Environmental Experience in the Energy Sector
Sidley advises energy companies concerning a broad array of project development, regulatory compliance, civil and criminal enforcement, private party litigation, crisis management, environmental management and transactional matters. Our clients range from electric utilities (e.g., coal-fired, hydroelectric, nuclear), to petroleum and natural gas (including pipeline) companies. In the oil and gas sector, we represent upstream, midstream and downstream companies on counseling, enforcement and litigation matters arising under all major environmental laws. In addition to representing clients regarding existing environmental regimes, we provide counseling on emerging environmental issues, such as climate change. We are distinguished by having the largest number of former U.S. EPA and Department of Justice attorneys of any firm in our market, and we leverage this unique background to represent clients in the energy sector facing a particularly complex set of environmental requirements.
The firm has a long history of advising companies regarding the planning, financing and construction of energy projects, whether at “greenfield” sites or as additions to existing facilities. The firm has a wealth of practical experience relating to project scheduling, environmental permitting requirements and the various regimes applicable to development projects. This experience includes serving as lead environmental counsel on permitting and National Environmental Policy Act requirements for natural gas and oil pipeline projects, as well as representing clients in court challenges that often occur with these infrastructure projects. All of this combined with our environmentally related transactional practice, which includes drafting and negotiating the environmental aspects of complex project structuring agreements, real estate acquisition agreements and equipment purchase and construction contracts, makes Sidley extremely qualified to assist clients in this area. In addition, we are one of the few law firms that have permitting experience with emerging coal gasification technologies.
Regulatory and Compliance Counseling, Remediation and Litigation
Sidley represents energy clients with respect to all significant federal environmental programs, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, Superfund, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Department of Transportation’s hazardous materials transportation rules. We have assisted clients in obtaining and renewing permits, responding to permit challenges, handling permit appeals, developing comments on proposed rulemakings and legislation, developing and implementing compliance strategies and protocols, responding to spills, implementing remedial measures/corrective action, conducting internal investigations, defending and resolving civil and criminal enforcement actions brought by governmental authorities and private parties, and engaging in private party litigation (e.g., indemnification disputes). We are also representing energy clients in public nuisance suits in which certain states and citizen groups are seeking damages allegedly related to greenhouse gas emission, and in permit proceedings in which environmental groups seek to impose controls on greenhouse gas emissions.
Our environmental team includes a former U.S. EPA official who oversaw federal enforcement matters related to the oil and gas industry at the Agency. We represent clients in the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors in enforcement matters arising under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, among other statutes. The firm is unique in having environmental attorneys with the experience to represent energy sector clients in all phases of litigation and at trial.
Sidley is well versed in assisting clients in responding to and managing environmental, toxic tort and similar catastrophic events. Many of the firm’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 firm also is experienced in quickly mobilizing and coordinating its extensive, cross-disciplinary, substantive experience to support such initial responses and carry out a client’s long-term investigation, litigation, rebuilding and remediation efforts.
We have been assisting energy companies and other clients on all facets of environmental, health and safety compliance assurance and management systems strategy, design, implementation and auditing for over a decade. Since 1992 we have been a lead international negotiator for the United States on the ISO 14001 EMS standard and were among the primary drafters of that standard. We have also participated in negotiating several other ISO environmental standards, including those on auditing, environmental performance evaluation, life cycle assessment and environmental marketing claims, and we are currently participating in the U.S. teams negotiating ISO standards on greenhouse gas emissions, social responsibility and nanotechnologies. We were part of a peer-review process for the ACC’s Responsible Care Management System, participated in the development of the recently approved ANSI standard on occupational health and safety management systems and helped in the negotiation of the International Labor Organization’s guidance on safety management systems. Our lawyers were also involved in the recent revisions to the compliance assurance system criteria contained in the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s Sentencing Guidelines.
We have helped energy sector clients develop auditing protocols to assure continuous improvement of their Environmental Management Systems in conformance with EPA standards and manage environmental risks. Our lawyers routinely advise energy sector clients on voluntary disclosures to regulatory agencies based on self-audits, both at the state and federal levels.
Sidley has extensive experience in both domestic and international deals for energy companies, ranging from straightforward transfers of real property, to complex business acquisitions or divestitures and related financing. We are also intimately familiar with required environmental disclosures under the securities laws, state property transfer laws and parent and successor corporation liability theories and their effects on risk allocation. Our lawyers frequently advise clients in the bankruptcy and workout area, providing advice on structuring workouts to minimize the risk of environmental liability and the risks of foreclosure on contaminated property.