Fred R. Wagner

Wagner Fred
Fred Wagner focuses on environmental and natural-resources issues associated with major infrastructure, mining, and energy project development. Fred manages and defends environmental reviews performed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or equivalent state statutes. He works with public agencies and private developers to secure permits and approvals from federal and state regulators under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Fred understands the full range of issues surrounding U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) surface transportation programs, including grant management, procurement, suspension and debarment, and safety regulations.

During his career, Fred has handled a wide variety of environmental litigation in federal trial and appellate courts across the country, from citizen suits to government enforcement actions and Administration Procedure Act (APA) challenges.

Fred was appointed chief counsel of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) during the Obama administration. He managed all legal matters involving the $40 billion Federal-Aid Highway program, including environmental and natural resources issues for highway and multimodal transportation projects. Among other high-profile projects, he oversaw the agency’s defense of the following:  New York's Tappan Zee Bridge, San Francisco's Presidio Parkway, Chicago's Elgin-O'Hare Expressway, Kentucky and Indiana's Ohio River Bridges, North Carolina's Bonner Bridge, Alabama's Birmingham Northern Beltline, Wisconsin's Zoo Interchange, and Washington's State Road 520 Bridge. He represented the FHWA on the government-wide Transportation Rapid Response Team, a multi-agency task force focused on improving project delivery and environmental review reforms.

Fred began his career as a trial attorney in the Environment Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as a special assistant U.S. attorney in the Misdemeanor Trial Section of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. Prior to joining Venable, he spent more than 20 years in private practice at a national law firm focusing on environmental and natural resources issues.


Government Experience

  • Special Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, Misdemeanor Trial Section
  • Special Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, Misdemeanor Trial Section
  • Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Environment Division, Natural Resources Section
  • Chief Counsel, U.S. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Representative Matters

  • Served as special counsel to the Ohio Department of Transportation, successfully defending numerous transportation projects in federal district and appellate courts
  • Served as counsel to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office on a variety of transportation management and traffic improvement projects
    Served as a special assistant attorney general to the State of North Dakota Water Commission on a nationally significant water delivery project
  • Served as counsel to the City of New Orleans, successfully defending the city's efforts to rebuild a new downtown medical center complex following Hurricane Katrina
  • Partnered with public and private sector clients on transformational development projects, such as the Americana Bayside community and golf course in Sussex County, Delaware, and the Capitol One Center in downtown Washington, DC
  • Worked with an international copper mining company to conclude and defend large land exchanges with the federal government, allowing the expansion of two of the world's largest copper mines in Arizona
  • Assisted the U.S. General Services Administration in permitting and defense of agency relocation projects, such as the consolidation of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office headquarters to Alexandria, Virginia; the Department of Transportation headquarters to southeast Washington, DC; and the new Food and Drug Administration offices and laboratories in Silver Spring, Maryland
  • Co-authored a Supreme Court amicus brief on behalf of a coalition of seven major real estate associations in the controversial Rapanos case, involving the definition of "waters of the United States"




  • J.D. University of Virginia School of Law 1987
  • Tufts University 1984
    • Phi Beta Kappa

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia

Professional Memberships and Activities

  • At-large member, board of directors, National Association of Environmental Professionals 
  • Chair, Legal Resources Group, Transportation Research Board (TRB)
    • Member, TRB Environmental Issues in Transportation Law Committee
    • Member, TRB Special Task Force on Climate Change and Energy
  • Member, American Public Transportation Association, Legal Affairs Committee
  • Member, Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation
  • Member, American Exploration and Mining Association