James L. Pray


Office: 515-242-2404

Fax: 515-323-8504

Email: james.pray@brownwinick.com


I am a member here at the BrownWinick law firm. I practice in a wide variety of areas but the term that captures the essence of what I enjoy doing is “Industrial Law.”  This includes nearly all aspects of the complex systems that make an industrial operation work. My core area is environmental law, which I’ve been specializing in for more than thirty years. In that area I help my clients navigate compliance with a diverse and highly complex number of laws and regulations. This includes offering advice regarding the air, wastewater, and solid waste permits that allow my industry clients to operate legally and profitably without harming the environment. I’ve also represented a large number of railroads and heavy industries that rely on negotiating successful track, car, lease, and transportation agreements that allow goods to come in and go out of those businesses. Finally, industry cannot survive without ready access to adequate and reliable energy, whether that energy takes the form of gas or electric power. Again, when regulations or other parties try to block renewable energy solutions, I’ve taken those parties to court to open break open competition.  During my career I have helped thousands of businesses deal with environmental investigations and cleanups, had a hand in providing legal guidance to more than three dozen ethanol and biodiesel plants, and managed the legal due diligence for a dozen very large wind projects.

My Approach

When clients bring a complex issue to me to handle I work to identify potential issues as soon as possible. If there is no accepted solution I try to create new solutions. When those problems turn out to be caused by third parties, I try to work out a reasonable agreement. If that does not work then litigation may be the only solution.  In the environmental area I’ve challenged government agencies and won precedent-setting decisions.  As an example, in Blue Chip Enterprises, et. al. v. State, Dept. of Natural Resources528 N.W.2d 619 (Iowa 1995) I won a ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court that held that the State could not impose clean-up liability on landowners that did not cause the underlying contamination. The same is true in the energy field. I helped take a case to the Iowa Supreme Court which held that the “behind the meter” power purchase agreements to sell solar power on a per kWh was unregulated.  SZ Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Eagle Point Solar v. Iowa Utilities Board, 850 N.W.2d 441 (July 11, 2014).

More About Me

Ask my long-term clients and they will likely tell you that I am personally driven by the desire to understand the systems that my clients have to deal with, whether those clients are manufacturers, wind energy companies, developers, or even governments. A lot of times I find that the answer to a problem lies in an understanding of what makes things work the way they do. I’ve found that if I can have a firm grasp of what the client does or wants to do then the solutions sometimes present themselves. Many times those solutions are not “legal” as much as they are practical.  This even carries over into technology. In addition to managing the law firm’s IT staff, I have provided services to banks, credit unions, pension administrators, and businesses to assist them with the legal aspects of responding to malicious hacks and cyber-attacks. I’ve also represented IT professionals in federal court who have been sued or accused of exceeding their authorization under federal criminal statutes protecting critical federal and private computing and networking infrastructure.

I am currently serving as Chair of the Iowa Bar Association’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section and have served on numerous bar committees charged with helping to write administrative litigation rules. I have been selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers® for Environmental Law and Best Lawyers® for Environmental Law. In 2013 and 2017 I was named Best Lawyers’ Lawyer of the Year in Environmental Law.

My specialties

  • Environmental law (air, water, solid waste, pharmaceutical)
  • Energy law (renewable, power purchase agreements, pipelines)
  • Rail transportation law
  • Cyber security
  • Litigation (federal, state, district and appellate)
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resource
  • Iowa Department of Transportation
  • Surface Transportation Board
  • Federal Railroad Administration
  • Agriculture and Land Stewardship Agency
  • Iowa Utilities Board
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • United States Office of Surface Mining

Blog Posts

Targeted Cyber Attacks are Rapidly Increasing in 2019

May 10, 2019 Your company, your vendors and suppliers, and your customers are currently under the biggest wave of cyber-attacks that I’ve seen since the internet was created. Read…

EPA and USACE Move to Rescind 2015 Waters of the U.S. Rule

July 6, 2017 BrownWinick environmental attorney James Pray posted recently on his Iowa Environmental Compliance blog on the new rule, proposed on June 27, 2017 by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Read…

BrownWinick Involved in Building Energy's First Wind Farm in Iowa

May 19, 2017 Building Energy, through its subsidiary Building Energy Wind Iowa, announced the completion of its first U.S. wind farm (“Project”) in Iowa, on Wednesday, May 3, Read…

BrownWinick Attorneys Named Best Lawyers in America "Lawyers of the Year" for 2017

August 15, 2016 The Best Lawyers in America®, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession, has named two BrownWinick attorneys as Best Lawyers® "Lawyers of the Read…

No, Sharing Your Netflix Password is Not a Crime

July 14, 2016 BrownWinick attorney James Pray was quoted in an article ("No, sharing your Netflix password is not a crime") that discussed if it is illegal for consumers to share Read…

NJR Purchases Iowa Wind Farm

April 12, 2015 NJR (“New Jersey Resources”) announced on February 2, 2015 that the Carroll Area Wind Farm is now in operation mode.  They (“NJR”) invested approximately $42 Read…

Iowa Court of Appeals Awards Attorney Fees Against the IDNR

April 10, 2015 On April 8, 2015, the Iowa Court of Appeals awarded Monroe ("Monte") Branstad the attorney fees of attorney James Pray in the amount of $71,000 and Read…

Iowa Supreme Court Rules on Solar Power Purchase Agreement

August 3, 2014 On July 11, 2014, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a long-awaited ruling on the legality of a power purchase agreement (“PPA”) between Eagle Point Solar Read…

Internet Ruling Concerns Iowans

January 15, 2014 Jim Pray, an attorney at BrownWinick, was quoted in an article titled, "Internet ruling concerns Iowans," in the Wednesday, January 15, 2014 edition of The Des Moines Read…

Google Inc. Invested in Iowa Wind Farm

November 16, 2012 RPM Access, LLC announced on November 15, 2012 that it will receive a $75 million equity investment in their Rippey Wind Farm from Google Inc. Read…


Liz Carranza



University of Nebraska

B.S., magna cum laude, 1980


University of Iowa

J.D., with distinction, 1984


Iowa, 1985

Memberships & Associations

  • Polk County Bar Association
    Member; Board of Directors, 1997-1999
  • Iowa State Bar Association
    Member; Sections on: eCommerce; Environmental and Natural Resources; Trade Regulations
    Administrative Law Council, 1992-1995; Chair, 1993-1995; Task Force on Administrative Law, 1994-1996; Environmental and Natural Resources Law Council, 1996-Present; Chair, 1998-1999; 2004-Present
  • Iowa League of Cities
  • Energy Bar Association
  • Iowa Legal Aid Foundation
    Board of Directors
  • 2009 Ethanol Bankruptcies & Acquisitions Conference 
    Advisory Board Member, 2009
  • Lincoln Inne 
  • Managing Editor, The Journal of Corporation Law, 1983-1984