Nikki Buffa provides environmental counseling in all areas of environmental law with a particular focus on the siting of major infrastructure projects, the energy transition and renewable energy, stakeholder engagement, and crisis management.

As partner, Ms. Buffa brings two decades of experience working on energy and environmental policy. Ms. Buffa has focused her career on regulatory compliance and federal and California-state environmental policy and advocacy.

Ms. Buffa currently advises developers, utilities, 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. Her experience with landscape-level land and species management ranges from deep marine environments to the high desert. She currently serves on the boards of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the Advisory Board of the University of California at Berkeley Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity.

In 2020–2021, Ms. Buffa served on the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition team as the White House Council on Environmental Quality Transition Team Lead.

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.

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

  • California Environmental Quality Act
  • Negotiations and partnerships with nongovernmental organizations, and state and local agencies
  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
  • Clean Water Act
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other wildlife laws
  • Federal Land Policy and Management Act and National Forest Management Act
  • Tribal and cultural resource issues
  • 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 California and 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.

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

Bar Qualification

  • California
  • District of Columbia


  • JD, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
  • BS, University of California, Berkeley
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October 21, 2019 Recognition

Innovations In Pro Bono: Latham & Watkins

San Diego partner Michael Carroll and Orange County counsel Nikki Buffa speak about their award-winning work advising The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit seeking to fight pollution in the world’s waters.

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March 28, 2019 Recognition

2019 CLAY Awards: The Ocean Cleanup

Pro bono environmental team advising nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup honored as California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year.