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Environment, Land, and Natural Resources

Our firm has experienced lawyers in the United States, Europe, and Asia who are dedicated to developing creative and cost-effective solutions to the environmental, land use, and natural resource challenges confronting our clients. Notably, some of our U.S. environment lawyers are former regulatory lawyers and prosecutors, having served with the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Justice, Department of Energy, National Marine Fisheries Service, and various state agencies.

We work to successfully navigate the maze of regulatory requirements and maintain good relations with regulatory agencies, elected officials, non-governmental organizations, Native American tribes, and the public. We help clients anticipate and avoid problems before they impede their objectives or result in needless, costly litigation. When necessary, we forcefully litigate problems that cannot otherwise be resolved.

Our practice is as diverse as our clients who come to us from around the world and from nearly every major industry. We have successfully handled matters for clients ranging in size from small, single-location manufacturers or small local governments to global Fortune 50 companies and major metropolitan service districts. The practice is a recognized leader in such emerging areas as alternative energy and carbon trading, environmental justice, natural resources damages, degraded urban rivers, brownfield redevelopment, maritime, and the developing European regulatory regimes.

The group also has substantial experience in complex, multidisciplinary project development work for private clients, public clients, and public or private partnerships (typically on major infrastructure projects). This work combines such matters as environmental and land use permitting, site remediation, transactional counseling, and project financing. 

Capabilities

Environmental Litigation

Spanning the full range of the environmental arena, our environmental litigation practice includes defending clients in civil and administrative enforcement actions, criminal prosecutions, challenging regulatory authority rules, private party and citizen suit litigation, and first-party and third-party administrative appeals before regulatory authority tribunals.

We have the experience and resources to handle significant environmental disputes in an effective and cost-efficient manner. Our lawyers have litigated cases of first impression, including some of the largest and most complex environmental litigation in the United States. We also assist clients with the day-to-day regulatory and third-party disputes that arise out of business operations. We have extensive experience in settlement negotiations and alternative dispute resolution on behalf of clients wishing to resolve conflicts outside the courtroom.

Enforcement Actions and Criminal Defense

Although enforcement matters are rare events for individual clients, our lawyers routinely handle such cases, ranging from enforcement proceedings to criminal investigations, trials, and appeals. Our lawyers include former prosecutors and former enforcement lawyers for U.S. state and federal regulatory authorities, bringing perspective to the defense of environmental cases that is invaluable as a company facing such charges evaluates its options. While we have tried cases to conclusion, we have extensive success at the investigative stage, where the resolution is often most favorable to our client.

We have defended corporations and corporate officers against various charges, including illegal disposal of hazardous wastes, record-keeping violations, conspiracy, reporting violations, and mail and wire fraud. We also provide advice on how best to protect a corporation’s or individual’s interests during the government’s search of a facility for evidence, grand jury investigations, and plea negotiations.

Private Party and Citizen Suit Litigation

Our lawyers have considerable experience litigating disputes between our clients and private parties or citizen groups. Using our extensive knowledge of environmental statutory and regulatory schemes, we work closely with our clients to develop and execute the appropriate litigation strategy to achieve the best possible result. Our lawyers also utilize alternative dispute resolution when it is in the client’s best interest.

Administrative Appeals

We have represented clients before various regulatory authorities and administrative tribunals to challenge permitting or other agency decisions, or to defend a client’s permits and licenses when challenged by a third party. The proceedings before such administrative bodies are often distinct and particularized, so our experience is invaluable. In addition, our excellent working relationship with many government regulators facilitates the appeal process and achieves desired results for our clients. Several of our lawyers previously held high-level positions in government, having practiced with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Justice, and state environmental agencies. This experience provides a keen insight into the administrative and regulatory process involved in appeals.

Superfund, Cost Recovery, and Natural Resource Damages

The firm has represented numerous U.S. clients in Superfund and state cost recovery litigation, successfully obtaining a number of multimillion-dollar settlements on behalf of our clients through litigation and negotiation. We have represented various site owners, including privately owned disposal facilities, municipal landfills, industrial property owners, port districts, and sewage treatment facilities seeking contribution for their cleanup costs from the generators and those who transport hazardous substances, and from adjacent property owners.

Since regulatory agencies often look first to the property owner to pay cleanup costs, we have represented numerous plaintiffs in cost recovery litigation, bringing a unique perspective to our practice. Our lawyers have also represented a variety of private and public entities as defendants in cost recovery litigation, including chemical companies, railroads, garbage haulers, hotels, department stores, maritime companies, and a variety of municipalities such as cities and port districts.

Our natural resource lawyers form one of the most experienced teams in damage litigation in the United States. We were lead counsel for the state of Alaska in all phases of the Exxon Valdez oil spill litigation which resulted in a US$1 billion settlement for the state. The firm has also established itself at the forefront of the growing movement among the EPA and states to collect natural resource damages for contaminated urban rivers. In the United Kingdom, we have also advised numerous clients on liability issues under the Part IIA contaminated land and other regulatory regimes.

Compliance Counseling

Environmental compliance is an ongoing process that goes well beyond avoiding violations. In today’s business environment, compliance means finding better ways of doing business, managing shareholder obligations, and meeting global business imperatives toward continual improvement and cost-effective performance. We partner with our clients to forge creative and cost-effective compliance solutions in matters ranging from case-specific regulatory interpretation problems to broader strategic planning and compliance system development. Our compliance lawyers have helped clients with property transactions, project development and permitting, environmental justice, energy and natural resource management, and legislative and regulatory policy development in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Natural Resources and Energy

Natural resources are the lifeblood of commerce and industry. Our natural resources practice spans the range of natural resources development, conservation, and management companies, including water, fisheries, coal, aggregates, oil, natural gas, minerals, base and precious metals, and timber.

Natural Resource Development and Endangered Species

We have been involved in cutting-edge projects involving natural resource development. Our oil and gas practice is built on the legal and practical aspects of managing, extracting, and transporting petroleum and gas reserves and the environmental issues related to such activities. We have also worked with multiple clients in mining, extraction, and processing and exporting coal and other minerals.

The timber supply in the United States is a major focus of forest products activities. We are particularly involved in the present dispute over old-growth forests, land use restrictions imposed by the Endangered Species Act, timber jobs, and stability of rural communities. Our lawyers provide leadership in creating industry strategy and developing proposed legislation and other materials to support the industry.

In virtually all natural resource development projects there is a potential to impact threatened or endangered species. Forestry, mining, agriculture, shipping, and energy projects present risks, as do public infrastructure, residential, industrial, and commercial projects and developments. Our environmental and land use lawyers have the experience to integrate endangered species concerns into near-term and long-term decision making and project development. When necessary and unavoidable, we have also pursued natural resource management issues in legal proceedings.

International Fisheries and Maritime

We represent a wide range of U.S. and international fishing industry enterprises, as well as lenders and others involved with the fishing industry. The firm provides general counseling and assistance to resolve issues of fisheries policy before administrative and legislative bodies. In addition, we have comprehensive experience in vessel-related matters as well as trade issues affecting the fishing industry.

The firm’s legislative work ranges from vessel documentation and manning requirements to safety regulations, tax issues, coast-wise eligibility of vessels, international fisheries agreements, and trade matters. We have prepared testimony, presented the views of industry coalitions to members of the U.S. Congress through written correspondence and personal visits, and developed strategies to secure favorable legislation. We have extensive experience in U.S. fishery management councils, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the relevant Senate and House committees.

Energy Projects

We work with energy and utility clients on a full range of issues concerning facility operations and environmental compliance. We have represented public and private entities in connection with siting, licensing, development, and long-term operation of hydroelectric, thermal, wind, and waste-to-energy generation facilities, transmission facilities, and gas and oil pipeline and production facilities.

Water and Wastewater Services

Our water law group is at the forefront of water law issues in both the eastern and western United States. Members of our team have handled precedent-setting cases regarding water law and allocation, including interstate water disputes and development of water and wastewater facilities.

In the western United States, our lawyers serve clients in obtaining, amending, and transferring water rights. We assist in obtaining permits for wastewater discharge, use of reclaimed water, and new sources of supply. Our lawyers address issues arising under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and various laws and treaties relating to Native American water right and fishery resource claims. We have also assisted clients in complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act through creative financing, restructuring, and regulatory solutions, and achieving municipal and private client goals through water reuse.

Similarly, in the eastern United States, we have taken a leadership position in various state and regional water law reform efforts. We have actively represented individual water, energy, and other utilities, as well as private developers and industries, in obtaining state and basin commission permits for groundwater and surface water withdrawals, wastewater treatment, reuse, and discharge projects. For nearly two decades, we have counseled and represented entities engaged in some of the largest and most innovative public-private partnership projects for water and wastewater infrastructure development across the United States.

Project Development, Land Use, and Permitting

Our lawyers have been instrumental in the successful development of a variety of complex projects such as new power plants, complicated manufacturing facilities, and brownfield redevelopments, helping guide our clients through siting, permit, and licensing proceedings. Many of those cases have involved innovative solutions, finding “win-win” opportunities where parties initially had vastly opposing positions.

Our experience with environmental cleanups, real estate, and local permitting make us a one-stop firm for redevelopment projects and remediation of contaminated properties (brownfields). Our environmental and land use lawyers pioneered brownfield developments for companies, cities, and ports, beginning with a major downtown transit center and the first Superfund cleanup and habitat restoration project in U.S. coastal waters. Over the past several years, we have represented both existing owners and prospective purchasers in scores of transactions involving the acquisition, remediation, redevelopment, and disposal of brownfield sites and have counseled clients on dozens more significant contaminated site cleanup projects.

In the United Kingdom, our lawyers advise clients on development consent including submission of planning applications, applying for highways stopping-up orders, listed building, conservation, and other consents. We advise on environmental impact assessment and planning strategy, as well as draft planning obligations and infrastructure agreements. When necessary, we conduct environmental disputes, Lands Tribunal Cases, judicial reviews, and other High Court proceedings and public inquiries into planning matters.

Transactions and Environmental Due Diligence

Whether it is a straightforward acquisition of unimpaired assets or a complex multisite transaction involving extensive contamination, our lawyers know how to identify and assess the risks and liabilities and allocate them among the parties to achieve our clients’ objectives. Our assessments are not limited to environmental conditions at and near the subject property; we also consider the need to transfer or amend permits for ongoing operations, facilitate such transfers and amendments when necessary, and evaluate whether our client’s business plans can be accomplished under existing authorizations.

We routinely assist property developers, lenders, and asset managers in the following areas:

  • Providing regulatory advice, including analysis of whether current practices conform to regulatory requirements.
  • Drafting appropriate protective covenants in purchase and sale documents, loan documents, and leases, including representations, warranties, and indemnities.
  • Working with environmental consultants to evaluate and minimize potential liabilities in real estate transactions and other business transactions.
  • Reviewing and revising lease provisions to ensure that they contain protective provisions, such as rights of inspection and termination.
  • Obtaining contributions from parties responsible for contaminating property, including former owners and tenants.
Legislative and Regulatory Environmental Policy

We assist businesses with strategic participation in the process of enacting and amending environmental laws. Our lawyers have participated in the negotiation, drafting, and enactment of statutes, regulations, and executive orders and have testified before legislative and regulatory panels on leading-edge issues for our clients. Our success is based on continuous involvement with national and regional industry leaders, as well as with the U.S. Congress, federal land management agencies, Native American tribes, and state and local governments.

Environmental policy is in many instances developed through litigation, particularly challenges to formal regulatory authority rules and informal policies and guidance. We have successfully challenged a number of rules for our clients, and we monitor related litigation by others for opportunities to bring our clients’ perspectives before the court in amicus curiae briefs.

Environmental Justice

Our lawyers have played a major role in influencing the development of the emerging environmental justice movement. Relying on both constitutional and statutory authority in the civil rights arena, environmental justice advocates seek to influence siting, permitting, and cleanup decisions regarding controversial facilities or sites at both the state and federal levels. We have not only counseled clients in their efforts to avoid environmental justice litigation through the creation of effective community outreach programs, but we have also successfully shaped the applicable case law through our successful involvement in precedent-setting litigation at the federal appellate level. We have served both as lead counsel in such cases and as a facilitator in obtaining third-party support for parties already embroiled in litigation over these sensitive issues.

Environmental Insurance Coverage

Analysis of environmental liabilities often involves analysis of potential insurance that might cover such liabilities. The firm has actively advised and litigated on behalf of policyholder clients in the environmental insurance coverage area for more than two decades. We have sought coverage for a variety of our policyholder clients’ environmental liabilities arising out of their own property, property of others, and toxic tort claims. We have filed dozens of appellate briefs in state and federal jurisdictions across the United States. We also have negotiated and concluded hundreds of settlements on behalf of our policyholder clients in coverage disputes, including asbestos-related disputes and disputes involving the complexities of bankruptcy proceedings

Climate Change and Sustainability

The political, business, and regulatory responses to climate change are quickly evolving in regional, national, and international forums, and demand agile, integrated responses across legal disciplines. Our environmental lawyers work together with their colleagues in the corporate energy sourcing and sustainability practice to bring clients the multidisciplinary approach necessary to understand and address the complex challenges and emerging opportunities.

Together with the larger corporate energy sourcing and sustainability practice, our environmental lawyers have represented a range of entities touched by climate change issues. We have worked on behalf of those involved in energy production and consumption, industrial manufacturing, clean technologies, natural resources, sustainable development, and lending and investing, as well as the variety of companies that want to incorporate “green” practices into their businesses.

Among other matters, our environmental team has developed and implemented greenhouse gas mitigation programs, permitted clean technology and carbon sequestration projects, assisted clients in satisfying environmental compliance obligations, and handled the successful environmental review and permitting of more than US$6 billion of green public works projects.

Additional Thought Leadership Pages
13 January 2020
K&L Gates Adds Environment, Land and Natural Resources Partner to Seattle Office
Press Release, Practice & Regional News
17 February 2016
K&L Gates Names 50 New Partners
Press Release

Named Law Firm of the Year in Litigation - Environmental

U.S. News – Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms"

2018 and 2019

Recognized as a leading environmental litigation and regulatory practice in the United States.  

The Legal 500

2018 and 2019

Recognized by Chambers USA since 2017

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