Nikki Buffa

Orange County | Washington, D.C.
  • 650 Town Center Drive
  • 20th Floor
  • Costa Mesa, CA 92626-1925
  • USA

Nikki Buffa is counsel in the Orange County and Washington, D.C. offices of Latham & Watkins and a member of the Environment, Land & Resources Department. She has extensive experience in environmental policy and conservation, conventional and renewable energy, endangered species compliance, and crisis management.

As counsel, Ms. Buffa brings two decades of experience working on energy and environmental policy. Ms. Buffa has focused her career on wildlife and wildlands, including regulatory compliance and conservation. Her experience with landscape-level land and species management ranges from deep marine environments to the high desert.

Ms. Buffa advises developers, utilities, and other clients on all aspects of project development from initial permitting and entitlement strategy through governmental approvals incorporating legal, political, community, and public relations issues. She currently serves on the boards of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, National Parks Conservation Association, and the Advisory Board of the University at Berkeley Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity.

Ms. Buffa rejoined Latham after serving eight years in the Obama Administration, most recently at the United States Department of the Interior. As Deputy Chief of Staff, Ms. Buffa managed a diverse set of missions within the 70,000 employee, US$12 billion department, including serving as a key player in President Obama’s success in conserving more lands and waters than any President in history.

Prior to joining the Department of the Interior, Ms. Buffa was the Deputy Director of Cabinet Affairs at the White House. Here, she worked closely with senior White House staff and agency leadership to advance the President’s policy and regulatory priorities at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Energy, and Transportation.

In 2009, after serving on the 2008 Presidential campaign and Presidential Transition Team, Ms. Buffa became the Deputy Chief of Staff, then later Associate Director, for the Council on Environmental Quality at the White House. Ms. Buffa helped develop and implement the Administration’s policies on clean energy, transportation, and environmental and human health protection.   

Thought Leadership
  • “Interior Department and Forest Service Identify Burdens on Domestic Energy Development Report on the agencies’ review of programs provides,” Client Alert (November 2017)
  • “Outlook for Natural Resources Law and Regulation in the Trump Administration,” Webinar (March 2017)
  • “Unanimous US Supreme Court Decision Takes a Hard Look at “Critical Habitat,” Client Alert (February 2019)
  • “Agencies Consider 16 Key Reforms to the Endangered Species Act Regulations,” Client Alert (August 2018)
  • “Changes Ahead? How a Changing Regulatory Landscape Will Impact New Development and Infrastructure Projects in California,” Webinar (July 2018)

Ms. Buffa’s representative experience includes advising on the following legislative and regulatory matters:

  • Federal Land Policy and Management Act and National Forest Management Act
  • Organic Act
  • Mineral Leasing Act
  • Mining laws
  • Clean Water Act
  • Tribal and cultural resource issues
  • Negotiations and partnerships with non-governmental organizations, and state and local agencies
  • Hazardous Materials Regulations
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other wildlife laws
  • Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

Ms. Buffa has extensive experience guiding complex conservation projects to successful outcomes throughout the United States. She is versed in federal policy development and legislative and regulatory activities, including analysis and drafting of legislative language and testimony, and preparing and commenting on rules and other agency initiatives.

Ms. Buffa currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the National Parks Conservation Association, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and the nation’s leading voice for America’s national parks. She also sits on the Advisory Board of the University of California at Berkeley Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity. Before entering the legal field, Ms. Buffa began her career at the EPA where she spent five years in the agency’s Region IX office conducting enforcement actions against a wide range of noncompliant facilities as a Federal Inspector.

Counseling, Sensitive Matters and Crisis Management
  • Congressional oversight, GAO investigations, Inspector General investigations, and high-profile whistleblower matters
  • Crisis response to food supply contamination, major drought, nuclear accidents, recalls, and oil spills, among others
  • Regulatory decision-making and policy implementation for climate, transportation, environmental protection, and other domestic policy areas
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