NEPA and Natural Resource Protection
Our lawyers regularly represent clients seeking federal permits, licenses and authorizations in connection with transactions that may affect the environment. In many cases, the federal approval process necessitates the application of federal statutes related to protecting natural resources or protected species, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Clean Water Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
We bring value to our clients in the following ways:
- Regulatory knowledge: Our natural resource knowledge is supplemented by our experience in permitting under the many environmental statutes. This includes Clean Air Act conformity determinations, Clean Water Act permitting, ESA compliance, NHPA determinations and Memoranda of Agreement, right-of-way grants under the Mineral Leasing Act and Federal Land Policy and Management Act, as well as findings regarding parkland and protected lands under Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act.
- Compliance enforcement: Our lawyers have worked closely for many years with federal agencies, private applicants and environmental contractors to assure timely and successful compliance with the myriad environmental and natural resource statutes applicable in federal permitting contexts.
- Environmental risk assessment: In this era of “NEPA streamlining,” Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) serve as a platform for a host of decisions made by federal agencies. We have extensive experience advising local civic organizations regarding the EIS process. In one such matter, our lawyers reviewed an EIS prepared by the Federal Highway Administration for a controversial connector highway in the greater Washington, D.C. area. We have also represented clients in proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and in subsequent litigation before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Our recent work related to natural resource protection includes:
- Advising the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on federal environmental compliance duties under NEPA and related federal statutes arising from two historic undertakings: first, the FAA’s review of the proposal by the City of Chicago to conduct a multibillion-dollar improvement project at O’Hare International Airport and, second, the FAA’s redesign of the navigable airspace over New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
- Assisting the TransCanada Pipeline Company on NEPA, the Clean Water Act, historic preservation, ESA and related matters in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State’s permit requirements for a crude oil pipeline that crosses an international border of the United States and similar issues relating to a domestic crude oil pipeline that was challenged by a national environmental organization.
- Helping a natural gas pipeline operator in the NEPA review conducted by FERC in connection with the issuance of federal approvals for the construction and operation of the interstate pipeline.
Whether a project is large or small, care is required in maneuvering the complex labyrinth of permitting authorities and stakeholders to obtain the necessary authorizations on favorable terms that will allow a project to proceed. With decades of experience, Sidley’s Environmental group assists clients in many industries to strategically address the full range of state, regional and federal issues that arise when expanding or modifying an existing facility or product line, building a new facility or developing a Brownfield site. Our experience spans permitting and approval matters relating to all environmental media that arise under the full breadth of major environmental programs, including the Clean Air Act (CAA), Clean Water Act (CWA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA). We work with clients to successfully manage all phases and aspects of the permitting process, from the earliest stages of pre-permit and pre-construction planning to negotiating and obtaining advantageous permit terms, to appealing permitting actions and defending permits or projects against third-party challenges. Our lawyers are skilled in working with technical consultants, as well as the full range of internal and external project stakeholders—including permitting authorities and citizen groups—to facilitate successful outcomes for our clients.
- Assisting an offshore wind developer in obtaining permits and regulatory approval under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, ESA, NEPA, NHPA and OCSLA.
- Helping a greenfield steel mill obtain PSD and Title V permits and successfully defending those permits in litigation in federal and state courts.