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About Sara

Sara Burgin uses her scientific background and more than 30 years of legal experience to assist clients with issues relating to water use, management and disposal. She advises on permitting, compliance and enforcement matters in association with onshore and offshore wastewater and storm water discharges; issues relating to surface water and ground water rights; water contracts; Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) plan requirements and applicability issues; Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction; issues associated with public water systems at industrial facilities; and dredge and fill permit requirements.

In addition to her water experience, Sara has also counseled clients on industrial solid waste matters related to wastewater treatment facilities and recycling/reuse of treated wastewater and/or solids resulting from treatment.

Market sources describe Sara as "a guru" and "one of the top-quality water lawyers in the state" (Chambers USA, 2018).

Sources say ‘Sara is the best of the best; an absolute expert in her field’ who is ‘one of the top environment lawyers in the state.’
Chambers USA, 2021


Recent Notable Matters

Upstream oil and gas producers — evaluation of the need for SPCC plans and/or facility response plans in specific circumstances and locations

Petroleum refinery — amending a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit authorizing discharge and/or irrigation of refinery wastewater*

NPDES permitees — provide advice and counsel to achieve highest water quality-based permit limits available under applicable state water quality standards

Major oil companies — assistance evaluating compliance with NPDES general permits for discharge from offshore oil and gas facilities*

NPDES permittees — representation in various industries facing federal and state CWA civil enforcement actions and CWA, Section 308 information requests

Energy, chemical and other industrial companies — provision of counsel on applicability of Safe Drinking Water Act requirements related to provision of potable water to employees of industrial facilities

Upstream oil and gas operations — evaluation of available water sources and regulatory requirements, including recycle of produced water, applicable to use of various sources*

Industrial facilities — representation of NPDES permittees in receipt of notice of intent to file citizen suit and negotiation with organization to resolve issues raised by notice and avoid litigation*

NPDES permittees — provision of advice and counsel during renewal and/or amendment of wastewater permits issued by delegated states to respond to objections raised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Industrial wastewater discharges — provision of advice and counsel on permitting requirements applicable and discharges of storm water associated with construction and industrial activities

Industrial facility — provision of advice and counsel related to sale of water rights and associated amendments of water rights*

Industrial facilities — evaluation of potential regulatory requirements applicable to various wastewater reuse options*

* Work completed prior to Bracewell

Publications and Speeches

Co-author, “Avoiding criminal liability after a flood: Lessons from Hurricane Harvey,” Trends, Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources of the American Bar Association, January/February 2018.

Co-presenter, “Environmental Law's Not Dead Yet:  Optics Versus Reality in the New Administration's Regulatory Reform Project,” Association of Corporate Counsel South/Central Texas Chapter, July 12, 2017.

Panelist, “Dawn of a New Energy Era? A Look Forward,”  Western System Power Pool Conference, April 19, 2017.

“Clean Water Act Section 316(b) and Endangered Species,” Annual Update on Texas Water Law & Endangered Species, University of Houston Law Center Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Center, October 14, 2016.

“Surface Focus,” Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation’s Conference on Water Acquisition and Management for Oil & Gas Development, Houston, April 8, 2016.

“Waters of the U.S. Rule: Overview and Recent Challenges,” Austin Bar Association Environmental Law Section CLE, October 1, 2015.

"Water Issues," 27th Annual Texas Environmental Superconference, August 6-7, 2015.

“Update on Surface Water Related Litigation and EPA/TCEQ Activities Related to Temperature,” Texas/Louisiana Environmental, Health & Safety Seminar, June 4, 2013.

“Corporate Water Management and the Endangered Species Act,” Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMi), November 1, 2012.

“Water Use at Industrial Facilities: Current Issues,” Texas/Louisiana Environmental, Health & Safety Seminar, June 1, 2012.



University of Houston Law Center,
with honors
Texas A&M University,
The University of Texas at Austin,

Bar Admissions



Texas Bar Foundation, Fellow



The Best Lawyers in America Recognize 74 Bracewell Attorneys

August 15, 2016
Best Lawyers, Woodward White, Inc.



EPA Approved Texas NPDES Oil and Gas Program Authorization on January 15, 2021

January 19, 2021
Energy Legal Blog®

On January 15, 2021, Region 6 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) approved the State of Texas’ October 12, 2020 submittal to the EPA requesting partial National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) program authorization for oil and...

EPA Draft Guidance Memorandum on the Application of County of Maui

December 9, 2020
Energy Legal Blog®

On December 8, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released a draft guidance memorandum (“Draft Guidance”) to provide guidance to the regulated community and permitting authorities, including the EPA, on applying the recent decision of...

Update on State of Texas NPDES Application to Issue Federal Discharge Permits for Oil and Gas Facilities

October 15, 2020
Energy Legal Blog®

On October 12, 2020, Region 6 of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) received a delegation request from the State of Texas seeking authority to issue federal permits for discharges of produced water, hydrostatic test water and gas plant effluent...

EPA Repeals Obama Rule Defining Waters of the U.S.

September 13, 2019
Energy Legal Blog®

On Thursday, September 12, EPA General Counsel Matt Leopold announced EPA’s final rule repealing the 2015 Waters of the United States (“WOTUS”) Rule. Significantly, General Counsel Leopold did not announce the final replacement WOTUS Rule, which was proposed...

The Waters of the United States Rule

April 25, 2018

Sara Burgin provides a breakdown on administrative and judicial developments and speculation related to the future of WOTUS.

USFWS Lists Texas Hornshell Mussel as Endangered Species

February 9, 2018

On February 9, 2018, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) issued a Final Rule listing the Texas hornshell ( Popenaias popeii ) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (Act). The Final Rule becomes effective on March 12, 2018 and is essentially unchanged from the proposed rule that was published on August 10, 2016...

USFWS Postpones Endangered Species Listing Determination for Texas Hornshell Mussel

August 14, 2017

On August 10, 2017, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or Service) issued a Federal Register notice indicating its intent to delay by six months its determination whether to list the Texas hornshell mussel as an endangered species. The decision to...

FWS Publishes Notice of Availability of Draft Candidate Conservation Agreements for Activities Affecting the Texas Hornshell Mussel

July 12, 2017

On July 7, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published notice of the filing of applications by the Center of Excellence in Hazardous Material Management (CEHMM) and the New Mexico State Land Office (NMSLO) for two separate enhancement of survival (EOS) permits pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The permit applications include draft programmatic candidate conservation agreement with assurances (CCAA) for the Texas hornshell mussel and other covered species, including the Rio Grande River cooter (turtle) and Pecos sprinsnail and two fishes that share habitat and...

EPA Postpones Compliance Dates for More Stringent Requirements for Discharges from Coal Fired Power Plants

April 25, 2017
Energy Legal Blog®

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken two recent actions that have resulted in postponement of the compliance dates for more stringent requirements in the effluent limitations..

Recent Developments in Water

February 7, 2017

Sara Burgin covers a range of water issues, including:

  • Nationwide Permits: What you need to know about the nationwide permits reissued by the Army Corps of Engineers
  • Water Jurisdiction: What waters will be jurisdictional under the Trump administration
  • NPDES Permit Shield: Implications of recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals holding in Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition v. Fola Coal Co. for the Clean Water Act Section 402(k) permit shield defense against citizen suits 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to List Texas Hornshell Mussel as Endangered

August 9, 2016

On August 10, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will publish its proposal to list the Texas hornshell, a freshwater mussel species from New Mexico and Texas, as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service will accept comments on the proposed listing until October 11, 2016. The Service requests certain information, including information regarding the mussel, its habitat and requirements for its conservation and notes that, since the determination whether a species is an endangered or threatened species must be made solely on the basis of the best...



Fellow, American College of Environmental Lawyers
Chambers USA
Texas Environment, 2004 - 2021
The Legal 500 United States
Environment: Regulatory, 2016, 2019 - 2021; Environment: Transactional, 2017; Environment: Litigation, 2016, 2018
BL Rankings
Best Lawyers
1997 - 2021; Austin Lawyer of the Year, Environmental, 2012; Austin Lawyer of the Year, Water Law, 2013, 2016
Thomson Reuters
Texas Super Lawyers
2003 - 2020
ALM Media Properties, LLC
Texas Lawyer
Top Notch Lawyer in Environmental Law, 2007; Go-To-Lawyer in Environmental Law, 2002
American City Business Journals
Austin Business Journal
Best in Bar, 2003