March 1994, Author

Natural Resources & Environment, “Recent Decisions Lay the Ground for ‘Escape Devices’ to Ameliorate Joint and Several Liability under CERCLA, Winter 1993, Author

Los Angeles Lawyer, “Environmental Due Diligence,” Jan. 1992, Co-authored with P. Dennis

Risk Management, “Old Liability Policies Unearth Underground Tank Coverage,” April 1991, Co-authored with S. Weston

New York Law Journal, “Environmental Law,” May 31, 1988, special 100th anniversary edition of NYLJ, Co-authored with S. Kass & M. Gerrard


Environmental Law Institute, Western “Boot Camp,” On Environmental Law, “CERCLA,” 2012-2017, Speaker

California Water Law Conference, “Legal Ethics,” 2016, Speaker

Environmental Law Institute, Western “Boot Camp” On Environmental Law, “Legal Ethics,” 2008-2011, Speaker

CLE, “Stormwater: Enforcement and Legal Aspects,” 2008, Speaker

Environmental Law Institute, “Are there Synergistic Effects Between Toxic Tort Suits and Environmental Regulations?” 2006, Panel Member

CLE, “Anatomy of a Toxic Tort Case,” 2003, Speaker

Environmental Law Institute, “Recent Developments in Environmental Law:  CERCLA Brownfields Amendments,” 2002, Speaker