Christopher T. Ellison

Christopher T. Ellison
Rated by Super Lawyers

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Practice Focus

Facility Siting and Land Use
Public Utility Regulation
Energy Transactions
Transmission & Interconnection
Compliance & Enforcement
Renewable Energy
Public Agency Representation
Consumer Representation
Negotiation, Alternative Dispute Resolution & Litigation
Land Use/Zoning
Administrative Law
Local Agency Formation

Bar and Court Admissions
State Bar of California
All California State Courts
United States Court of Appeal, Ninth Circuit
United States District Courts (Southern and Eastern Districts)
Federal District Court for the Northern District
California Supreme Court

J.D., University of California, Hastings College of the Law, 1977
B.A., University of California at Riverside, 1972

Christopher Ellison is a founding Partner in Ellison Schneider Harris & Donlan. Since his admission to the California bar in 1977, Chris has specialized in energy matters, concentrating on transactional, regulatory, and arbitration work on behalf of energy suppliers, customers, trade associations, public agencies, and regional reliability organizations. After working for the California Energy Commission, California Department of Justice Environment Section, and another private law firm, Chris helped found Ellison Schneider Harris & Donlan in 1990. Since then, he has been a leading participant in the restructuring of the electric industry to promote open access transmission, customer choice, reliability standards, competition, licensing of new power plants, and the promotion of renewable energy.

Chris practices before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, California Independent System Operator, and other federal, state, regional, and local agencies regarding a variety of energy and related environmental issues. He has been active within several Western electricity forums on matters of transmission access and electric reliability.

Representative Experience

Forty years in government and private sector practice specializing in energy and environmental law in California, the Western Interconnection and nationally.

Experience as Staff Counsel, Special Advisor to the Chairman and Assistant Executive Director at the California Energy Commission.

Experience as Deputy Attorney General at the Environment Section of the California Department of Justice.

Experience as an Associate Attorney at the Downey, Brand law firm and, since 1990, as a founding partner at Ellison, Schneider, Harris & Donlan.

Experience before federal, state and local agencies including FERC, EPA, NRC, DOE, CEC, CPUC, ARB, WECC, California EPA, Resources Agency, the California ISO, the SWRCB, other state, city and county governments and both federal and state courts.


  • Lead attorney in obtaining appellate reversal of a state court decision setting aside energy efficiency standards for all new homes in California;
  • Lead attorney in NRC hearings regarding the safety of the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant following the accident at Three Mile Island;
  • Lead attorney for the Western Electricity Coordinating Council regarding its formation and drafting of original bylaws;
  • Lead attorney for Destec Energy in the successful negotiation of California’s first full requirements transmission access contract with PG&E;
  • Lead for Calpine Corporation in the successful CEC licensing of the Sutter Energy Facility, California’s first merchant power plant;
  • Lead attorney for the California Independent Energy Producers Association regarding the formation of the California ISO;
  • Lead attorney for the State of California in federal court litigation versus the federal government regarding the application of California Hazardous Waste laws to major military facilities;
  • Lead attorney for numerous non-utility power producers in the development, licensing and operation of gas, solar, wind and energy storage facilities in California;
  • Lead attorney for Duke American Transmission Company in the licensing and operation of major electric transmission facilities in California and the Western Interconnection.

Representative Clients

Clients include public agencies, public and investor-owned utilities, non-utility power producers, utility consumers and non-profit entities such as the following:

California Independent Energy Producers Association
American Wind Energy Association
California High Speed Rail Authority
Duke American Transmission Company
Western Electricity Coordinating Council
Stanford University
Calpine Corporation
Iberdrola Renewables
BrightSource Energy
East Bay Municipal Utility District
Duke Power
California Solar Energy Industries Association
Large Solar Association

Industries Served

Electric generation industry including those developing and operating utility-scale wind, solar, geothermal, hydro-electric and gas power plants.

Providers electric transmission industry including entities developing, constructing and operating major high-voltage electric transmission lines within and outside California.

Large scale electric consumers such as Stanford University and the California High Speed Rail Authority.

Professional Activities

Appointed to the California Bar Association Committee on the Environment 1987-1990

American Arbitration Association Certified Arbitrator/Mediator

Awards and Professional Recognition

Chambers USA “Best Lawyers in the U.S.” (2006 to Present)

Northern California Super Lawyers (2005 to Present)

California Bar Association Environment Committee Commendation Resolution (1990)

California Energy Commission Commendation Resolution (1984)

Recognized by Best Lawyers as the 2016 Natural Resources Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Sacramento.

Representative Speaking Engagements

Speaker: California Independent Energy Producers Annual Conferences (multiple times)

Speaker: American Wind Energy Association Annual Conferences (multiple times)

Speaker/Panel Moderator: American Wind Energy Association “Wind Power Finance & Investment Workshop” (2004)

Speaker/Panel Moderator: American Bar Association, Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, 28th Annual Water Law Conference (“The Energy ó Water Nexus”)

Speaker/Participant: Annual Clift Conference (top California environmental attorneys; invitation only (2012 to Present)

Speaker: California Bar Association, Environment Section, Annual CLA Yosemite Conference (2014)

Twice selected by California Lawyer magazine to participate in Energy Roundtable articles (2012 and 2014), and speaks on energy and environment issues in a variety of forums.

Community Involvement

Chabot Space and Science Center (Foundation Board Member 2014-Present; Vice Chair 2019)

International Children’s Resource Institute (Board Member 2012-Present)

Media Coverage

The Wall Street Journal, December 6, 1994, “PG&E to Announce Novel Agreement on Transmission”

The Sacramento Bee, February 28, 1980, “Nuclear Supporters, Goat Testify at Seco Safety Hearing”

Appeal Democrat, March 31, 1999, “Calpine Power Plant Approved”