Contaminated Sites and Natural Resource Damages
Our Environmental lawyers represent clients at high-visibility Superfund and contaminated sediment sites throughout the United States. This experience affords us key insights in integrating legal, policy, scientific, technical and community issues into an effective strategy for defending claims and managing such sites.
We bring value to our clients in the following ways:
Negotiation and litigation skills: We represent clients and negotiate with government agencies regarding all aspects of site cleanup, including site listing, remedial investigations, human health and ecological risk assessments, feasibility studies, remedy selection, remedy implementation and government cost recovery. We have a nuanced understanding of the defense and prosecution of cost recovery and contribution actions, as well as liability for response costs in private litigation. Our experienced litigators develop alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, including arbitration and mediation, among private parties and with government agencies and toxic tort claimants.
Strategic perspective: Our lawyers apply their national and international legislative and regulatory advocacy skills to defend clients against claims relating to liability, remediation and natural resource damages. We represent clients in judicial challenges to remedial and natural resource damage rules issued by federal and state agencies, as well as with respect to bankruptcy issues in the context of environmental remediation costs. We also advise on alternative funding mechanisms, including environmental insurance products and liability transfer arrangements.
Deep industry knowledge: Our lawyers are familiar with the state-of-the-art science of many hazardous substances, including chlorinated solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, benzene, asbestos, metals (including lead), dioxins, formaldehyde and radioactive materials. This knowledge is invaluable in reaching realistic and workable solutions to complex problems. We have worked with virtually all of the major consulting firms on matters related to geo-technical engineering, risk assessment, fate and transport modeling, historical analysis, response cost accounting and economic issues. Our substantial history of working with these firms ensures that our clients receive the best technical advice.
Natural resource damages (NRD) play a role in many contaminated sites, and recent initiatives in several states have highlighted the importance of these claims. We have experience representing clients at all stages of the NRD claims assessment process, including challenging DOI and NOAA CERCLA/OPA regulations and questionable methodologies that trustees may use in assessments, co-developing natural resource restoration plans and projects with trustees to compensate for alleged damages cost-effectively, and litigating economic valuation issues.
We represent clients at some of the largest contaminated river, sediment and groundwater sites in the country. Our procedures include identifying contaminants and their likely sources, as well as the geographic area of concern, through an evaluation of both downstream and upstream areas. We work with the nation’s top water fate-and-transport modelers to determine the risks of exposure to contamination, including how activities such as water withdrawal and anticipated natural events will affect exposure to humans and wildlife.
We evaluate peer-reviewed toxicity assessments and challenge deficient toxicity assumptions both administratively and judicially. Our lawyers participate in site-specific scientific peer reviews of risk assessments and modeling studies and develop community relations programs to minimize the risk of tort claims and build consensus for remedies.
Recent examples of our work include representing:
- The General Electric Company (GE), the single potentially responsible party (PRP), at the Hudson River PCBs Site in New York containing 40 miles of sediment contaminated by PCBs and the associated floodplains. Our work has included: direct involvement in the EPA’s remedial action/feasibility study (RI/FS) for the River; the EPA’s selection of a significant dredging remedy; the negotiation of consent agreements for the design and implementation of that remedy; the implementation of the dredging remedy in 2009-2016; assistance in preparation for responding to claims by the State and NGOs for more dredging; negotiation of a consent agreement for an RI/FS of the River floodplains; implementation of that agreement; and assistance in preparation of the defense of CERCLA NRD claims by federal and state trustees.
- GE, the single PRP, at the Pittsfield/Housatonic River Site in Massachusetts and Connecticut, comprising an approximate 250-acre former plant site and associated upland areas and miles of downstream sediment, banks and floodplains contaminated by PCBs and other constituents. Our work has included direct involvement in the negotiation of a consent decree with the federal and state governments; the resolution of cost recovery and NRD claims; the negotiation of a unique brownfields agreement for redevelopment of the plant site; and representation in connection with decree implementation, including: the investigation, risk assessments and evaluation of alternative remedies for the plant and the Housatonic River; appeals from the EPA’s remedy for the Housatonic River; and reviewing, defending and successfully disputing EPA response cost claims.