Buchalter’s environmental attorneys include highly experienced practitioners who have handled a broad range of environmental issues in litigation, regulatory enforcement, permitting, compliance counseling, and transactions. They routinely represent clients before state and federal administrative agencies, in state courts and in federal courts.
Our attorneys have extensive experience with contaminated property remediation and redevelopment, cost recovery, solid and hazardous waste, wastewater treatment and discharge, stormwater permitting and compliance, as well as federal, state and local release reporting and emergency response.
The firm’s environmental attorneys advise clients regarding compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). They also have significant experience with occupational health and safety laws and regulations. They provide guidance to clients on environmental compliance and defend enforcement actions by local, state and federal regulatory agencies and citizens’ suits.
Buchalter’s environmental attorneys also have significant experience with areas unique to California, including compliance with Proposition 65 and defense of statewide enforcement actions by District Attorney teams regarding retail hazardous waste.
Buchalter clients with environmental matters include public and private entities, industrial clients ranging from small, family-owned manufacturers to Fortune 50 multi-nationals, petroleum companies and refineries, chemical, steel pipe, and biotech manufacturers, foundries and forges, national retailers, traditional electric power producers and renewable energy companies, Indian tribes, and a host of other clients large and small. The firm’s environmental attorneys bring skills as practical problem-solvers intent on resolving client issues in an efficient manner.
The firm’s environmental attorneys stay current on the cutting-edge legal and technical issues and are frequent speakers and authors on environmental topics. They advocate on legal issues affecting their clients and participate in drafting legislative reforms. They remain involved in the industrial and legal communities through service on commissions, councils, bar associations and teaching environmental law to the next generation of environmental attorneys.
Administrative Enforcement and Citizen’s Suits
Buchalter’s attorneys have represented private companies and public agencies in numerous enforcement actions brought by regulatory agencies such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, and Regional Water Boards and Air Quality Management Districts across the State. They have defended clients against coordinated enforcement actions by the California Attorney General and multiple District Attorneys, and they have litigated and resolved multiple citizens’ suits in which private individuals or groups seek to enforce environmental laws.
California has the most stringent air quality regulations in the country, and the strictest enforcement those regulations. When emissions issues arise, Buchalter’s attorneys are there with their clients, guiding them through the complex Rules, arcane procedures, and delicate community interactions that govern operations in California. Whether the client runs a manufacturing facility, a waste water treatment plant, or a co-gen installation, Buchalter’s attorneys have the experience to smooth the path and allow their clients to focus on operations, not regulations. In addition to air quality work for California clients, we have worked with clients in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska on new source review construction permits and Federally-mandated Title V operating permits for larger facilities.
CEQA, SEPA and NEPA
Navigating the review process under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and their federal counterpart, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), requires experienced counsel to avoid the traps and delays that can arise throughout the environmental review process. With the bar of what is subject to CEQA review set so low, many projects that do not seem at first glance to have any environmental impact can still fall into the CEQA review cycle which can provide an opportunity for opponents to stop, modify or delay a worthwhile project. Buchalter’s environmental attorneys have the experience needed to steer clients’ projects through the maze and proceed to project delivery.
Contaminated Property Cleanup and Brownfields
Buchalter’s environmental group has decades of experience advising clients regarding all aspects of dealing with property contaminated with hazardous substances, including investigation and remediation and negotiation or litigation of cost recovery and allocation. The firm’s attorneys are familiar with Federal Superfund and state Superfund-type cleanup statutes and the agencies that implement them, and stay on top of the many complexities of cleaning up contaminated properties to achieve site closure and return contaminated properties to productive service.
The maze of environmental, health and safety laws and regulations can be bewildering to a business looking to stay in compliance with ever-changing federal, state – and international – rules, particularly in California with a well-earned reputation for “cutting edge” environmental controls. Buchalter environmental attorneys routinely respond to client questions about what rules apply to their operations and provide practical advice on how to comply.
Buchalter environmental and land use attorneys assist their clients work through the often complex effort to comply with both California and US Endangered Species Acts and the Section 7 consultation process and habitat conservation planning. This is a field where knowledge of the law is just the start, familiarity with the agencies and the consultants can mean the difference between a successful project and delays when processes bog down and applications must be resubmitted.
Buchalter’s environmental litigators have extensive experience before state and federal courts with a wide variety of environmental matters, including disputes over soil and groundwater remediation and cost allocation, Proposition 65, storm water citizens’ suits, CEQA, NEPA, and litigation with environmental regulatory agencies. Buchalter has a strong litigation bench with an impressive track record. Buchalter takes several cases to trial each year, including jury trials. Buchalter handles environmental litigation for a variety of companies include major petroleum and energy companies, real estate developers and owners, manufacturers, and Indian tribes.
Purchase and Sale of Contaminated Properties
From due diligence review, to drafting customized indemnities and remediation agreements, to negotiating Prospective Purchaser Agreements and CLRA immunity agreements, Buchalter attorneys lead the way in providing sound advice and expert representation to both sellers and buyers in the difficult and highly technical field of transferring title to contaminated or potentially-contaminated properties.
NPDES Permitting and Enforcement
The federal Clean Water Act requires a permit for any discharge to waters of the US from a point source, which is implemented through the NPDES permit system, or the analogous WDR system implemented by the SWRCB for dischargers within California. Buchalter attorneys are familiar with the federal and state systems and have guided clients through permit issuance, renewal and modification, defense of enforcement actions and citizens’ suits allowed under Section 1365 of the CWA. The firm’s attorneys have experience with both individual (site-specific) and general permits.
Hazardous Waste including Retail Hazardous Waste
There is no better example of why California has a reputation as being a difficult place to do business than the coordinated state-wide enforcement of hazardous waste laws against virtually every type of retail in the state. From “big box” to “mom and pop,” no retail operation in the state is immune to these sweeping enforcement efforts by teams of public prosecutors. Buchalter has guided retailers in many sectors through the maze of hazardous waste regulations that were never designed to apply to the unique issues retailers face. In addition, Buchalter attorneys have broad experience in solid waste permitting and remediation issues at both the Federal and state level.
Compliance with NPDES General Permits for discharges of stormwater can be a daunting challenge for businesses, as the permits are complex and implementing them at a facility that was not designed with stormwater management in mind can be difficult. Adding to the challenge is the most-recent California General Permit with its complex system of Numeric Action Levels and escalating Best Management Practices. Enforcement in this area often comes via citizens’ suits filed by environmental organizations, whose view of compliance may be radically different than that of a governmental agency inspector.
Water Quality and Wastewater
When the Clean Water Act and its state analogs are in play, Buchalter is there for its clients. Whether the issues involve NPDES permitting, TMDL development, challenging a regional water quality control plan, or obtaining a dredge and fill permit, Buchalter’s lawyers have the experience and the expertise to resolve those issues quickly and efficiently. Their many years of representing both private and public entities on wastewater treatment and discharge issues gives them insight into both the technical and the political hurdles that must be surmounted for a permit to be issued and a project to move forward.
Wetlands and Jurisdictional Waterbodies
What qualifies as a “Water of the United States” has been an uncertain and moving target for decades, and Buchalter’s environmental attorneys have remained on top of the issue every step of the way. From “adjacent wetlands” to “subsurface hydrologic connections,” Buchalter lawyers understand the nuances of this challenging area of practice and guide their clients through the regulatory agencies’ permitting process for actions involving wetlands and waters of the U.S. including, when necessary, leading the legal challenges to federal jurisdiction over isolated wetlands and other non-jurisdictional water bodies.
California’s unique warning scheme, “Proposition 65,” can trap even the most sophisticated out-of-state manufacturers and retailers. Buchalter’s Proposition 65 practitioners are recognized nationally for their participation in efforts to curb abuses by the private enforcement industry and to provide training and guidance to the firm’s clients on how to avoid being pulled into the morass of the “private attorney generals.” Buchalter attorneys have a long history of giving pragmatic advice regarding compliance with Proposition 65 and mounting proactive defenses against the many private enforcement claims that Proposition 65 has spawned.