Alison B. Torbitt

Alison Torbitt is in the Energy and Environmental practice group and is also active in Maritime matters and the co-leader of the Food, Beverage & Agribusiness team. She focuses on environmental transactional due diligence and compliance and renewable energy, counseling a large range of manufacturers, developers and financing parties to find solutions, mitigate and allocate risk associated with all aspects of environmental laws.

What do you focus on?

I counsel business and industry clients on compliance with federal, state and local environmental and energy laws, as well as defending against regulatory enforcement and third-party disputes. I am also co-leader of the firm’s Legally Green initiative and Co-leader of the Food, Beverage & Agribusiness team, thinking strategically about sustainability and the risks that our clients face due to climate change, aging infrastructure, and the need for innovation and to stay ahead of these challenges.

Environmental Compliance & Enforcement

With a technical background as an aquatic ecotoxicologist, I have first-hand knowledge of the science and business repercussions of environmental laws, including those regarding water, air, vapor intrusion, hazardous materials and spill response. I counsel dozens of clients with compliance concerns and defend them against enforcement and have provided guidance to numerous wine, beer and food production facilities. I provide strategy and advice on how to cost-effectively monitor compliance, communicate with regulators, self-report and settle. I have successfully brought multiple contaminated sites to closure in an efficient manner. I also assist with California Alcoholic Beverage Control and Contractors State License Board inquiries.

Environmental & Energy Due Diligence & Transactional Assistance

I assist with environmental and energy due diligence for the acquisition, leasing and financing of real property and with assuring adequate protections are in place for tax credit investors. I am very familiar with evaluating Phase Is and IIs for sufficiency, evaluating permitting and compliance history, advising on the risk of environmental liability and enforcement. In each I help to assure that my clients are adequately informed and protected of the risks associated with the transaction; helping them to look to the future and make decisions now, which will avoid problems then. I have also developed significant experience in renewable energy off-take agreements, including consumer protection requirements for the residential solar sector, helping to negotiate a middle ground that is both financially beneficial and consumer-friendly.

Maritime Experience

I help clients communicate with the U.S. Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center, assisting in complicated flag-in/flag-out processes with compliant and business-friendly results. Additionally, I draft and negotiate, and assure approval for, the related documentation including trust agreements, time charters, bareboat charters, ship management agreements, logbook entries, certificates of ownership and continuous synopsis records.

What do you see on the horizon?

The unprecedented Shelter in Place Orders associated with COVID-19 continue to result in necessary assurances that environmental remediation and mitigation, groundwater, drinking water and wastewater treatment, and environmental investigation and risk allocation, along with the contractors, subcontractors, and labs that make such environmental actions feasible, are essential to protecting human health and the environment. While that foundational message is consistent, how to implement Social Distancing Protocols and mitigate potential personnel and supply shortages is far from clear. This crisis is requiring everyone to be nimble to find solutions immediately and to adjust daily to the new normal.

Representative Matters

  • Successfully assisted with the closure of multiple contaminated sites under voluntary cleanup programs and enforcement actions led by the Water Board and CUPAs
  • Defended client in an EPA Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) enforcement, successfully negotiating a consent agreement and final order, with significantly reduced penalties; have also assisted clients on labeling disputes, self-reporting, and amendments under FIFRA
  • Represented and defended multiple clients against investigations and enforcement actions by the California Air Resources Board, under the Truck & Bus, Cargo Handling Equipment and Large Spark Ignition regulations, including in-person appearances and a successful reduction of potentially thousands in penalties to a phased compliance plan with no penalties
  • Successfully defended a large winery against alleged wastewater noncompliance, with potential liabilities alleged at over $2 million; after months of negotiating, in a landmark settlement, client was successfully and irrevocably released from the alleged $1.9 million in liabilities and retroactive charges, in exchange for higher annual sewer service charges going forward
  • Overseen and successfully received air (including Title V), wastewater, stormwater and hazardous materials permits from local air pollution control/management districts, regional water quality control boards and certified unified program agencies throughout California, including the successful negotiation of less restrictive conditions and/or expedited handling
  • Successfully defended a large food manufacturer against a threatened order to cease operations for an alleged illegal discharge, managing to negotiate a phased compliance plan without penalties or ceasing operations
  • Defended general contractor in an asbestos liability action, including participation in the air pollution control district’s expedited settlement program

Publications and presentations

  • Speaker, “Changes in Monitoring Particulate Emissions for Brownfield Sites,” 23rd California Unified Program Annual Training Conference, Webinar, February 16, 2021
  • Speaker, “Environmental Health & Safety Concerns During Times of Wildfires and Power Shutdowns,” Nixon Peabody Annual MCLE Seminar, San Francisco, January 23, 2020
  • Speaker, “Environmental Due Diligence: Identifying, Analyzing, Allocating and Minimizing Risk,” San Francisco Bar Association - Environmental Law Section, San Francisco, CA, March 26, 2019
  • Speaker, “Avoiding Missteps When Buying and Selling Commercial Real Estate,” Nixon Peabody Annual MCLE Seminar, San Francisco, January 16, 2019
  • Panelist, “Diversity, Inclusion, and the Bottom Line: From Pledge to Profitability,” San Francisco Bar Association CLE program, September 12, 2018
  • Speaker, “Labeling Hazardous Chemicals: CA's Proposition 65 Requirements on Your Compliance Obligations,” BLR Webinar, April 2018
  • Speaker, “How not to overreact: Prop 65 updates and other chemical regulations,” Nixon Peabody Annual MCLE Seminar, San Francisco, January 16, 2018
  • Speaker, “The Trump Agenda and Its Impact on EPA and Its Regulations,” BLR Webinar, June 27, 2017
  • Speaker, “Conversations on How Pruitt is Expected to Trump the Environment,” The Bar Association of San Francisco, March 29, 2017
  • Author, “Fifty shades of greywater– How to use recycled water at your vineyard” Wines & Vines, January 5, 2017
  • Co-Author, “Calling It In: When to Report and Remediate ‘Minor’ Environmental Contamination,” American Bar Association’s Joint Newsletter of the Environmental Disclosure and Environmental Transactions and Brownfields (ETAB) Committees, December 2016
  • Speaker, “Industrial Water 101,” ORCHSE Western Occupational Safety & Health Group, San Diego, CA, September 13, 2016
  • Author, “Calling All Breweries: Is Your Wastewater In Order?” Law 360 Expert Analysis, July 11, 2016
  • Speaker, “Environmental Enforcement Guidance,” ORCHSE Western Occupational Safety & Health Group, Orange County, CA, June 7, 2016
  • Author, “Sewage Brewage,” NYS Brewers Association Blog, June 6, 2016
  • Speaker, “Spill & Release Reporting for Ammonia Refrigeration,” Construction Contracting Training Program, Napa, CA, March 3, 2016
  • Speaker, “California Proposition 65 Trends and Hazardous Waste Enforcement,” ORCHSE Western Occupational Safety & Health Group, Sonoma, CA, March 2, 2016
  • Co-author, “Drought in California is Changing the Real Estate Landscape,” Law 360 Expert Analysis, July 23, 2015
  • Moderator, “Drought and State Intervention: Managing Groundwater in a New Era,” The Bar Association of San Francisco, July 14, 2015
  • Speaker, “Contaminants of Emerging Concern,” The Bar Association of San Francisco, June 30, 2015
  • Co-presenter (with Jeffrey Tanenbaum), “Take the Warning: Why and How To Be Prop 65 Compliant,” ORCHSE Western Occupational Safety & Health Group, Newport Beach, CA, May 20, 2015
  • “Enviro Update: What To Expect From the EPA in Obama’s Second Term,” Business & Legal Resources, March 2015
  • Speaker, “Environmental Law Basics: Practicing Air Quality Law in California,” The Bar Association of San Francisco, February 26, 2015
  • Author, “Combating California Drought with More Recycled Water,” Law 360 Expert Analysis, July 22, 2014

CA vapor intrusion guidance evaporates hope for urban residential redevelopment

Bloomberg Law | February 18, 2021

San Francisco Affordable Housing & Real Estate partner Alison Torbitt contributed this article on how the California Environmental Protection Agency’s vapor intrusion guidance may impact residential development on the state’s brownfields.

MRM Research Roundup: End-of-October 2020 Edition

Modern Restaurant Management | November 02, 2020

This roundup of current industry issues to watch highlights several thought leadership pieces from NP’s recently published fourth-quarter Food & Beverage Crystal Ball. The publication summarizes trends provided by San Francisco partner Alison Torbitt and counsel Ian O’Banion, both of the Affordable Housing & Real Estate Group; Rochester Corporate associate Isaac Figueras; and San Francisco Labor & Employment associates Rachel Conn and Maritza Martin.

On High Alert: Running a Retail Business in the Age of the COVID Pandemic

Marijuana Venture | August 10, 2020

San Francisco partner Alison Torbitt, who co-leads NP’s Food, Beverage & Agribusiness team, and San Francisco Labor & Employment associate Hilary Baca co-wrote this contributed article on how cannabis retailers can revamp their stores and policies to stay in compliance with state and local laws, while helping to prevent the spread of communicable illnesses to customers and employees.

Marijuana Social Clubs: How Colorado is Setting the Pace

Cannabis Business Executive | June 17, 2020

This article, on the reopening of Colorado’s marijuana hospitality industry, cites a recent NP alert that details guidelines for cannabis retailers to consider for revamping operations without spreading communicable illnesses. Cannabis Business Executive also re-published the complete NP alert, written by San Francisco Affordable Housing & Real Estate partner Alison Torbitt; Los Angeles Intellectual Property partner, Litigation Department vice-chair, and Fashion practice leader Staci Riordan; and San Francisco Labor & Employment associates Hillary Baca and Rachel Conn.

The Generals’ Next War

Best Lawyers | October 21, 2019

San Francisco Affordable Housing & Real Estate partner Alison Torbitt wrote this contributed article analyzing the increasing appetite among employees and investors for corporate social responsibility and environmental, social and governance standards. Alison also writes about how companies’ general counsels can participate in these initiatives.

High court decision on review expands landowners' options

Law360 | November 26, 2018

San Francisco Energy and Environmental partner Alison Torbitt is quoted in this article analyzing the Supreme Court’s decision to return to the Fifth Circuit a key case concerning federal agency authority and landowners’ rights in determinations about land protection.

How should discharges to groundwater be regulated?

Rochester Business Journal | November 22, 2018

Rochester Corporate partner Jeremy Wolk wrote this contributed column on recent cases involving the Clean Water Act and discharges to groundwater, drawing from an alert by San Francisco partner Alison Torbitt, Albany associate Dana Stanton and senior environmental health engineer Libby Ford, all of the Affordable Housing & Real Estate group.

How should discharges to groundwater be regulated?

Rochester Business Journal | November 22, 2018

Rochester Corporate partner Jeremy Wolk wrote this contributed column on recent cases involving the Clean Water Act and discharges to groundwater, drawing from an alert by San Francisco partner Alison Torbitt, Albany associate Dana Stanton and senior environmental health engineer Libby Ford, all of the Affordable Housing & Real Estate group.

Law360 names attorneys who moved up the firm ranks in Q1

Law360 | May 06, 2018

In this roundup of promotions to partner and firm management positions, 14 attorneys from Nixon Peabody are highlighted. The 11 attorneys promoted to partner are Ellie Altshuler, Mark Beaudoin, Erik Birkeneder, Hannah Bornstein, Chris Browning, Barry Carrigan, Keri McWilliams, Matt Mullen, Steven Richard, Charles Tamuleviz and Alison Torbitt. In addition, Kenneth C. Lind was promoted to leader of the firms’ public finance practice group, Justin Thompson was promoted to office managing partner in LA, and Aaron Yowell was promoted to chief innovation officer.

Time to express interest in federal water infrastructure loans

Law360 | April 28, 2018

San Francisco energy and environmental partner Alison Torbitt, New York City project finance partner Scott Singer and Rochester senior environmental health engineer Libby Ford co-wrote this article outlining an EPA loan program for new water infrastructure projects.


Alison B. Torbitt

Co-leader, Food, Beverage & Agribusiness

San Francisco

Phone: 415-984-5008

Fax: 866-256-1329

University of Oregon School of Law, J.D., Order of the Coif (1st in class) , (Editor-in-Chief, Western Environmental Law Update; Associate Editor, Oregon Law Review; Environmental Fellow, Oceans, Coasts, and Watersheds Project; First Place Champion, Oregon Environmental Law Moot Court Competition; Quarterfinalist, National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition)

University of California, Santa Barbara, B.S., B.A., with High Honors

University of Queensland, Australia, Marine biology research program


U.S. District Court, Northern District of California

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California

U.S. District Court, Southern District of California

U.S. District Court, Central District of California

  • Vice Chair, Bar Association of San Francisco
  • California Lawyers Association, Environmental Legislation Committee
  • Chair, Legislative Subcommittee, Water Environment Federation Government Affairs Committee
  • Executive Committee, San Francisco Bar Association, Environment Section
  • Immediate Past Chair of the San Francisco Barristers Environment, Real Estate, and Land Use Section
  • Queen’s Bench, Member, Business Development Committee
  • LEED Accredited Professional (LEED® AP BD&C) in Building Design and Construction
  • SV Forum, Member
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