Environment, Health and Safety

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Our firm's Environment, Health and Safety practice has significant experience in providing transactional guidance, compliance counseling and management strategy, litigation and dispute resolution, and international environmental law and policy guidance on behalf of a wide range of corporate, electric utility, industrial, real estate, and financial services clients.

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We are skilled at performing due diligence and audits, analyzing environmental risks and opportunities, and at negotiating and drafting environmental provisions in transactional and financing documents in connection with mergers, acquisitions, financing of projects, and other ventures, working closely with the firm's mergers and acquisitions, corporate and securities, real estate, real estate securities, structured finance, and public finance attorneys.

In addition to counseling clients on legal requirements and voluntary codes and standards, we advise on drafting policies and designing and implementing compliance programs and management systems, conduct internal investigations, draft and review environmental impact statements, assist corporations and financiers with respect to environmental disclosures, and advise financiers with respect to lender liability and risk, as well as environmental/sustainability services and products.

The firm’s lawyers are also highly regarded for their role advising clients on climate law, policy, and related finance matters, including conducting greenhouse gas (GHG) due diligence, applying carbon and other environmental standards, and drafting and negotiating related provisions in transactional and financing documents in connection with mergers, acquisitions, financing of projects, and other ventures; advising clients on international, federal, and state GHG regimes and initiatives; negotiating and drafting emission reduction purchase agreements; counseling companies on emissions trading activities, GHG emission reduction projects, and voluntary carbon market issues; and advising on GHG-related strategies and governance matters, including policies, management systems, disclosure, carbon footprinting, and offsetting. Our experience in the energy area includes reviewing environmental aspects of projects, transactions, and litigation, as well as environmental impact analysis, permitting and regulatory approval, facility siting, and decommissioning.

Our environmental litigation and crisis management practice represents industry and individual clients in civil penalty and criminal cases, administrative proceedings, civil lawsuits, and domestic and international arbitration involving environmental issues, including disagreements over contractual terms and actions or claims arising under state, federal, and international law.

Willkie’s Environmental team is also uniquely well positioned to advise companies, financiers, and environmental organizations on issues arising under regional and international environmental agreements. We have counseled industry leaders with respect to foreign legal requirements, provided assistance with monitoring developments in policy and law, and analyzed environmental issues under the WTO, NAFTA, and other trade regimes. We also counsel industry on voluntary environmental standards, initiatives, and codes of conduct; conducting multijurisdictional assessments of legal and regulatory obligations; and applying multilateral financial institution guidelines to projects. Our six offices in Europe provide market-leading advice regarding the evolving body of environmental law in the European Union. This helps us to provide integrated advice to multinational clients with respect to United States and European Union requirements and evolving policies.

The firm also advises employers on obligations under occupational safety and health laws; counseling employers on legal requirements relating to workplace exposure to hazardous substances; and in conducting risk assessments.

Our environmental legislative and regulatory practice entails advocating for our clients’ positions to members and staff of the United States Congress as well as various federal, state, and local agencies. We also advise clients on the potential impact that pending legislation and regulatory initiatives may have on their businesses.

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Highlights

Counseling

Our Environment, Health and Safety practice routinely evaluates potential liabilities associated with a wide variety of operations, such as aerospace manufacturing, specialty chemical formulation, petroleum refining, marketing and retailing, energy production, glass and plastics manufacturing, dry cleaning, cold storage, hazardous materials transportation, steel production, and metals reclamation. We analyze large portfolios of hotel, retail, and other commercial properties in connection with public offerings, securitizations, financings, and mergers, sales, and acquisitions. Selected significant matters include:

Significant Matters

    • We provide regular counseling to a multinational automotive parts manufacturer on compliance with United States and European Union regulations governing hazardous materials, including advice on anticipated regulatory developments that allows the client to modify manufacturing processes and practices to avoid future issues.
    • We provide legislative, rule-making, and litigation support to one of the largest electric utilities in the United States and a large association of electric utilities in connection with proposed requirements for future reductions in emissions of a variety of pollutants.
    • We represent a governmental client in getting the Department of Defense to clean up a former military reservation, including bombing and target ranges, and in connection with the client’s assumption of concurrent jurisdiction over the former reservation.
    • We represent a major paint and coatings manufacturer before the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the development of emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.
    • We advise clients on product end-of-life issues including development and implementation of national take-back programs for electronic equipment and other materials.
    • We advised a major manufacturing company in proactively investigating whether some current and former manufacturing processes resulted in contamination of surrounding properties, allowing our client to take measures to remedy the situation before it became a regulatory concern.
    • Assisting our Corporate and Financial Services Department, we performed a detailed analysis of asbestos, toxic tort, and cleanup liability of a multibillion-dollar specialty chemical manufacturer.
    • In conjunction with our Telecommunications Department, we provide advice relating to environmental issues raised by the development and operation of cellular towers.
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Transactions

Our practice includes not only assuming a leading role in environmental matters for clients, but also handling a complementary one with respect to the environmental aspects of matters overseen by other firm practice groups. Notable matters on which our attorneys have worked include the following:

Notable Matters

    • Assisting our Real Estate Department, we oversaw the environmental due diligence in connection with Simon Property Group’s multibillion-dollar acquisition of shopping malls.
    • Assisting our Corporate and Financial Services Department, we oversaw the environmental due diligence in connection with the acquisition of several multimillion-dollar power generating units from a major utilities and petrochemical refining company.
    • We provide environmental analysis and advice in connection with the acquisition and redevelopment of brownfield properties and properties located in critical wetland and coastal areas.
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Environmental Litigation

Our environmental litigation practice represents clients in federal and state courts and administrative agencies throughout the United States. We handle a variety of complex litigation, including government enforcement actions, litigation between private parties concerning disputes over allocation of responsibility for environmental contamination, contractual claims for indemnification of environmental remediation costs, and claims arising due to alleged exposure to toxic materials.

Experience

    • We have successfully represented large electric utilities, auto parts manufacturers, and metals companies in litigation and settlement negotiations regarding "new source review" air pollution litigation and natural resource damages claims at both federal and state levels.
    • We have successfully litigated and settled numerous high-value site cleanup cases, including representing the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in connection with the cleanup of the Vieques bombing range.
    • Representing numerous companies, we have successfully managed and coordinated group and class-action litigation with respect to cases involving asbestos, silica, safety equipment, and noise pollution, among others.
    • We are providing strategic national advice to a major manufacturing company regarding its portfolio of state-based claims alleging exposure to toxic materials.
    • We represented a major metals producer in resolving an air enforcement action for emissions of copper, lead, and arsenic from a large mill in the Northeast.
    • We have represented clients in more than 100 federal and state Superfund and RCRA sites.
    • We have successfully prosecuted a number of insurance coverage cases seeking indemnification for cleanup costs under comprehensive general liability policies.
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Legislative/Regulatory Analysis and Advocacy

In conjunction with our Government Relations Department, we advise clients on pending environmental legislation. Such efforts include tracking legislation, drafting issue-specific amendments, and meeting with legislators and agency officials to advocate for our clients’ interests.

Publications / News / Events

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