Ezekiel (Zeke) J. Williams

Ezekiel (Zeke) J. Williams


Email: zwilliams@williamsweese.com
Phone: 303-861-2828 xt. 2529

Energy and Natural Resources
Federal Lands
Administrative Law

Zeke Williams solves problems and disputes involving natural resources, oil and gas, energy, the environment, and federal public lands.  Zeke also helps clients obtain permits and authorizations for ski area, energy, resort, and other development projects.  Zeke combines extensive substantive knowledge of federal lands, energy, environmental, and administrative laws with expertise in a number of industries. His clients include oil and gas companies, ski areas, solar energy developers, pipeline companies, mining companies, trade associations, resort owners, and individuals.

Energy Litigation. Zeke has extensive energy and oil and gas litigation experience in state and federal courts, and in arbitration proceedings. Zeke has litigated disputes involving energy contracts, mineral leases, development agreements, joint venture accounting, gas purchase and processing agreements, dedication claims, gathering agreements, AMI provisions, operating agreements, mineral royalties, capital expenditure audits, gas processing audits, coal purchase agreements, surface use agreements, unit agreements, asset purchase agreements, and net profits contracts.  He is deeply familiar with upstream and midstream industry contracts, and has litigated scores of disputes for public and private companies, operators, non-operators, and others.

Government Agency Litigation. Zeke represents clients in federal court litigation and appeals against or in defense of government agencies of the United States.  He has obtained nationwide injunctions against the United States government in federal court, and obtained rulings invalidating illegal federal regulations, arbitrary agency policies, and erroneous government decisions.  Zeke has successfully obtained court rulings upholding federal and state government decisions that authorized clients to undertake energy, resort, and federal lands development projects.

Federal Lands. Zeke is a national expert on federal lands managed by the United States Forest Service and the United States Bureau of Land Management.  Zeke helps his clients obtain, operate, develop, finance, and defend ski area, energy, pipeline, resort, and other projects on federal lands. Zeke has deep experience with Forest Service special use permits, ski area permits, resort permits, BLM decisions, Forest Service and BLM land use plans, federal oil and gas leases, federal rights-of-way, land exchanges, and renewable energy development authorizations.  Zeke routinely helps clients obtain government approvals that will authorize future actions, including environmental impact statements, federal land use plans, leases, special use permits, rulemakings, and environmental permits.

Strategic Counseling. Zeke acts as a strategic counselor for clients in complex natural resource matters.  Zeke has helped clients restructure energy development ventures, resolve disagreements over billions of dollars of accounting practices, renegotiate oil and gas service contracts, divide jointly owned assets, and terminate failed contracts.

Representative Experience

Obtained state court summary judgment rulings rejecting all claims in action against client gas gatherer that sought over $200 million in alleged damages arising from the client’s termination of dozens of gas purchase contracts and permanent shut down and abandonment of 900+ mile gas gathering system.

Obtained summary judgment rulings in favor of client fee mineral owner in trespass actions filed by multiple surface owners.

Obtained federal court ruling that the United States Bureau of Land Management violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it authorized a third party to act in a manner that created hazards for client’s helicopter skiing operation. Triumvirate, LLC v. Bernhardt, 2019 WL 691771 (D. Alaska Feb. 19, 2019).

Represented resort owner in federal court litigation challenging decision by the United States Forest Service to terminate one of the resort’s long-term special use permits for use of Forest Service lands. Obtained settlement under which the agency withdrew the termination decision and issued five new long-term special use permits to the resort.

Represented upstream oil and gas company in state court litigation involving gas gathering and processing dedications and area of mutual interest (AMI) provisions.

Represented oil and gas producer in litigation asserting audit claims under gas processing agreements against midstream gas processor and purchaser.

Represented midstream oil and gas company in defending rights-of-way and easements against claims brought by surface owner.

Obtained federal right-of-way for client as favorable settlement of federal court litigation challenge by client to federal decision refusing to issue the same right-of-way.

Represented over 40 ski areas in at least 9 states in obtaining, operating, developing, financing, and defending Forest Service ski area special use permits.

Represented oil and gas company in asserting significant audit claims under development agreement and joint operating agreement against operator. Successfully resolved audit claims by restructuring multi-billion dollar joint venture and client taking over operations from operator.

Represented the National Ski Areas Association as amicus curiae in litigation involving ski area development on federal public lands. BARK v. Northrop, 2016 WL 1191672 (D. Oregon March 25, 2016).

Obtained U.S. Court of Appeals ruling upholding provisions of federal regulations applicable to 13 Colorado ski areas operating on public lands. The Ark Initiative v. Tidwell, 816 F.3d 119 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

Advised multiple oil and gas midstream companies on permitting strategies to obtain NEPA documents and federal and state authorizations necessary for rights-of-way and ancillary permits for hundreds of miles of pipelines on federal, state, and private lands in multiple states.

Obtained Colorado Supreme Court reversal of trial court discovery rulings in complex commercial litigation involving natural gas gathering and processing.  In re DCP Midstream, LP v. Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, 303 P.3d 1187 (Colo. 2013).

Advised multiple oil and gas companies acting as operator on audit claims raised by non-operating interest owners under operating agreements and accounting procedures.

Represented coal mine in coal price arbitration against multiple utility companies.

Advised solar energy developer on NEPA, Endangered Species Act, and other permitting requirements for 250 MW solar photovoltaic generating project on tribal lands.

Obtained D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of client Aspen Skiing Company in appeal involving the Administrative Procedure Act, Colorado Roadless Rule, and National Environmental Policy Act. The Ark Initiative v. Tidwell, U.S. Forest Service and Aspen Skiing Company, 749 F.3d 1071 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

Obtained federal court nationwide injunction of federal policies applicable to 122 ski areas in 13 states on behalf of trade association of ski areas.  National Ski Areas Association, Inc. v. United States Forest Service, 910 F.Supp.2d 1269 (D. Colo. 2012).

Represented oil and gas companies, ski areas, and trade associations in multiple federal rulemakings involving federal lands, energy, and environmental issues.

Obtained federal court nationwide injunction of federal oil and gas development policies on behalf of trade association Western Energy Alliance.  Western Energy Alliance v. Salazar, 2011 WL 3738340 (D. Wyo. Aug. 12, 2011).

Represented oil and gas company in defending oil and gas development authorizations against federal court challenge and appeal.  San Juan Citizens Alliance v. Stiles, 654 F.3d 1038 (10th Cir. 2011).

Advised multiple oil and gas companies on NEPA, Endangered Species Act and federal lands permitting requirements for energy development projects on federal, state,
fee, and tribal lands in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, Texas and North Dakota.

Represented trade association Colorado Ski Country USA as amicus curiae in Tenth Circuit proceeding.  The Ark Initiative v. U.S. Forest Service, 660 F.3d 1256 (10th Cir. 2011).

Successfully defended claim that oil and gas company was liable for penalties under state royalty payment act.  Ultra Resources, Inc. v. Harman, 226 P.3d 889 (Wyo. 2010).

Represented oil and gas companies and mineral owners in negotiating, litigating, and defending federal, state, private, and tribal oil and gas leases.

Represented oil and gas company in successfully defending federal land use plan and conditions of approval applicable to oil and gas development on federal lands.  Western Organization of Resource Councils v. Bureau of Land Management, 591 F. Supp.2d 1206 (D. Wyo. 2008).

Represented trade association National Ski Areas Association as amicus party in en banc Ninth Circuit Proceeding.  Navajo Nation v. U.S. Forest Service, 535 F.3d 1058 (9th Cir. 2008).

University of Denver College of Law
J.D., Law Review (Articles Editor)
Order of St. Ives (1994)
Montana State University BA (1987)
Bar and Court Admissions
U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
U.S. Supreme Court
Other Professional Affiliations
Judicial law clerk to the Hon. Bobby R. Baldock, U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, 1994-1996


University of Denver College of Law (2001 to 2004, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017-2020) Administrative Law, Public Lands Law, Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law

Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation
Western Energy Alliance
Denver Petroleum Club
Colorado Ski Country USA
National Ski Areas Association

Publications and Lectures

Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Short Course
Foundation for Natural Resources and Energy Law (2023, 2019, 2017, 2015, 2013, 2011, 2009)

What’s The Big Deal With NEPA? American College of Environmental Lawyers (Jan. 13, 2022).

Author, The National Environmental Policy Act Chapter
Environmental Regulation of Colorado Real Property
(3d Ed. 2021 Continuing Legal Education in Colorado, Inc.)

Retroactivity in Federal Natural Resources and Administrative Law
Conference on Natural Resources Development and the Administrative State
(Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, March 2019)

The National Environmental Policy Act and Forest Service Decision-Making Process Streamlining
National Ski Areas Association Winter Conference (Jan. 2018)

Permitting and Challenges to Permitting
Current Issues in Environmental & Energy Litigation
(American Bar Association Section of Litigation, December 2017)

Panelist, Future of Energy Development on Federal Lands
2017 Clyde Martz Spring Symposium, Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy, and the Environment
University of Colorado Law School (April 2017)

What You Need To Know About the New Forest Service Ski Area Permit Water Clause
Colorado Ski Country USA Annual Meeting (June 2016)

Enhanced Oil Recovery on Federal Lands
Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute on Enhanced Oil Recovery (May 2015)

Energy Development on Federal Lands: An Overview & Observations
Energy Bar Association, Rocky Mountain Chapter (June 2014)

Environmental Regulatory Compliance: Reducing the Impact on Nature & Your Resort’s Bottom Line
National Ski Areas Association Winter Conference (Jan. 2014)

Environmental and Liability Issues Associated With Horizontal Development
Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute on Horizontal Development (Nov. 2012)

Public Participation in the National Environmental Policy Act Review Process
Conference on Environmental Regulation of Energy Development, CLE International (Nov. 2012)

Energy Development on National Forest System Lands
57 Rocky Mtn. Min. L. Inst. 6-1 (2011)

Moderator, Panel on NEPA Lessons Learned

Special Institute on the National Environmental Policy Act
Denver, Colorado (October, 2010)

Wind Energy on Federal Lands: A Guide to an American Resource
American Wind Energy Association Wind Power Conference (2009)

Drought and Climate Change in the Environmental Review Process Under the National Environmental Policy Act
Governor’s Conference on Managing Drought and Climate Risk (2008)

Colorado Oil and Gas Development in the 21st Century: Trends and New Rules
Colorado Bar Association Conference on Water, Agricultural, Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Law (2008)

The Role of an Oil and Gas Company in the Public NEPA Process

Public Lands Advocacy Conference (2008)

New West Regulations of Access: Perspectives of the Oil and Gas Developer and Affected Constituencies
Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute on Surface Use for Mineral Development in the New West (2008)

What Every Land Professional Should Know About the National Environmental Policy Act
53 Rocky Mtn. Min. L. Inst. 4-1 (2007)

The National Environmental Policy Act Chapter
Environmental Regulation of Colorado Real Property (2007 Bradford Publishing)

The Role of the Project Proponent in the NEPA Process
Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Special Institute on NEPA and Federal Land Development (2006)

The Growing Phenomenon of Challenges to Federal Land Use Plans in Natural Resources Development Litigation
51 Rocky Mtn. Min. L Inst. 11-1 (2005)

BLM Oil and Gas Lease Protest Procedures

Denver Association of Petroleum Landmen, Fall Land Institute (2005)

The National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Use Planning in Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Development

Colorado Hazardous Waste Management Society (2005)

The Clean Water Act

Environmental Law Institute, Annual Bootcamp on Environmental Law (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006)

Defending Federal Decisions and Permits: Practical Tactics for the Interested Party
Special Institute on Natural Resources & Environmental Administrative Law and Procedure, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (2004)

Honors and Distinctions

Fellow, American College of Environmental Lawyers

Chambers USA, America’s Leading Lawyers for Business (Natural Resources & Environment) 2017-2024

Best Lawyers 2014 Denver Administrative/ Regulatory Law “Lawyer of the Year”

Best Lawyers 2013 Denver Natural Resources Law “Lawyer of the Year”

The Best Lawyers in America® 2019-2024; Administrative Law and Natural Resources Law

Colorado Super Lawyers® named Mr. Williams, Energy & Natural Resources, 2006 – 2024

University of Denver Sturm College of Law Distinguished Natural Resources Practitioner in Residence 2017

5280 Magazine Top Lawyer 2015-2024

Lawdragon 500 Leading U.S. Environmental & Natural Resources Lawyers

Lawdragon 500 Leading U.S. Energy Lawyers

Our Location

1801 California Street, Suite 3400
Denver, Colorado 80202

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Email: info@williamsweese.com
Phone 303.861.2828
Fax 303.861.4017

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