Environmental Crisis Management
Events such as a fire, explosion, major chemical release, hurricane or flood can cause significant environmental damage, personal injuries and sometimes deaths, and have considerable adverse business impacts on companies, both in terms of money and reputation. Such events also can subject companies not only to significant tort, remedial and natural resource recovery liabilities and obligations, but increasingly to major civil and criminal enforcement and penalties as well.
Sidley’s Environmental group is well versed in responding to and managing environmental, toxic tort and similar catastrophic events. Many of the group’s lawyers have been on the ground with our clients’ first response teams to help establish and manage both initial and long-term legal response. The group can also quickly mobilize and coordinate the firm’s extensive substantive experience to support such initial responses and to carry out a client’s long term investigation, litigation and rebuilding efforts.
Sidley’s recent crisis response experiences include:
- Part of an initial client team responding to and investigating an explosion and fire which destroyed a major chemical fertilizer plant in Louisiana and resulted in eight deaths and numerous injuries. Managed and defended the client with respect to a six-month OSHA investigation, assisted the client in obtaining environmental permits (PSD air permit, NPDES water permit, etc.) on an expedited basis to facilitate rebuilding and environmental remediation efforts, and represented the client in the numerous tort and contract cases growing out of the event.
- Part of a multi-legal firm response team assisting the client in connection with a major fire and explosion at a U.S. oil refinery, that resulted in several deaths, numerous injuries and considerable structural damage. Sidley lawyers assisted in developing settlement and trial strategies, negotiating e-discovery protocols and implementing document preservation and collection efforts at locations around the world.
- Assisted in response to chemical releases that resulted in a fatal injury and potential impacts offsite. Coordinated in-depth technical root cause investigations, managed inquiries by OSHA and U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, conducted an investigation of the potential organizational and other causes of the incidents, responded to criminal and civil investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. EPA and the State regulators, and worked closely with local counsel in defending against personal injury claims. Assisted the facility in evaluating and enhancing its compliance and environmental management systems to prevent recurrence of the incidents.
- Assisted client responses to fires, explosions and chemical releases at its Illinois, Texas and Louisiana petroleum refineries, including participating in initial responses and reporting requirements, participating in root cause investigations, managing air dispersion modeling and managing responses to government investigations and enforcement actions.
- Assisted client responses to multiple spills and releases from petroleum pipelines, including confirming reporting requirements, negotiating interim orders and consent decrees with governmental agencies, and providing advice regarding possible tort actions and migratory bird and endangered species issues.
- Representing client in two separate personal injury tort explosion cases, the first involving client’s chemical resin plant and the second involving client’s former manufacturing facility. Both representations involve managing the investigation, retention of expert witnesses, discovery and trial preparation.
- Represented major utilities in investigations of PCB transformer rupture and asbestos releases due to fire, including reporting to government agencies and providing advice regarding improvement of its EHS program.
- Conducted numerous internal environmental and OSHA incident investigations, including both extensive witness interviews and document reviews to determine regulatory compliance, address reporting issues and respond to follow-up government investigation and enforcement actions.
- Representing clients in several major criminal investigations and prosecutions.