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Incident Prevention and Response

Incident Prevention & Response

Bracewell’s incident response team prepares clients with proportional and integrated response plans for incidents in the chemical, energy, and wastewater sectors. We help clients identify and manage legal risks that arise from explosions, chemical releases, employee fatalities, and other incidents. Our multi-disciplined, rapid-response team of over 40 lawyers, technical consultants, and strategic communication and government relationship professionals work together to meet our clients’ needs based upon the direct and collateral consequences of incidents.  We work with our clients beginning in the earliest stages to define success, provide a budget, and develop a proportional response appropriate to the issues, expectations, and the legal risks involved.

Our team members have completed a formal incident-response training program, which includes earning AIChE safety and chemical engineering certificates in process safety and risk assessment. Our team includes experienced, nationally-recognized environmental, safety, and defense lawyers, who are skilled in developing and presenting highly technical issues and data to government investigators, judges, and juries. We have extensive experience responding to investigations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Chemical Safety Board (CSB), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the Contra Costa County Health Services Hazardous Materials Programs office (CCHMP), CalOSHA, and state and federal prosecutors.

Team members are located in offices across the United States and able to deploy to a client’s incident location within hours.

We assist our clients in developing organization-wide Business Continuity Plans (BCP), covering everything from natural disasters to terrorist acts, and providing the roadmap companies need in times of urgency. Our goal is to help clients prepare for, mitigate the impact of, and respond to disruptions in their business operations. Developing an effective BCP requires three preliminary steps: Risk Assessment, Business Impact Analysis, and Needs Inventory. We facilitate comprehensive risk and needs assessments and provide detailed reports of our findings, then use the findings to help clients draft company-wide and department-specific plans that meet or exceed industry best practices.

Bracewell’s Policy Resolution Group (PRG) is a key component of our incident response team, assisting in the design and implementation of comprehensive and targeted communications strategies to reach stakeholders, elected officials, key policymakers, social media, and the public.  Our initial strategic communications response focuses on themes of concern, clarity, and control. PRG assists with corporate positioning, reputation management, financial communications services, media relations, media training, and social media development and management.  PRG conducts media training for executives and facilitates informational sessions with federal, state, and local officials after incidents.

Our lawyers understand the Incident Command System and can help facilitate effective emergency-management training exercises. We design, manage, and execute tabletop exercises and field drills to comply with forthcoming risk-management-program regulations and best practices.  We assist clients in conducting the post-exercise discussion or "hot wash" and track opportunities for improvement.  In addition to helping with exercises and drills, our team works with clients to draft, update and review crisis response plans and release-reporting plans.

We draw on deep regulatory knowledge and experience with OSHA’s process safety management standard, EPA’s risk-management program, BSEE’s SEMS program, and PHMSA’s integrity-management requirements. We track changes in policy, enforcement, administrative decisions, and proposed rulemaking associated with each of these regulatory programs. During an incident response, our team is well-equipped to spot deficiencies in a facility’s compliance with these programs and discuss the associated legal risks.

Members of our team are regularly invited to address industry groups on prevention, preparedness, and response.  We actively monitor changes in guidance from the American Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Center for Chemical and Process Safety.  We recognize that our client’s sites are on a process safety journey that did not start with, and will not end with, a specific incident.

We understand the impact that a Chemical Safety Board (CSB) incident investigation can have on a company.  We have significant experience helping companies respond to CSB inquiries and navigate the process.  Our team is firmly grounded in matters related to the CSB's jurisdiction, use of administrative subpoena power, and typical investigative goals. We help our clients draft agreements to preserve evidence and negotiate site release from the Board, so that they can begin to rebuild and improve affected process areas.  We also assist our clients in understanding the CSB's "recommendation process" and assess the impact CSB recommendations may have on their organization.

After an incident, OSHA and other agencies charged with protecting workers, conduct incident investigations and programmatic inspections. Our team includes workplace safety and labor lawyers with over 25 years of experience defending companies and providing compliance advice on these issues. As a result, we have established relationships with compliance, safety, and health officers, their supervisors, and the solicitor’s office. Our team tracks changes in policy, enforcement, administrative decisions, and proposed rulemaking related to workplace safety.

Experience

Recent Notable Matters

Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. — various investigations that arose from the Deepwater Horizon incident, including President Obama’s Special Task Force, the U.S. Congress, and the CSB. Bracewell’s team brought the matter to a very successful resolution for Halliburton – one that included no criminal charges related to the explosion, the oil spill, or the environmental impacts.

Independent oil and gas company — response to a well-control incident, including subsequent requests for information and investigations by federal and state agencies

Major American oil company — internal investigation of process-safety standards and cultural safety issues at a major U.S. refinery

Major oil terminal facility — internal investigation into alleged exposure of operator to tank vapors during loading operations

Major refinery — CSB, state, and local investigation of an acid-splash incident

Major refinery — investigation by CSB, EPA, state, and local agencies related to an explosion and fire

Major refining and marketing company — OSHA investigation of a tank explosion resulting in a fatality

Midstream energy company — investigation by U.S. Attorney into an explosion and fire at an oil-reclamation facility in the Bakken shale

Midstream oil and gas company — development and implementation of an emergency response training program

Midstream oil and gas company — internal investigation of a workplace safety incident involving serious injuries from a fall at a terminal during rail car loading, and investigation by OSHA

Refining company — EPA and OSHA investigations after a release and explosion resulted in two fatalities and multiple injuries

Specialty gas company — investigation by the CSB, OSHA, and state investigators after an explosion caused one fatality

Upstream oil and gas company — internal investigation related to a major fire and fatality at an exploration and production site in the Marcellus shale, and investigation by the CSB, OSHA, EPA, and the DEP

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