The Ayres Law Group


Richard E. AyresRichard E. Ayres

Richard Ayres is among the nation’s most knowledgeable and well-respected environmental attorneys and policy makers. Since 1970, he has shaped the country's environmental policies, including the Clean Air Act and their implementation. Professional highlights include:


Mr. Ayres has shaped the Clean Air Act and its implementation for more than forty years. Prior to founding the Ayres Law Group in 2001, Mr. Ayres was a partner in the D.C. office of O'Melveny & Myers, where he headed the Washington environmental practice group. Subsequently, Mr. Ayres was a partner in the environmental practice of Howrey Simon Arnold & White in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Ayres’s work has included representing clients before federal courts (including the Supreme Court), the EPA, the EPA Environmental Appeals Board, the U.S. Congress and state agencies and courts. He has significant experience facilitating the resolution of environmental disputes using broad contacts among government, industry, and environmental organizations. Mr. Ayres frequently advises senior-level corporate management on legislative and regulatory strategies and creative solutions to environmental disputes.


Mr. Ayres has handled nearly three-dozen cases in the federal courts involving the interpretation and enforcement of the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. He has:

  • Represented a major electric power company before the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA, relating to control of global warming emissions under the Clean Air Act (2007)
  • Represented the State of North Carolina in litigation seeking abatement of emissions from the Tennessee Valley Authority (2009)
  • Served as lead counsel in negotiating a $20 million settlement of potential health and property damage claims against a major utility
  • Represented a major manufacturer of diesel engines in a 1998 settlement of the largest mobile source air enforcement case in history, brought by the federal government against diesel engine manufacturers
  • Represented plaintiffs in litigation against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) that achieved the largest single reduction in air pollution in American history
  • Briefed and argued Train v. NRDC (1975), and Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation v. NRDC (1977) before the United States Supreme Court
  • Appeared in numerous cases construing the Clean Air Act before the United States Courts of Appeal

Regulatory experience

Mr. Ayres has participated in many of the most important Environmental Protection Agency rulemaking proceedings under the Clean Air Act since 1971. Among the more notable are:

  • Development of all 50 of the original State Implementation Plans
  • Revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards in 1972 and 1980
  • Regulation of the use of tall smokestacks by large electric power generating plants
  • Emission standards for new coal-fired electric generating plants
  • Development of standards for hazardous air pollutants for several industries
  • Standards for "reformulated" gasoline
  • Adoption of emission trading guidance for states
  • Standards for sulfur content of gasoline
  • Development of emission trading guidance for state trading programs
  • Various rules regarding protection of the stratospheric ozone layer

He also has assisted states and localities in developing and implementing environmental policies:

  • Assisted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in developing innovative policy to reduce pollution and costs associated with the Florida citrus industry
  • Drafted model rule to control mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants for the national organization of state and local air pollution program administrators
  • Represented the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency before the Illinois Pollution Control Board regarding proposed rule to require 90 percent reduction of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants in the Illinois (adopted by the IPCB in the fall of 2006)

Public service

Mr. Ayres co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in 1970, where he served as director of the Atmospheric Project from 1970-1991. Mr. Ayres was instrumental in making NRDC one of the nation’s most influential environmental organizations.

He also led the National Clean Air Coalition, which included major environmental and public health organizations, labor unions, churches, and civic organizations, during Congressional consideration of amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1977, 1980 and 1990.

Mr. Ayres has served on blue ribbon panels addressing the Nation's clean air policy –

  • Presidential appointment to the National Commission on Air Quality in 1978
  • Member of the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Regulatory Decision Making from 1991 to 1994
  • Member of the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air Act Advisory Committee and its Executive Committee


  • A.B., Princeton University, 1964
  • LL.B. Yale Law School, 1969
  • M.A. Yale School of Political Science, 1969

Selected honors

  • The International Who's Who of Environment Lawyers 2011
  • Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review AV Rating 5 out of 5
  • Awarded Yale Law School Association Award of Merit, October 9, 2010
  • Recognized in 1998 by the Yale Law School Association of Washington for outstanding service to the public interest
  • Honored by the Yale Law School Environmental Law Association in 1989 for his role in creating the public interest law movement
  • Member, Cosmos Club, Washington, D.C.

Bar memberships

Mr. Ayres is admitted in the District of Columbia and New York. He is a member of the Bars of the United States Supreme Court and of the United States Courts of Appeal for the First, Second, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Federal Circuits and for the District of Columbia.

Selected publications

  • R. Ayres & Jessica Olson, “The New Federalism: States Take a Leading Role in Clean Air,” Natural Resources and Environment American Bar Association (Fall 2008)
  • R. Ayres, “Two Landmark Interpretations of the Clean Air Act: EPA Authority to Regulate GHGs and Increases in Annual Emissions Trigger NSR,” Environmental Management (Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association) (August 2007)
  • R. Ayres, “Setting National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” Chapter 2 in Martineau and Novello, eds., Clean Air Act Handbook 2d Ed., American Bar Association, (2004)
  • R. Ayres, “Lobbying at the EPA Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995,” ABA Lobbying Manual (2004)
  • R. Ayres, “Expanding the Use of Environmental Trading Programs Into New Areas of Environmental Regulation,” 18 Pace L. Rev. 87 (Winter, 2000)
  • R. Ayres, “The 1990 Clean Air Amendments: Performance and Prospects,” Natural Resources and Environment, American Bar Association Section on Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Fall 1998)
  • R. Ayres, “One-Size-Fits-All EPA Rules Need Modifying,” The National Law Journal (June 22, 1998)
  • R. Ayres, “Emissions Trading,” Issues in Science & Technology Forum (Summer 1998)
  • R. Ayres, R. Rose, A. Lloyd and R. Wichert, “Carbon Trading and Hydrogen -- Possibilities and Pitfalls” (June 1998)
  • R. Ayres, James T. O’Reilly, William V. Luneberg , Kim Burke, and James Witt, Clean Air Permitting Manual, Shepard's/McGraw-Hill, Inc. Environmental Law Series (February 1995)
  • R. Ayres, “Developing a Market in Emission Credits Incrementally: an ‘Open Market’ Paradigm for Market-Based Pollution Control,” BNA Env. Reptr., Vol. 25, N0. 31, at 1522 (December 2, 1994)
  • R. Ayres and Richard Parker, “The Proposed WEPCo Rule: Making the Problem Fit the Solution,” 22 Env. Law Reptr. 10201 (1992)
  • R. Ayres & David Doniger, “New Source Standard for Power Plants II: Consider the Law,” 3 Harv. E. L. Rev. 63 (1979)
  • R. Ayres, “Enforcement of Air Pollution Controls on Stationary Sources Under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970,” 4 Ecology L.Q. 441, 472 (1975)


Policy Alerts

Periodically, we provide policy alerts to keep our clients up-to-date on important policy developments and trends as we see them arising. We track the issues that are important to our clients to help you achieve your business and environmental goals.