Catherine Johnson

Catherine W. Johnson


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Catherine has more than 25 years of experience representing clients in a broad range of environmental compliance, counseling, and litigation matters. Her areas of expertise include the following:   

  • Asbestos, Lead-Based Paint, Methane Gas, Mold, Hazardous Waste
  • Brownfields, Contaminated Properties, Soil Vapor Intrusion
  • Citizens' Suits
  • Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, RCRA, CERCLA, OSHA
  • Environmental Claims in Bankruptcy
  • Environmental Due Diligence
  • Environmental Insurance
  • Proposition 65
  • Storm Water, Solid Waste Landfills
  • U.S. EPA and CARB audits (Truck & Bus Regulation/TRUs)

Representative Work

Defended marine terminal in citizens' suit action under the Clean Water Act, obtaining summary adjudication on the scope of required permit coverage for transportation facilities.

Advised Fortune 500 company on strategy for recovery of cleanup costs from chemical company in bankruptcy – client was only creditor to obtain payment for future cleanup costs.

Represented national transportation company in action by Attorney General to recover more than $1 million for alleged failure to comply with underground storage tank regulations – negotiated penalties down by 85%.

Advised publicly traded company in scores of multi-million dollar acquisitions of commercial and multi-family properties.

Represented national home builder in remediation and development of contaminated property – secured regulatory approval of remediation and recovery of cleanup costs from responsible party.

Published Decisions

In U.S. v. Chapman, 146 F.3d 1166 (9th Cir. 1998), the Ninth Circuit adopted Catherine’s argument that the government may only recover its “reasonable” litigation fees consistent with the standards applicable to prevailing parties under other federal laws, including consideration of the proportionality of the fees to the benefit achieved by the litigation. Chapman has been cited by 10 of the 12 Circuit Courts in the U.S., resulting in a division of authority on the standards applicable to the government’s recovery of its litigation fees.


"California Regulators Prepare New Plan to Tighten Greenhouse Gas Emission Limits for Freight Industry", co-author, Transportation Law Alert (May 2016)

"New Regulations Proposed for TRUs," Transportation & Logistics Alert (May 2016)

"First Federal Enforcement of California Truck & Bus Regulation," Environmental Law Alert (October 2015)

"California's Truck & Bus Regulation (TBR): Obligations For Non-Owned Vehicles," The Transportation Lawyer (October 2015)

"EPA Announces Proposed Rule on Pharmaceutical Hazardous Waste," co-author, Environmental Law Alert (September 2015)

"New Requirements for Emergency Generator Systems and Other USTs," Environmental Law Alert (August 2015)

"Responding to a Notice of Intent to Sue under the Industrial General Permit for Stormwater Dishcharges," Mapistry (August 2015)

"San Francisco Proposal  May Expedite Development of Contaminated Properties – But the Devil is in the Details," Environmental Law Alert (June 2013)

"Managing Soil Vapor Intrusion Risks," Real Estate Law Alert (May 2012)

"Contaminated Property and Insolvency: Who Pays When Responsible Parties File for Bankruptcy?" California Real Estate Journal (September 2009)

"Update: Tenant Liability Under CERCLA," State Bar of California, Real Property Section E-Bulletin (July 2009)

"Costly Cleaning," co-author, San Francisco Daily Journal and Los Angeles Daily Journal (September 2007)

"New Standards for Environmental Due Diligence," California Environmental Insider (August 2006)

"Firms Must Be Mindful of Assets' Environmental Obligations," San Francisco Daily Journal and Los Angeles Daily Journal (May 2006)

"Property Purchasers Must Heed New Standards for Environmental Due Diligence," East Bay Business Times (March 2006)

"Counsel Must Advise Potential Buyers About New CERCLA Liability Defenses," San Francisco Daily Journal and Los Angeles Daily Journal (November 2002)

"Recent Superfund Amendments: New Defenses to CERCLA Liability and New Standards for Pre-Acquisition Environmental Due Diligence," co-author, California Real Property Journal (Fall 2002)

"Dirty Land, New Laws Will Promote Remediations of Brownfields," San Francisco Daily Journal and Los Angeles Daily Journal (November 2001)

"New Regulations for Prop 65 Disclosures," Prop 65 News (July 2000)

"Evil Additive: State Board Releases Draft MTBE Guidelines," San Francisco Daily Journal and Los Angeles Daily Journal (May 2000)

See All Publications


"When Life Gives You Lemons, Grab he Tequila and Salt," co-speaker, USLAW Women's Connection Strong Voices in Times of Crisis – Facing Adversity and Succeeding Conference (June 2016)

"Life After Permit Submission: IGP Compliance and Minimizing Your Risk to Third Party Lawsuits," co-speaker, Mapistry's California's Stormwater Awareness Week (September 2015)

"Industrial Storm Water Permits," California County Counsel Association (May 2014)

"Mahar Ordinance," San Francisco Housing Action Coalition (September 2013)

"Environmental Issues Affecting Real Property in Bankruptcy," 2011 State Bar Annual Meeting (September 2011)

"Contaminated Property in Financial Distress – Who is Left Holding the Bag in a Down Economy?" panelist, Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP (May 2009)

"Contaminated Property: Insolvency, Bankruptcy, and Lender Liability Issues," panelist, Bar Association of San Francisco (March 2009)

"New ASTM Standards for Environmental Due Diligence: All Appropriate Inquiry for Indoor Air Intrusion, and Mold Surveys," panelist, Annual Meeting of the California Bar Association (September 2008)

"Environmental Enforcement 2008: Spills, Leaks and Discharges," panelist, Bar Association of San Francisco (June 2008)

See All Presentations


Northern California Super Lawyers, Environmental Law (2004-2007)

Professional Affiliations

Bar Association of San Francisco, Environmental Section, Advisory Committee

Bay Area Legal Aid, Former Board of Directors


J.D., University of Virginia School of Law (1985)

B.A., Smith College (1979)

Admissions And Courts


U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California

San Francisco

415-995-5835 Direct Phone
415-995-3598 Fax

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