Our environmental and natural resources practice group has deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, grown by representing landowners, developers, businesses, local governments, and financial institutions for nearly 60 years. We understand the area’s unique environmental issues, and both the regulatory and business climates.
Our clients include landowners, farmers/ranchers, developers, cities and local governments, as well as financial institutions, industry associations, industrial manufacturers, irrigation districts, and water districts. We understand that our clients’ environmental matters are business issues that have many variables and the potential to require significant resources and time that they would otherwise devote to their core business. This understanding enables us to serve as a strategic partner working collaboratively with our clients to empower their decision-making and drive business solutions.
Ensuring our clients avoid issues and stay in compliance with applicable regulations and permit requirements are critical aspects of our practice. In collaboration with our clients, they meet their obligations to properly report as required to regulatory agencies, and remain in compliance with existing federal, state, and local laws and regulations that come into play. Working with our clients, we guide them to employ the best practices and strategies to cost effectively advise them regarding waste management and proper disposal, storage tank regulation and removal, response plans, worker safety, site cleanup/remediation, redevelopment of brownfields, performance audits of operating facilities, and insurance coverage.
Our team includes professionals who have worked on both sides of the table. We know who to engage and what questions to ask to streamline the process and get things done.
Not only have we been, and continue to be, at the core of some of the region’s most high-profile environmental cases, we also serve on industry boards and committees, agency task forces, and legislative work groups. This affords our attorneys the opportunity to be at the forefront of efforts to develop environmental, water, and natural resources legislation that helps advance our clients’ interests. We also have had the benefit of participating in state and federal rulemaking processes to advocate for reasonable and practical regulations that also serve our clients’ best interests.
Our Environmental and Natural Resources Advisory and Consultation Legal Services include:
- Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act permitting
- Contamination cleanup liability
- Contracts with environmental consultants and remediation contractors
- Cost-recovery and contribution claims in environmental cleanups
- Development of response plans after discovery of contamination
- Environmental audits of operating facilities
- Environmental due diligence prior to site acquisition
- Environmental liability coverage under historic insurance policies
- Environmental risk management and allocation in business transactions
- Evaluation of current insurance products to reduce environmental risk and manage liability
- Hydraulic Permit Approvals (HPA), Shoreline Management Act (SMA), Critical Aquifer Recharge Permits (CARA) and other critical area permits from state and local government
- Liability of sureties under construction bonds
- Redevelopment of brownfield sites, including advice on funding and permitting
- Remediation contractor liability, including requirements and land use issues related to such projects
- Treatment of environmental claims in bankruptcy
- Treatment of environmental claims and liabilities during and after foreclosure
- Underground storage tank regulation and removal
- Waste management and disposal on job sites
Environmental and Natural Resources Litigation
Regardless of the specific issue, we will first seek to resolve the matter without resorting to litigation. We assess the scope of the problem, manage established administrative agency relationships, and identify needed documentation, records, and technical experts to develop an administrative record in support of our clients’ desired outcome.
If litigation becomes necessary, our attorneys and paralegals bring years of experience in administrative hearings and in state and federal courts on environmental matters. Our environmental and natural resources litigation services include:
- Administrative agency relationship management to effectively communicate client concerns, and strengths and weaknesses of agency positions
- Administrative hearings and contested case proceedings
- Assessment of the scope, nature, and significance of issues that may or will affect client interests
- Coordination of live testimony and preparation of witnesses
- Coordination, use, and management of appropriate technical experts
- Defense of and challenges to agency decisions
- Development and implementation of strategies
- Identification, collection, and management of existing or needed documentation and records
- State and federal trial court and appellate proceedings
- Administrative Advocacy and Rulemaking
Our attorneys have worked for, with, and against federal, state, and local agencies in developing the regulations, codes, guidance, and policies impacting property owners and businesses throughout the Pacific Northwest. Whether through direct advocacy and lobbying, collaborating with allies through working groups and coalitions, or counseling individual parties in communicating their concerns effectively, our attorneys know how to positively impact the administrative process. If rules need to be challenged, or agency actions threaten harm, our attorneys know how to challenge adverse regulatory actions.
- Endangered Species
The Pacific Northwest is home to many species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As a result, the ESA has the potential to impact many of our clients’ businesses and operations. ESA challenges require counsel with specific experience dealing with the legal issues and the agencies responsible for implementing the ESA. Our firm has that experience and the agency relationships necessary to provide strategic and practical advice for resolving ESA issues. We seek to provide advice that will provide long-lasting benefits for both our clients and the environment in which they operate. Generally, this involves working with agency officials and interested parties to develop ESA compliance strategies. However, when it is not possible to reach agreement, we also have significant experience litigating ESA issues to achieve our clients’ desired outcome.
Our team is skilled in navigating ESA issues and providing tailored advice on matters such as:
- ESA audits and compliance
- ESA impacts on water rights
- Multi-party negotiation, coordination, and management of biological opinion and operations plan implementation
- Policy guidance and advocacy on ESA matters
- Section 7 consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries
- Section 10 habitat conservation plan negotiation and development
- Hazardous Waste
Liability for hazardous waste cleanup and remediation can be complicated and be “bet the company” scale in terms of cost. Our environmental and natural resources attorneys have represented clients at some of the largest hazardous waste and Superfund sites in the country and bring that experience to bear when advising clients on how to best navigate the resolution of their potential liability, both to the regulators and to third parties. We understand the complex interplay of cleanup laws with other environmental statutes and regulations, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and their respective implementing regulations to provide clear and sound advice and guidance on the appropriate level of cleanup that will be required. At both small and large hazardous waste sites, we know how to: move a cleanup forward in an expeditious and cost-effective manner while still obtaining regulatory approval; identify other potentially liable parties to have them participate in any required cleanup; and negotiate and finalize agreements that fully resolve a client’s liability, enabling them to move forward with their business.
Our attorneys also offer a holistic approach and advice in real estate transactions and land use law, particularly those that involve contaminated real property. Actively engaged in Oregon’s statewide Brownfield Coalition, we participate in lobbying efforts to promote brownfield redevelopment, including Oregon’s groundbreaking brownfield Land Bank Authority bill (HB 2734), and Oregon’s brownfield Tax Abatement bill (HB 4084). We advise clients on the various financial tools available to fund brownfield projects, as well as permitting requirements and land use issues associated with such projects. Our ability to provide guidance and advice on all phases of brownfield projects, from discovery through construction, enables us to provide complete and consistent guidance on all aspects of brownfield transactions.
FROM THE DIRT LAW BLOG
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Halts Some Permit Applications
November 19, 2021
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) recently notified some permit applicants that it is placing their applications on hold due to a federal court decision invalidating a Trump-era water quality rule.
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EPA to Undertake Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification Rulemaking in the Wake of U.S. Supreme Court Decision
May 18, 2022
Section 401 of the Clean Water Act provides that a federal agency may not issue a permit or license to conduct any activity that could result in a discharge into waters of the United States unless a Section 401 water quality certification is issued, or unless certification is waived.
Opinion: Oregon brownfield cleanup gets boost from federal infrastructure funds
May 18, 2022
As the dust settles from last year’s passage of the $1.2 trillion federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, it is becoming clear that the sweeping legislation will bring much-needed green (as in dollars) to Oregon’s brownfields.
Understanding the new climate rules
March 2, 2022
The Climate Protection Program (CPP), Oregon’s new regulatory program starting in 2022, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, achieve co-benefits from the reduction of other non-greenhouse gas air contaminants and improve the welfare of communities of color, tribal communities, communities experiencing lower incomes and rural communities. Attorney Marika E. Sitz explores the mechanics of the CPP and its potential impact on nurseries and other businesses in a recent article published by Digger Magazine.
Help Needed to Redevelop Portland Harbor’s Brownfields
March 1, 2022
The Superfund cleanup of Portland Harbor is still years from completion. With the project only in the remedial design phase, the full extent of the specific actions that will be required along the designated 10-mile stretch of the lower Willamette River remains to be seen.
State Authority in Water Quality Certification
November 26, 2019
By Elizabeth A. Rosso, Attorney This article was originally published in the November 22, 2019 edition of the Daily Journal of Commerce Oregon. Suppose you want to develop a parcel of land containing a wetland created by water running off…
“Oil and Gas Companies Should Prepare for More Climate-Related Congressional Investigations,” SHALE Oil & Gas Business Magazine
July 27, 2021
In an article published in SHALE Oil & Gas Business Magazine on July 24, 2021, Shareholder Gregory Zerzan discusses congressional investigations and how oil and gas companies should prepare for these investigations. “As long as a congressional committee is duly authorized and…
West Coast Offshore Wind Closer to Becoming a Reality
June 25, 2021
In an article published in POWER Magazine on June 22, 2021, Shareholder Gregory Zerzan discusses the news surrounding the U.S. Department of the Interior, in conjunction with the Department of the Navy and the State of California, announcing plans in…
CASES AND CLIENT STORIES
July 13, 2021
Under the rare circumstance where our client was ordered to enter into a separate NPDES permit and SWPPP to monitor and control stormwater from their entire facility, we were able to guide our client in successfully implementing a new sitewide SWPPP under a new NPDES permit.
July 13, 2021
The client sought advice on how to mitigate the potential environmental impacts of the VOC releases, minimize the risk of potential enforcement action by the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE), and position itself for future cost recovery actions against potentially both its tenant and the third-party vendor that caused the significant release of PCE.
July 13, 2021
As a result of the PPA, the City was able to complete the transaction while at the same time obtaining a release from liability and covenant not to sue from DEQ upon satisfactory completion of the cleanup work the City agreed to perform.
July 13, 2021
Our client operates a large highly regulated, closely monitored chemical manufacturing facility in St. Helens, Oregon. The facility manufactures urea and several gaseous products, including anhydrous ammonia.
July 13, 2021
As corporate environmental counsel, Jordan Ramis routinely gives advice on matters related to permit compliance, solid waste management, and tax credits.
July 2, 2021
Through use of a legal access program, Jordan Ramis provides members with up to 30 minutes per month to ask questions or, if necessary, employ the firm’s services for larger issues.