Walter E. Rusinek
Senior Counsel
12544 High Bluff Drive, Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92130

Professional Summary

Walter Rusinek’s practice includes compliance, permitting and litigation under federal and state water and air quality and hazardous waste laws, water rights laws, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the federal Superfund law and the Endangered Species Act. He has extensive experience managing the cleanup of contaminated properties and conducting environmental due diligence in real estate and asset transfers.  Walter counsels Native American clients on various environmental and Indian law issues, including the transfer of fee-owned property into trust.

Representative Matters

  • Represents the Pala Band of Mission Indians in challenging the proposed Gregory Canyon municipal solid waste landfill that would be constructed adjacent to the Pala Reservation and next to Native American sacred sites. The work has included successful litigation challenging the project under CEQA, resulting in five separate appellate actions in the California court of appeals and two published opinions. Challenging the project also has included reviewing and commenting on permit application documents and draft permits from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Air Pollution Control District, the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies. Efforts to protect the sacred sites have included assisting the client in seeking to list the sites on the National Register of Historic Places and in conducting consultation with the Army Corps under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and drafting state legislation to protect the sites.
  • Represented the operator of a public wastewater treatment facility in obtaining a refund of excessive charges by an electrical service provider in a Public Utilities Commission action.
  • Resolved claims by the Regional Water Quality Control Board seeking $17M in penalties from a NYSE-listed company related to historic activities in San Diego County that caused groundwater contamination.
  • Assisted Native American clients in preparing the application for and completing the necessary environmental review for transferring fee-owned property into trust under the Indian Reorganization Act.
  • Assisted Native American client in obtaining “treatment as a state” status under the federal Clean Air Act and the federal Clean Water Act.
  • Headed group of responsible parties in resolving liability claims brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning a Superfund site in California.
  • Defended client charged with numerous felonies alleging violations of the California Water Quality Act and hazardous waste laws. Settlement resulted in misdemeanor with no jail time being served.
  • Counseled major mining company on numerous water quality and hazardous waste issues related to ongoing operations and proposed expansions of operations.
  • Managed closures of large industrial facilities and remedial actions at Superfund sites by negotiating with federal and state agencies and overseeing the work of environmental consultants, including review of consultant reports.


  • JD, UC Berkeley School of Law, 1990 (Ecology Law Quarterly Articles Editor)


  • Contributor, Procopio's Native American Law blog Blogging Circle
  • Ninth Circuit Holds that the Federal Reserved Rights Doctrine Applies to Groundwater,” March 9, 2017.
  • RiverWatch, et al. v. Olivenhain Municipal Water District (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 1186 (Reversed trial court’s decision and held that the water district violated CEQA when it entered into a water-sales contract). 
  • RiverWatch, et al. v. County of San Diego (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 768 (Upheld trial court’s award of attorneys’ fees for successful CEQA lawsuit).