Picture of Matthew J. Sanders

Matthew J. Sanders

Of Counsel
Download VCard

Direct: 415.984.9689
Main: 415.398.8080
Fax: 415.398.5584

2 Embarcadero Center
5th Floor
San Francisco, California 94111

Nelia Urbina
415.398.8080 Ext: 9628
Matthew Sanders is a leading environmental and natural resources attorney who represents clients in a wide range of matters, with particular focus on public lands development, water quality and supply, endangered species, renewable energy, hazardous waste, administrative law, and appeals. Over the course of his career, Matthew has advised and represented federal agencies, developers and manufacturers (including large solar and wind companies), and environmental non-profit organizations in strategy, negotiations, permitting, and litigation. Having worked for such diverse clients throughout his career, Matthew has excellent relationships with lawyers, regulators, and stakeholders across the environmental legal community. Matthew practices under nearly all federal and California environmental laws and litigates extensively in the federal and state trial courts and, in particular, the courts of appeals.

Prior to joining JMBM, Matthew worked for five years as an appellate attorney in the Environment & Natural Resources Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he represented federal agencies in the federal courts of appeals; for four years as a senior associate at Paul Hastings, where he advised and represented corporate clients in environmental and real estate matters; for two years as a law clerk to the Honorable Consuelo M. Callahan on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; and for two years as a supervising attorney and lecturer at the Stanford Law School Environmental Law Clinic, where he taught students the practice of law and represented grass-roots and national organizations in environmental litigation and policy matters.

Representative Matters

Federal courts of appeals:
  • Pit River Tribe v. Bureau of Land Management, 793 F.3d 1197 (9th Cir. 2015) 
    Successfully asserted standing to challenge geothermal leasing decisions by Indian tribes and environmental groups under NEPA, National Historic Preservation Act, Indian fiduciary trust doctrine, and Geothermal Steam Act.
  • City of Los Angeles v. San Pedro Boat Works, 635 F.3d 440 (9th Cir. 2011) 
    Successfully represented port operator against liability for legacy contamination at the Port of Los Angeles by securing ruling that the operator was not an “owner” under CERCLA. 
  • Hale v. Norton, 476 F.3d 694 (9th Cir. 2007) 
    Successfully defended National Park Service decision to require permit and environmental review, under Park Service Organic Act, NEPA, and R.S. 2477, for proposed road through Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
  • Fitzgerald Living Trust v. Norton, 460 F.3d 1259 (9th Cir. 2006) 
    Successfully defended Forest Service decision that Arizona inholders lacked easement across National Forest lands under Quiet Title Act, Administrative Procedure Act, and federal property law.
  • Northwest Environmental Advocates v. National Marine Fisheries Service, 460 F.3d 1125 (9th Cir. 2006) 
    Successfully defended Army Corps’s $180 million project to deepen Columbia River, in suit brought under NEPA and involving 60,000-page administrative record.
  • Kern County Farm Bureau v. Allen, 450 F.3d 1072 (9th Cir. 2006) 
    Successfully defended Fish & Wildlife Service decision to list sub-population of California Buena Vista Lake shrew as endangered under Endangered Species Act.
  • Silverton Snowmobile Club v. U.S. Forest Service, 433 F.3d 772 (10th Cir. 2006)
    Successfully defended Forest Service recreational management plan in case brought under NEPA and National Forest Management Act.
  • Valley Community Preservation Commission v. Mineta, 373 F.3d 1078 (10th Cir. 2004) 
    Successfully defended highway expansion project by Federal Highway Administration against claims brought under NEPA and National Historic Preservation Act.
Federal district court:
  • Pacific Shores Property Owners Association v. FAA, 2014 WL 985960 (N.D. Cal. 2014)
  • Intervened in and successfully defended case challenging wetlands mitigation program for airport expansion project under California Environmental Quality Act and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act.
  • La Cuna De Aztlan v. U.S. Department of the Interior, C.D. Cal. 11-400-DMG-DTB (2011)
    Successfully defended large-scale solar developer’s $4 billion project against application for temporary restraining order in suit brought under NEPA and National Historic Preservation Act.
State court:
  • Monterey Coastkeeper v. State Water Resources Control Board, Cal. Sup. Ct. (Sacramento) No. 34-2012-80001324 
    Successfully litigated administrative writ challenge to State Water Board’s general permit for discharges from irrigated agriculture in the California Central Coast under the California Environmental Quality Act and California Water Code.  
Non-litigation matters:
  • Represented large-scale solar companies in securing permits for large-scale, multi-billion-dollar renewable energy projects on public lands; defending against federal and state litigation; and favorably influencing regional and national permitting policies.  
  • Successfully represented Bay Area pharmaceutical company in settlement with EPA of administrative Clean Water Act violations through an innovative environmental partnership with a watershed restoration profit in Marin County.
  • Counseled major aerospace manufacturing company regarding how to remediate heavily contaminated property, in compliance with federal and state hazardous waste, water, and environmental disclosure laws and administrative orders, while advising company on litigation strategy to narrow the scope of those orders.  
  • Other matters have included work under the following California laws: Proposition 65, Administrative Procedure Act, prevailing wages, Brown Act, Political Reform Act, Public Records Act, Code of Civil Procedure, Health & Safety Code, and Government Code.


J.D., Stanford Law School, 2002
Co-Editor-in-Chief, Stanford Environmental Law Journal (2002)

B.A., Carleton College, 1997
magna cum laude

Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice

District of Columbia
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Courts of Appeals for the D.C., Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits
U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Central, Southern and Eastern Districts of California


State Bar of California, Environmental Law Section

Member, Advisory Committee on Rules and Internal Operating Procedures, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Feb. 2014—Sept. 2016)

Member, Trends Editorial Board, Section on Environment, Energy & Resources, American Bar Association

Vice Chair, Programs, Public Land and Resources Committee, Section on Environment, Energy & Resources, American Bar Association

Co-Chair, Silicon Valley Chapter, Stanford Law School Alumni Association