Modrall Sperling Law Firm

Joan Drake has assisted clients for over twenty years as a lawyer on utility regulation and environmental permitting matters.

In utility matters, Joan represents clients on matters involving state and federal regulation of electric and gas utility rates and service, facility siting, wholesale and retail sales, utility acquisition, renewable energy and Qualifying Facilities (“QF”), electric transmission and interconnection, gas pipelines, power purchase and service agreements, and energy efficiency. In addition to representing clients on individual matters before the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (“PRC”), Joan monitors and updates her clients on regulatory and legislative developments of interest to energy, utility, and transmission companies doing business in New Mexico and throughout the West.

Joan also assists clients with regulatory compliance, litigation strategy, and defense of Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, and the NEPA process; Section 404 Clean Water compliance, including Nationwide Permits, Individual Permits, mitigation, and enforcement; and compliance with related environmental laws, including the endangered Species Act and National Historic Preservation Act.

Prior to her legal career, Joan was an environmental regulatory specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Los Angeles and New England, and has many years of experience implementing federal environmental laws, including NEPA, the Clean Water Act, and other related laws. Joan’s experience at the Corps focused on large and controversial projects and enforcement matters. Joan offers clients the unique perspective of both a seasoned regulator and a knowledgeable lawyer.

Best Lawyers in America® has recognized Joan in Energy Regulatory Law since 2017. She presents frequently on environmental law and regulatory issues. Joan currently serves as Chair of the Utility Service Group and Co-Chair of the Renewable Energy Service Group.


University of New Mexico School of Law, J.D., 2001, magna cum laude, Natural Resources Law Certificate; Order of the Coif; Honorable Pete Domenici Award for Environmental Excellence; Administrative Editor Natural Resources Journal, 1998-2001

University of California at Los Angeles, M.A., 1980, magna cum laude

University of California at Berkeley, B.A., 1976, magna cum laude

Bar Admissions

New Mexico

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico


Federal Environmental Regulation

  • Representation of regional utilities and independent transmission developers on Federal permitting and NEPA issues regarding siting of transmission facilities.
  • Representation of major industrial customers, such as mid-stream pipeline companies, mining companies, oil and gas developers, and railroads on Federal permitting and NEPA issues

State Utility and PRC Regulation

  • Representation of wholesale generation and transmission company in rate cases and related investigations before the New Mexico PRC, Federal district court and Tenth Circuit
  • Representation of natural gas public utility before the PRC
  • Representation of electric utility customers on rate and service matters before the PRC
  • Representation of fuel and generation suppliers to electric public utilities regarding PRC matters
  • Representation of a provider of midstream energy services on jurisdictional issues before the PRC
  • Representation of a municipal power agency on wholesale contract issues in electric utility cases before the PRC
  • Representation of independent power producers in obtaining location approval
  • Representation before the PRC on water utility acquisition, line extension, service, and rate issues

Renewable Energy

  • Representation of renewable energy and transmission developers on state regulatory and legislative issues, Renewable Portfolio Standards, PPA approval, location control, eminent domain, and coordination with the PRC
  • Representation of distributed generation companies and customers on state regulation of third party developers and arrangements with utilities
  • Representation of renewable energy developers on interconnection, transmission, and QF matters and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) regulation

Energy Transactions

  • Representation of energy companies, financial companies, and customers on power purchase agreements, service agreements, regulatory and environmental due diligence, financial transactions, and regulation of purchases and sales
  • Past Chair of the Board, New Mexico First
  • Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (n/k/a The Foundation for Natural Resources and Energy Law), Trustee, 2015-2017; Co-Chair, Special Institute on NEPA, 2010
  • Energy Bar Association, Board Member, 2012-2014
  • American Bar Association, Chair, Environmental Impact Assessment Committee, 2008-2009; Vice-Chair, Newsletter, 2005-2008
  • State Bar of New Mexico


Back to the Future: What is a Water of the United States?

Posted on January 3, 2023 By Joan E. Drake


36 Modrall Sperling Attorneys Listed in Best Lawyers in America®, Nine Named 2024 “Lawyer of the Year”

Posted on August 17, 2023 By

38 Modrall Sperling Attorneys Named to 2023 Best Lawyers in America® List

Posted on August 19, 2022 By


Court Resuscitates NWP 12 But Only for Non-Pipeline Projects

May 18, 2020
By Joan E. Drake

U.S. Supreme Court Establishes Middle Ground on Clean Water Act Regulation of Point Source Pollutant Discharge and Travel Via Groundwater

April 27, 2020
By Joan E. Drake

The Corps’ NWP 12 for Pipelines and Transmission Lines is Vacated and Enjoined

April 20, 2020
By Joan E. Drake

The U.S. Supreme Court Confirms You Can Challenge the Corps’ Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Determination Without First Going Through a Permit or Enforcement Process

June 9, 2016
By Joan E. Drake

The FAST Act Seeks to Expedite Multi-Agency NEPA Compliance for Large Infrastructure Projects

May 11, 2016
By Joan E. Drake

Can You Challenge the Corps’ Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Determinations Without First Going Through the Permit Process?

December 15, 2015
By Joan E. Drake

The Clean Water Rule: Troubled Waters Ahead for the EPA and Corps

November 13, 2015
By Deana M. Bennett and Joan E. Drake

Federal District Court Upholds Uranium Mining Within a Traditional Cultural Property Without Further NEPA Review and With Abbreviated NHPA Consultation

June 4, 2015
By Joan E. Drake


  • Process and Practice Tips for U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Administrative Appeals, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute on Challenging and Defending Federal Natural Resource Agency Decisions, Westminster, CO, September 14, 2016
  • Clean Water Act Rulemaking: What is a Water of the US?, Energy Bar Association Rocky Mountain Chapter Annual Meeting, Denver, Colorado, June 20, 2014
  • FERC Order 1000: Transmission and the Continuing Challenge of Matching Generation to Load, 10th Annual Energy In the Southwest, Law Seminars International, Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 15-16, 2013
  • The Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative Under the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines – What it Means, How you Comply, and How it is Related to NEPA Alternatives, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute on Federal Regulation of Cultural Resources, Wildlife, and Waters of the U.S., April 27, 2012
  • Lawdragon 500 Leading U.S. Energy Lawyers, 2023
  • Best Lawyers in America®, Energy Regulatory Law, 2017-present
  • Commander’s Award, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1994
  • Bronze Medal, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1990