Stephen McKaeAttorney

Wendel Rosen Black & Dean LLP 1111 Broadway, 24th FloorOakland, CA 94607

A veteran litigator, Stephen McKae has had a diverse legal career covering complex state and federal statutory regimes, primarily under labor and employee benefits laws in his earlier career and environmental laws over the past 25 years. He has represented employers and individuals in class actions and other complex litigation and provided guidance to business executives on policy and operational questions in these practice areas. He has argued cases at all levels of the federal judicial system, including the Supreme Court of the United States.

Finding Creative, Business-Oriented and Community-Sensitive Solutions
Stephen’s pursuit of alternative solutions has been shown, among others, in his frequent use of mediation in environmental disputes, using equitable allocation under CERCLA to enforce wartime indemnity contracts to overcome federal contract immunity under the Antideficiency Act, planning for integration of institutional controls with permitting and planning informational systems to reduce requirements for engineered remedies, fashioning agreements for funding of neighborhood relocation to obtain community support for an in-place remedy, use of historical resources including federal archives to increase contribution from other parties, and marshaling scientific evidence to win summary judgment.

Community Involvement
He is active in many civic and professional organizations, including the Danville-Sycamore Valley Rotary, for which he was the 2015-2016 President. He serves as an early neutral evaluator and mediator for the United States District Court and is a member of the American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law and Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law sections. He is also a member of the Alameda County Bar Association’s Environmental, Land Use and Sustainability Section.  

Military Service
Stephen served in the United States Naval Reserve as an engineering officer on active duty from 1969 through 1972.

Environmental Experience

Stephen's experience in environmental matters includes:

  • Cost recovery and enforcement litigation respecting industrial plants, agricultural chemical distributors and formulators, bulk storage facilities, and transmission pipeline releases under CERCLA, RCRA and HSAA, including cost recovery against the United States government for wartime chemical plants

  • Toxic tort and stigma damage litigation based on exposures to contaminated sites

  • Contaminated site investigation, cleanup, closure and health risk management

  • Community relations for contaminated sites and community relocation

  • Public agency review of environmental permitting

  • Underground Storage Tank Fund claims and other claims related to chemical handling and manufacturing, petroleum refining and abandoned tank sites.

  • Contract and permit matters related to landfill operation, expansion, long-term closure costs and transfer of ownership

  • County solid waste management planning and waste importation agreements

  • Development of waste recycling programs and household hazardous waste programs

  • Operating agreements, agency approvals and waste stream guarantees in connection with a proposed waste-to-energy project

  • Brownfields redevelopment

  • Occupational safety regulation and enforcement in the construction, demolition, waste disposal, dry cleaning and manufacturing industries


The contaminated sites where Stephen has served as litigation or environmental counsel, or both, include among others:

  • Brown & Bryant (Arvin Plant), Arvin, California, EPA ID# CAD052384021 (Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, etc. v. Brown & Bryant, Inc.), representing The Dow Chemical Company

  • Hookston Station, Pleasant Hill, California (Block, et al. v. Helix, et al. and Huddleston, et al. v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, et al.), representing Hookston Station property owners

  • Former Kaiser Marquardt aerospace plant, 56 acres at Van Nuys Airport (Kaiser Marquardt, Inc. v. The Marquardt Company), representing Kaiser Marquardt, Inc.

  • Zeneca/Campus Bay (formerly Stauffer Chemical) Site, Richmond, California, EPA ID #: CAD009123456, representing Cherokee Investment Partners III, L.P., and Cherokee Investment Partners III Parallel Fund, L.P.

  • Former Fuller-O’Brien Site, South San Francisco, CA, EPA ID #: CAD005130455, representing Cherokee Investment Partners II, L.P. and others

  • North Beach Manufactured Gas Plant site, Marina District, San Francisco, Envirostor ID # 60001239, representing residential property owners

  • Brown & Bryant (Shafter Site), Shafter, California, EPA ID# CAD009531823 (Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, etc. v. Brown & Bryant, Inc.), representing The Dow Chemical Company

  • Del Amo Site, Torrance, California, EPA ID# CAD029544731 (Cadillac Fairview, California, Inc. v. The Dow Chemical Company, et al., (Pit Site); Shell Oil Company v. United States (Plant Site); Amcena Properties v. Shell Oil Company, et al. (Coca-Cola Bottling Company); and related cases), representing The Dow Chemical Company

  • Del Monte/Oahu Plantation (Kunia Plantation), Hawaii, EPA ID # HID980637631, representing The Dow Chemical Company

  • Industrial Waste Processing, Fresno, California, EPA ID# CAD980736284 and Pinedale Groundwater Site, Fresno, California (Calcot, Ltd. v. Vendo, et al.), representing The Dow Chemical Company

  • La Mirada Products, La Mirada, California (La Mirada Products v. The Dow Chemical Company), representing The Dow Chemical Company

  • Santa Fe Springs Oilfield, Santa Fe Springs, California (Beaumon Trust, et al. v. The Dow Chemical Company, et al.), representing The Dow Chemical Company

  • United Heckathorn Company, Richmond, California, EPA ID # CAD981436363 (Levin Metals Corp. v. Parr-Richmond Terminal Company, et al.), representing The Dow Chemical Company

  • Napa Bulk Terminal (Bay Cities Oil Marketers v. Commercial, Electrical, and Mechanical Maintenance Company, et al.), representing Chevron Products Company

  • Port of Oakland, Berths 23 and 24 (Port of Oakland v. ExxonMobil Oil Corporation), representing the Port of Oakland

  • Nebraska Ordnance Plant and Offutt AFB Atlas missile launch site, representing The Dow Chemical Company.

  • Mouren-Laurens and Leach Oil Company sites, Los Angeles and Gardena, California, representing Union Carbide Corporation

  • Yosemite Creek sediment site, San Francisco, representing The Dow Chemical Company and Rohm and Haas


Employment Experience

Employment and Employee Benefits Experience

Stephen's employment, civil rights and employee benefits law experience includes work with employers, public entities and labor unions in a variety of administrative and litigation matters. He handles matters under ERISA, Title VII, ADEA, Americans With Disabilities Act, Executive Order 11246, OSHA, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and corresponding state legislation, as well as proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board, the California Labor Commissioner, and in contract arbitrations and negotiations. He has extensive collective bargaining experience. From 1976 through 1980, Stephen was the Northern California Home Builders Conference member of the standing Board of Adjustment under the Carpenters 46 Northern California Counties master residential construction agreement.

He has represented numerous construction industry pension, health and apprenticeship trust funds with assets of $500 million in matters arising under ERISA, including plan structure, benefit improvements, withdrawal liability, COBRA and HIPAA implementation, and fiduciary liability.

Appellate Decisions

Significant Appellate Decisions

  • Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Company, 487 U.S. 312, 108 S. Ct. 2405, 101 L.Ed.2d (1988) –Specified that named plaintiffs in class action appeals must meet the same procedural standards as individual plaintiffs.

  • Music v. Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Fund, 712 F.2d 413 (9th Cir. 1983) – Determined the standard for fiduciary liability in cases involving retroactive pension plan modifications under ERISA and the LMRA, leading to the recovery of benefits exceeding $10 million for a class of retired, disabled Teamsters.

  • Cadillac Fairview v. The Dow Chemical Company, et al., 41 F.3d 562 (9th Cir. 1994) – Determined the Ninth Circuit standard for "arranger for treatment" liability for government-owned contractor-operated (GOCO) war plants under CERCLA.


Featured Presentations:

  • Lecturer for the Law and Science Institute on criminal enforcement of environmental laws
  • Lecturer for the California Redevelopment Association, National Ground Water Association, American Petroleum Institute and others on brownfields redevelopment and institutional controls
  • “Environmental Law Basics and Best Practices for Construction Lawyers for 2011,” presenter, ExecSense Webinars, December 2011
  • “Department of Toxic Substances Control v. Hearthside Residential,” presenter, ExecSense Webinars, September 2011
  • “Lender Liability under CERCLA,” presenter, Wendel Rosen Client Seminar, October 2009
  • “Environmental Regulations in California: An Overview of Federal and State Law,” panelist, Wendel Rosen Client Seminar, February 7-8, 2006


  • Selected for inclusion in Northern California Super Lawyers magazine, 2004-2006, 2014-2018
  • Wendel Rosen's Environmental Practice Group selected as one of top three in the San Francisco Bay Area in The Recorder's 6th Annual "The Best" survey, 2012 
  • Awarded "Best Paper" by the ABA Section of Environment, Energy and Natural Resources in its 39th Annual Conference on Environmental Law, March 18-21, 2010
  • AV® Preeminent™ rated by Martindale-Hubbell*


*AV is a registered certification mark of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedure's standards and policies.


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