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John A. McKinsey

400 Capitol Mall
Suite 1500
Sacramento, California 95814
Phone:  916.246.1158
Fax:  916.246.1159


John McKinsey is a partner in the Sacramento office of LeClairRyan where he serves clients in energy, technology, agribusiness, construction and food and beverage industries. His services focus on environmental, land use, and regulatory compliance matters, and general business transactions including leasing and contract negotiation. John is known for his experience with the regulation of energy and the energy industry. He teaches Energy Law at the U.C. Davis School of Law and regularly writes and speaks on energy policy and law. In addition to energy, John has substantial experience in wine, beer and alcohol law, disability access law (ADA), environmental law, and land use.

A common theme in John’s practice is the intersection of highly technical and scientific industry knowledge and law. John gained significant engineering and applied science knowledge and skills while serving in the United States Navy on submarines as a nuclear power plant operator and supervisor and leading electrician. His background enables him to readily understand industrial, technical, chemical and energy related processes, facilities and issues and translate them with clarity for other parties and governmental agencies.

John regularly serves as lead counsel for the siting of major power projects in California and provides extensive leadership and guidance in the areas of compliance and regulatory matters, facility development and operation. He represents wineries, breweries and other alcohol manufacturers and also alcohol retailers. He represents housing and service industry clients with environmental, land use, and disability access law. John has represented clients before numerous regulatory agencies including the California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, California Independent System Operator, Western Regional Electricity Generation Information System, California Air Resources Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Lands Commission, United States Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Coastal Commission, the California Department of Water Resources and numerous regional governmental agencies including air quality districts, water boards, cities and counties. He has extensive experience in the regulation of air quality, public health, terrestrial, marine and aquatic biology, environmental justice, visual impacts, pesticides, recycling, alcohol, electrical power transmission and interconnection, traffic and highways, and environmental impacts.

Representative Experience

  • Represent renewable energy generator in Power Purchase Agreement dispute with offtaker-utility
  • Advise renewable energy client on resolving WREGIS and CEC RPS approval issues for complex restructuring of an existing renewable energy facility
  • Advise interstate transmission line developer on CAISO’ competitive transmission line solicitations resulting in first award in California of a contract to a non-utility to develop a transmission line serving that utility
  • Advised client on acquisition of transmission line rights purchase in NV Energy service territory.
  • Lead project counsel for permitting and governmental and private party negotiations for a 1,000 MW combined cycle power plant in Southern California
  • Lead project counsel for permitting and governmental and private party negotiations for a 600 MW combined cycle power plant in Southern California
  • Counsel for air, energy and water permitting for major combined cycle power plant in Contra Costa County, California
  • Counsel for air, water and other environmental regulatory permitting for proposed power plant in San Francisco County
  • Pine Tree Wind Project, Kern County, California - Challenge of CEQA decision by Audubon chapters opposing proposed major wind energy project
  • Counsel regarding air permitting for proposed LNG facility offshore of California
  • Project counsel for proposed new power generation facility in central Los Angeles
  • Long Beach Emergency Peaker Project, Long Beach, California - Lead counsel for repowering project converting CGT combine cycle into simplecycle peaker with SCR installation
  • Turlock Irrigation District, Turlock, California - Counsel to municipal power producer regarding territorial disputes with major investor-owned electrical utility
  • Redding Power Plant, Redding, California - Counsel to municipal utility before air district and California Energy Commission over air emissions abatement systems disagreements and permit changes to allow expanded operation
  • Bottle Rock Power Plant, Cobb, California - Project counsel for refiring of suspended geothermal power plant in the Geysers region of Northern California
  • Obtained required permits for a major power plant project opposed by the local government, environmental agencies and citizen and community groups
  • Counsel to major urban repowering project in South San Francisco, California
  • Counsel to notable California winery in sales transaction to major purchaser
  • Counsel to numerous start-up and/or expansion wine producing projects in California
  • Extensive history advising and leading clients on ADA facility compliance and disputes throughout the United States

Classes and Seminars Taught

  • Professor of Energy Law, University of California, Davis, California, 2011 – Present
  • Faculty, National Geothermal Academy, Reno, Nevada, 2011 – Present
  • Business Law Faculty, California State University, Sacramento, 2000 – 2009

Speaking Engagements

  • Speaker, “Challenges and Emerging Trends in the Wine Industry,” King Hall Wine Law Society, Davis, California, February 7, 2016
  • Co-Chair and Presenter, 18th Annual Conference on Electric Power in California, Law Seminars International, Los Angeles, California, November 3-4, 2016
  • Master of Ceremonies, 40th Annual Meeting and GEA GEOEXPO+, Geothermal Resources Council, Sacramento, California, October 24, 2016
  • Speaker, “California Water: The Impact of Drought, Demand and Contamination on Water Rights and Availability,” ABA Life Insurance Committee Hot Topics Webinar, June 2, 2015
  • Speaker, “Understanding the Impacts of Drought,” Dealing in Drought: Development, Legislation and Litigation, Los Angeles, California, October 30, 2014
  • Speaker, “Energy Storage – Finding Energy’s Holy Grail and What It Will Take to Bring It Home,” The Seminar Group, San Francisco, California, September 11, 2014
  • Speaker, “Moving Geothermal Forward on Public Lands in California,” GEA National Geothermal Summit, Reno, Nevada, August 17, 2011
  • Speaker, “Geothermal Business Principles and Development,” National Geothermal Academy Summer Series, Reno, Nevada, August 8-12, 2011
  • Speaker, “Future of California Energy Policy,” U.C. Davis 2011 Environmental Law Society Symposium, Davis, California, April 1, 2011
  • Speaker, “The Nexus of Water, Energy and Carbon,” Best Practices for Owning and Operating a Winery, The Seminar Group, Sonoma, California, March 10, 2011
  • Speaker, “Legal and Regulatory Hurdles of Geothermal Power,” GEA Geothermal Energy Finance Forum 2011, New York, New York, February 9, 2011
  • Speaker, “California’s 33% RES and the November 2nd Election. What does it all mean?” GEA Geothermal Energy Finance Forum, New York, New York, October 28, 2010
  • Speaker, “33% Renewable Standard in California and the Geothermal Industry,” Geothermal Energy Association Annual Meeting, Sacramento, California, October 25, 2010
  • Speaker, “The War on Carbon: Regulating Carbon in the Electricity Sector,” Wichita Pachyderm Club, Wichita, Kansas, October 22, 2010
  • Speaker, “Understanding How Cap and Trade of Carbon Could and Could Not Work,” Kansas City Business Executives, Overland Park, Kansas, October 21, 2010
  • Speaker, “New Technologies: Meeting Load While Cutting Carbon Emissions,” Energy in California, Law Seminars International, San Francisco, California, September 13, 2010
  • Speaker, “Mock Trial on Global Warming,” Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, Lawrence, Kansas, September 1, 2010
  • Speaker, “Liability and Risk Management in Winery Operations,” Winery & Wine Distribution Law Conference, Canandaigua, New York, April 29, 2010
  • Speaker, “Siting Energy Projects in California; Finding the Balance,” Second Annual Climate & Energy Law Symposium, San Diego, California, April 9, 2010
  • Speaker, “Energy Conservation, Renewable Energy and Wineries,” Winery & Wine Distribution Law Conference, Napa, California, March 18, 2010

Legal Experience

  • LeClairRyan, Sacramento, California, 2016 – Present
  • Locke Lord, Sacramento, California, 2013 – 2016
  • Stoel Rives, Sacramento, California, 2005 – 2013
  • Livingston and Mattesich Law Corporation, Sacramento, California, 1999 – 2005

Memberships and Affiliations

  • University of California Foundation: Member, Board of Trustees, 2016 - Present
  • Geothermal Energy Association: Governing Board Member, 2010 – Present
  • Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis: Member, Review Committee, 2010
  • California Bar Association: Member, Environmental and Business Sections
  • Best Practices for Owning and Operating a Winery: Chair, 2007 – 2010


  • American Jurisprudence, Administrative Law


  • J.D., University of California, Davis School of Law, 1999
  • B.A., Economics, cum laude, California State University, Sacramento, 1996
  • Certificate, Nuclear Power, United States Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program, 1985

Bar Admissions

  • California

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

Spoken Languages

  • Italian