DAVID BUENTE is senior counsel in Sidley’s Environmental group who represents clients in complex environmental litigation and rulemaking matters, with an emphasis on Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act, CERCLA (Superfund), RCRA, NEPA/wildlife statutes, environmental criminal and toxic tort litigation. Building upon his 15 years as an environmental prosecutor, including at the Department of Justice (DOJ) where he served as Chief, Environmental Enforcement Section, corporations—including AES, American Electric Power, CSX, Duke Energy, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motors, General Electric, Harley Davidson, Honeywell, Norfolk Southern and Tyson Foods—turn to David for representation in complex federal environmental enforcement matters with DOJ and EPA and in defending toxic tort claims by states and private parties. David also has defended the permitting of numerous infrastructure projects, such as dams, power plants, pipelines and real estate development from challenges under NEPA, ESA, MBTA, and Clean Air/Water Act permit issues.
David has tried over 80 cases and briefed or argued over 20 appeals in federal and state courts. He has advised clients on many industrial accidents including on release reporting, emergency response management, government investigations and enforcement, and litigation both by governments and tort claimants arising out of these accidents. He has resolved numerous other cases under the Administrative Procedures Act on summary judgment.
David’s experience includes:
- Defending against challenges by competitors, NGOs and third parties to projects involving NEPA, ESA/MBTA, and Clean Air/Water Act permitting, including before EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board and in state and federal courts.
- Defending a number of companies in Clean Air Act New Source Review (NSR) enforcement litigation with DOJ/EPA, State AGs and NGOs including negotiating numerous consent decrees and litigating NGO challenges to NSR permits.
- Handling CERCLA cases for remedial costs and natural resource damage claims.
- Representing companies and trade associations in successfully defending against precedent-setting common law torts-based claims including over carbon dioxide emissions.
- Convincing federal prosecutors to decline pursuit of environmental criminal investigations for numerous clients and defending against prosecutions.
A recognized leader in his field, David was named the Best Lawyers’ 2016 Washington, D.C. Environmental Law “Lawyer of the Year,” an accolade awarded to only a single lawyer in each practice area and geographic region; he also received this recognition in 2012–2015. He has been named by Chambers USA as one of the nation’s Leading Lawyers since 2006. The 2019 edition of Chambers recognizes David as renowned for his handling of sophisticated environmental litigation and enforcement actions. He is included in its top-tier of Washington, D.C.’s environmental lawyers, noting that “One client says: He’s wicked smart, he knows the case law inside out and he’s a great strategic thinker.” According to his peers, in the area of civil and criminal enforcement, ‘no one has as much knowledge of the issues and history of those issues as’ David Buente.” Chambers also includes David in its nationwide list of top Product Liability & Mass Torts lawyers, acknowledging that he “is highly regarded throughout the market, earning praise as a fantastic litigator.” The Legal 500 lists David as a leading lawyer in the product liability and mass tort defense: toxic tort category. He is also listed among the 2023 Lawdragon “Green 500: Leaders in Environmental Law.”
David is regularly named in other surveys of private sector lawyers, including: Super Lawyers (2007–2022), Who’s Who Legal USA: Environment, PLC: Which Lawyer? and The Legal 500 US. In 2016, Who’s Who Legal named him the 2016 Environmental Lawyer of the Year. In 2019, The Potomac Riverkeeper Network awarded David the President’s Award at its annual “Service to Clean Water” awards. David is an elected member of the American College of Environmental Lawyers and the American Bar Association Foundation.