“I have always approached this profession as a seamless partnership between me and my clients.”


As the chair of the firm’s Environmental Group, Bill Penny has a wide range of experience at the state and federal levels, including natural resource law, mining, remediation, negotiation with regulatory agencies in environmental matters, superfund litigation, RCRA matters, brownfield redevelopment, wetlands, water quality, radiological waste and compliance, and air pollution control. Bill regularly counsels clients on environmental compliance issues and represents businesses in permit appeals, enforcement, and advocacy before state environmental boards and agencies, including the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Bill’s practice also expands to include handling citizen suits that deal with the violation of agreements, regulatory and contractual law, and real estate matters.

He served as general counsel for the Tennessee Department of Health and Environment and, subsequently, the Department of Environment & Conservation for more than eight years. In addition, Bill was the founder of the Environmental Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association and was elected Chair of the Environment, Energy & Resources section of the American Bar Association from 2013-2014.

Armed with state government experience, Bill pursued a career in the legal profession to help people navigate whatever legal maze they are facing. With a civil-minded approach, Bill sees himself as part of his client’s team, offering them counsel in all the facets of environmental law. Working on each case from beginning to end, he loves the process of brainstorming with clients and other attorneys to come to a consensus on the best way forward.

When he’s not at work, Bill likes to attend the University of Tennessee sporting events.

Bill earned his J.D. from the Nashville School of Law and his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


  • Lead counsel representing coal mine operators in a number of federal citizen suits under the Clean Water Act and SMCRA that alleged violations of DMR's and selenium discharges.
  • Represented developers in Clean Water Act Citizen Suit challenging definition of waters of the United States.
  • Represented manufacturing company in mitigating enforcement for air permit violations.
  • Represented site developers in Region IV EPA Stormwater enforcement action.
  • Represented developers in successfully appealing an overbroad "waters of the state" determination by Water Control Board which resulted in the revocation of developer's aquatic resource alteration permit.
  • Led PRP groups in negotiating complete release with TDEC for all present and future claims at the respective sites.
  • Represented City in an appeal of conditions contained in its NPDES permit before the Water Quality Control Board. Included in the appeal was a challenge to the placement of the receiving stream on the state's 303(d) list. He was successful in getting the Davidson County Chancery Court to strike down and invalidate the list.
  • Assisted mining interests with the Department of Environment and Conservation's mining agency in revising NPDES requirements related to selenium and specific conductance.
  • Successfully defended surface coal mining companies in antidegradation permit appeal by citizens group.
  • Successfully defended municipal authority in third party citizen group challenge to individual stormwater permit (one of only three challenges in Tennessee).
  • Represented Municipal Government in Stormwater Enforcement by TDEC and EPA.
  • Represented large Municipal Government as the MS4 in EPA lawsuit on Stormwater.
  • Represented chemical company in developing successful defenses to EPA RCRA enforcement.
  • Represented manufacturing company in enforcement action by municipality for waste water pretreatment.
  • Represented client in negotiating a brownfield agreement to buy radioactively contaminated property out of bankruptcy, eliminate past liability for the site and negotiate payments from the State for cleaning up the site for productive industrial use.

Honors & Recognitions

  • Named, Chambers USA, Environment (2010-2023)
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America®️, Administrative/Regulatory Law since 2007, Environmental Law since 2005, Litigation - Environmental since 2011, Government Relations Practice since 2013, Water Law since 2007, Real Estate law since 2021, Litigation - Real Estate (2022-2023)
    • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America®️, "Lawyer of the Year," Environmental Law, Nashville, Tennessee (2015 & 2018), Litigation - Environmental, Nashville, Tennessee (2014)
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent© Peer Review Rating
  • Mid-South Super Lawyers (2006-2010, 2012-2023), Top 100 Lawyers in Tennessee (2016)
  • Nashville Business Journal, Best of the Bar (2006-2012, 2016-2017, 2020, 2022)
  • Nashville Post In Charge: Legal (2011-2017, 2019)



Speaking Engagements



Professional & Community

Civic Activities

  • American Red Cross, Nashville Area Chapter
  • Belle Meade United Methodist Church, Chairman of the Administrative Board
  • Public Health Emergency Advisory Committee

Professional Activities

  • American Bar Association, Environmental Energy and Resources Law Section
  • Nashville Bar Association
  • Tennessee Bar Association
  • Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Board of Directors
  • American Inns of Court, Harry Phillips Chapter
  • Nashville Bar Association, Environmental Law Committee, Founding Chair
  • Tennessee Bar Association, Environmental Law Section, Founding Chair
  • Tennessee Bar Association, Environmental and Administrative Law Sections, Executive Committees
  • American Bar Association, Section of Environment Energy and Resources, Section Chair (2013-2014)


Legal Practice Assistant

Nancy C. Johnson

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