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Environmental and Natural Resources

Client and Industry Challenges

Environmental and natural resources-related concerns affect businesses and government agencies in every industry. Companies often need legal counsel to advise them on a wide range of issues involving environmental and natural resources law, including compliance counseling, regulatory and legislative advocacy, litigation and commercial transactions.

Snell & Wilmer's environmental and natural resources practice is distinctive because we strive to understand our clients’ unique situations and needs, efficiently minimize risks and costs, neutralize negative public perception and develop risk avoidance strategies. With environmental and natural resources attorneys located in eight major cities throughout the western United States, we are able to provide an unparalleled level of service that is sensitive to the specific environmental concerns of our region.

Areas of Service

Compliance/Regulatory: Our attorneys have significant experience with environment, energy and product regulation. In addition to advising clients on permitting and regulatory issues before EPA, FERC and other federal agencies and departments, we advise businesses and public agencies on a broad variety of environmental, energy and natural resources enforcement issues. Our lawyers have substantial experience with the CWA, CAA, TSCA, RCRA, OSHA, Interior Department statutes and emergencies raised by spills or accidents, as well as with the release reporting requirements associated with them.

We assist our clients in responding to such concerns using problem-specific and site-specific methods related to:

  • Air quality - permits and conditions, compliance reports, variances and exclusions
  • Water quality - national pollutant discharge elimination system and Arizona pollutant discharge elimination system, storm water and aquifer protection permits
  • Drinking water systems
  • Waste - solid, hazardous, and special waste permitting, handling and reporting
  • Pipelines - resolving the regulatory, environmental and enforcement issues that arise during the construction, permitting, operation and maintenance of oil and gas pipelines
  • Chemical and pesticide regulation

Litigation: We provide our clients with knowledgeable and experienced environmental advocacy to protect their rights and guard against unnecessary costs. We provide litigation services in the following general categories:

  • Government regulatory enforcement
  • Third-party liability and cost-recovery claims
  • Toxic torts and environmental class actions

Transactions: Asset and stock transactions involving real estate and business operations require a clear understanding and allocation of potential environmental risks. We assist our clients in making informed and sound business decisions by providing:

  • Environmental due diligence, including oversight of consultants
  • Negotiating, drafting and analyzing contract provisions
  • Negotiations with regulators regarding Brownfield protections, prospective purchaser agreements and other mechanisms

Brownfield Redevelopment: Our attorneys represent sellers and purchasers of environmentally impaired properties in obtaining regulatory closure or no further action status by drafting and negotiating prospective purchaser agreements, voluntary cleanup agreements, environmental covenants, site management plans, RCRA corrective action permits, institutional controls and deed and land use covenants and restrictions.

Mining Industry Services: Snell & Wilmer has a long history of providing quality legal counsel to clients in the mining industry, including quarries, mines, investors, landowners and third party mining-related businesses. Our mining industry attorneys provide comprehensive services relating to the financing and development of projects involving the exploration, extraction, processing, transportation and sale of non-ferrous and precious metals, coal and other minerals.

Water: Our attorneys regularly advise clients on water rights adjudications, on the sale, lease and transfer of water rights, and in water rights litigation. We regularly work with developers, industrial users, farmers, water providers and other water users to resolve a wide variety of issues related to water rights and water supplies.

Liability Claims Response Strategies: In this ever-changing climate of national security, it is more important than ever for our clients to prepare and protect themselves against unexpected environmental and natural resource-related issues. We assist our clients in preparing for:

  • Superfund releases
  • Crisis management
  • Homeland security obligations
  • Reporting and notification obligations (community right-to-know)

Legislation and Rulemaking: Legislators dictate our current and future environmental and natural resource-related regulations and goals. We assist our clients in keeping legislators informed about the importance of legislation, monitoring and influencing pending legislation, assistance in drafting crucial legislation and proposed rules, and helping our clients interpret, evaluate and benefit from legislation and rulemaking.

Project Environmental Impacts: Federal, state and local requirements often require evaluation of the environmental impacts of major projects. We are experienced in developing strategies to initiate and implement such evaluations and use them to influence appropriate government decisions applicable to clients' projects. We can assist in evaluating:

  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and state environmental quality requirements
  • Threatened and endangered species and habitats
  • Zoning limitations
  • Permit obligations and conditions
  • Historic and cultural resource preservation
  • Wetlands mitigation

Clients We Serve

Our environmental and natural resources attorneys are called upon by a vast range of clients seeking assistance in resolving environmental and natural resources legal issues. Both public and private entities have needs that vary by project, and that may arise unexpectedly, requiring the experience of our prepared team to see them to a resolution. We represent many different industries, including high technology, manufacturing, financial institutions, real estate developers, large electric utilities, pipeline companies, health service providers and equipment rental businesses.

Why Clients Select Us

Knowledgeable and Invested: Our environmental and natural resources attorneys provide sophisticated and efficient legal representation in this complex and continually evolving area of the law. We are well-versed in federal, state, regional and local regulatory and liability issues, and understand the importance of remaining current on the many changes taking place in environmental law. We maintain good relationships with the regulatory decision-makers for the benefit of our clients, and to keep our team updated on all aspects of environmental and natural resource-related issues. In fact, our attorneys are regularly featured presenters and authors of articles on the changes in the law. We are constantly developing new creative strategies, and are knowledgeable about alternative methods for solving our client's problems promptly and effectively.

Comprehensive Service: We focus on achieving our clients' business objectives and helping them minimize risks in disposing or managing legacy properties, resolving  historic contamination liability, advising on new manufacturing processes and waste streams, handling litigation from or against private parties, advising on unexpected spills or releases, conducting or supporting due diligence for the purchase and sale of impaired properties or facilities, and coordinating and resolving ongoing remediation obligations or government enforcement or investigation actions.  We have a record of using our collective substantive knowledge and extensive experience throughout the country and beyond in providing our clients with responsive, timely, cost-effective and quality comprehensive environmental and natural resources-related legal services.

Experience

Our services extend to and beyond:

  • Hazardous and solid waste compliance matters under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), including negotiation of RCRA correction action completion with and without controls
  • Representation of clients in Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) liability claims, access orders and 104(e) requests, including negotiation of Administrative Orders on Consent and Consent Decrees
  • Defense and prosecution of private multi-party environmental cost recovery litigation under CERCLA and state analogs, including experience in leading PRP steering group committees
  • Citizen suit defense and prosecution under the Clean Water Act (CWA), Clean Air Act (CAA), RCRA and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)
  • Representation of clients in federal, state and local environmental enforcement actions, regulatory compliance and administrative dispute resolution
  • Defense and prosecution of Natural Resource Damages actions arising under federal, state and foreign laws  in various federal and state courts
  • Key relationships with national and state regulatory agencies allowing effective representation of clients in negotiation or litigation with EPA, USDOJ and other federal, state and local regulatory agencies with oversight authority
  • Environmental insurance claims and coverage litigation
  • California Proposition 65 defense
  • Nuisance and other common law claims and defense
  • Toxic tort, personal injury and property damage claims and defense including asbestos, toxic mold, indoor air and vapor intrusion cases
  • Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and Formerly Used Defense Site Program (FUDS) cleanup and redevelopment.
  • Federal and state hazardous material permits, licensing, labeling, transportation and disposal
  • Federal and state water quality matters, including NPDES, industrial pretreatment and storm water management plans
  • Section 404 discharge and fill permits, mitigation, appeals and litigation
  • Air pollution compliance, permitting, appeals and litigation
  • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA ) and environmental impact statement (EIS) requirements, appeals and litigation
  • Drafting and negotiating pollution legal liability and cost cap insurance policies
  • Green building and renewable energy projects
  • Drafting and negotiating representations and warranties, indemnification agreements and escrow agreements
  • Due diligence for industrial and commercial transactions
  • Regulatory compliance and remediation strategy
  • Drafting and negotiating prospective purchaser agreements, voluntary cleanup agreements,  environmental covenants, site management plans, institutional controls and deed and land use covenants and restrictions to obtain regulatory closure or no further action status
  • Asbestos investigation and removal strategy
  • Community right-to-know disclosure and emergency planning strategy
  • OSHA and MSHA compliance, enforcement, appeals and litigation
  • Underground storage tank management, remediation, closure and cleanup cost recovery
  • Drafting environmental legislation, regulations and local ordinances
  • Special and conditional use permit applications, hearings, compliance, appeals and litigation

Representative Projects

  • Developed programs to evaluate and minimize potential environmental risks by scheduling and reviewing environmental audits to determine levels of compliance, and prepared compliance handbooks
  • Developed comprehensive environmental policies, procedures and forms for loans, foreclosures and trust-related matters; internal environmental "due diligence" programs; and environmental audit reports and site assessments; analyzed legal issues associated with purchase or divestiture of contaminated properties; and developed investigation and cleanup strategies
  • Obtained government approvals for major dual oil and gas pipeline
  • Defended manufacturer against alleged "unpermitted" industrial discharge that killed fish and negotiated with regulators to reach civil penalty settlement
  • Represented recycling facility in addressing claims by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  • Assisted clients in California in connection with Regional Water Quality Control Board and Department of Toxic Substances Control investigations and other regulatory and quasi-regulatory agency activities (Department of Health Service, healthcare agencies, public works departments, fire departments, solid waste enforcement agencies)
  • Represented educational institutions, water districts, mining companies, and numerous other users of federal, state, and private land adversely affected by endangered species listings and critical habitat designations
  • Defended landowner in class action brought by tenants claiming personal and property injury associated alleged exposure to mold
  • Trial defense of Scottsdale apartment complex against allegations of permanent neurological and cognitive dysfunction associated with alleged exposure to toxic mold and mycotoxins during tenancy
  • Defended home inspector sued by home buyers for allegedly failing to notify of water intrusion in home
  • Advised importer concerning hazardous waste and toxic substance reporting and handling obligations in New Jersey, Texas and Utah
  • Defended supplier before EPA Environmental Appeals Board against alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act and successfully negotiated consent decree with EPA substantially reducing penalty assessment
  • Defended client an expedited schedule to facilitate grand opening of new retail store, negotiated resolution of stalled contract dispute with solid waste disposal company that had an exclusive franchise
  • Negotiated Brownfield Voluntary Agreement providing covenant not to sue and liability protection to prospective purchaser of operating chemical plant
  • Wrote and negotiated several site management plans and environmental covenants to obtain RCRA corrective action completion with controls status for parcels
  • Wrote and negotiated site management plan and environmental covenant to obtain RCRA corrective action completion with controls for Utah granary impacted by trichloroethylene plume
  • Wrote and negotiated site management plans for lender that foreclosed on a facility, and obtained voluntary cleanup program certificates of completion for two impacted parcels
  • Negotiated environmental covenant and helped owner of a Chicago dry-cleaning plant obtain no further action from Illinois Environmental Protection Agency on cleanup of perchloroethylene release and approval for residential redevelopment
  • Negotiated administrative settlement agreement with state Division of Environmental Protection for purchaser to obtain covenant not to sue and cleanup cost cap on leaking underground storage tank site
  • Negotiated with EPA and state Department of Environmental Quality and obtained court approval for modifying consent decree providing liability protection for prospective purchaser and redevelopment
  • Assisted ski resort in obtaining no further action from the state Division of Environmental Protection in cleaning up leaking underground storage tank site
  • Served as lead environmental counsel for purchaser of 1750-acre Geneva Steel site and cleanup and redevelopment under RCRA corrective action permit
  • Contributed in writing the Envision Utah Brownfield Toolbox: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/pdf/eu_brownfield_toolbox.pdf