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Environmental Strategies

Environmental Strategies

Often recognized among the best in the country by industry publications and legal ranking groups, Bracewell’s Environmental Strategies Group (ESG) provides advice, strategy and advocacy related to the day’s most significant environmental legal issues. Clients turn to our team for counsel on a full range of environmental matters, including regulatory enforcement and compliance, strategic permitting, infrastructure development, corporate transactions, incident preparedness and response, investigations, litigation, and policy and public advocacy.

Anchored in Texas and Washington, DC, our lawyers offer perspective gained from decades spent at the forefront of issues facing companies in key sectors of the economy, such as oil and gas, refining, power generation and transmission, chemicals, manufacturing, technology, mining, and construction. We have advised clients on issues including air quality, climate change, water quality, waste and remediation, wetlands, and transactional and financial due diligence. We draw on experience serving within Fortune 100 companies; in the White House, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office; and at regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

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Recognizing that many industries face ever higher expectations for compliance with state and federal mandates, ESG assists companies in developing, implementing, and continually improving strategies for cost-effective compliance with all major state and federal environmental programs. We represent clients in enforcement proceedings and incident investigations, including parallel civil and criminal actions in high-profile matters. Our attorneys are also widely recognized for their strength in auditing, audit disclosures, and compliance management systems. In the litigation context, we are able to combine the experience and talents of our nationally-recognized environmental regulatory practitioners with our seasoned trial lawyers, drawing on decades of experience in the courtroom as well as familiarity with the regulatory and technical details on which these cases often turn.

Legislators, investors and the public have turned an intense spotlight on corporate strategies related to natural resources, prompting leading companies in energy, waste management, chemicals, technology, and manufacturing to prioritize sustainability initiatives and disclosures. We assist corporate leadership in aligning their strategies with government priorities and regulations with an array of integrated services , including policy development, regulatory counseling, corporate governance and internal audits, and disclosure issues. When an incident occurs, our lawyers guide clients through their responses, including site remediation, litigation, cost recovery negotiations, and natural resource damages claims.

The ESG team represents applicants in all aspects of the environmental permitting process. Our lawyers are involved beginning with the initial project planning stages, from scoping regulatory and permitting requirements across all media and disciplines to pre-application counseling and application development. As projects proceed, we assist clients in negotiating with permitting agencies, working with consultants and stakeholders during the administrative review process, and negotiating reasonable settlements with project opponents to help our clients reach milestones and avoid negative publicity. Throughout this process, we focus on strengthening permit applications and bolstering the administrative record to help safeguard project permits against potential challenges. Our lawyers regularly defend permits in contested case proceedings and administrative and judicial appeals. Where appropriate, we assist clients in proactively engaging organizations and communities seeking to slow or derail the permit process.

Our clients build and operate pipelines, compressor stations, gas plants, terminals, gathering lines, storage facilities, breakout stations, and other facilities in virtually all U.S. oil and gas producing regions, from the more established fields to all the major domestic shale plays. Our team represents these types of companies on environmental and safety issues across a broad range of disciplines, including regulatory counseling; project siting and permitting; rulemaking, including pre-proposal advocacy, comment development, and appellate challenges; administrative, civil, and criminal enforcement; auditing; internal investigations; accident response and crisis management; and transactional due diligence.

Environmental risk and liability can become major concerns when assets or companies are bought or sold, or when clients seek or offer financing. We apply a thorough understanding of the business – be it energy, chemicals, refining, heavy manufacturing, or technology – to provide practical, up-to-date insight and advice. We approach transactions with a thorough technical knowledge of the subject at hand, and seek creative approaches to controlling risk. We advise on domestic and international transactions, including mergers, acquisitions, lending/financing, and real estate ventures.

Experience

Recent Notable Matters

New York Stock Exchange-listed company — all environmental permitting and compliance matters in connection with the construction and operation of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities in Sabine Pass, Louisiana and Corpus Christi, Texas

The Electric Reliability Coordinating Council — wide range of regulatory and legislative matters that arise under various environmental statutes

Several prominent oil and gas companies — a wide range of legal, business and enforcement issues arising from federal pipeline safety regulation, including jurisdictional issues; PHMSA inspections of mixed regulated/unregulated facilities; impact radius assessment; special permits (waivers); and major policy and regulatory changes governing oil pipelines and gas pipelines

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.

Merchant refining company — policy, strategic communications and litigation arising from  EPA’s implementation and enforcement of the Renewable Fuels Standards programs 

Multiple industrial companies — including new owners of upstream oil and gas, midstream, refineries, chemical manufacturing and distribution, and industrial construction facilities following tens of billions of dollars in acquisitions, in negotiating new owner environmental compliance audit agreements with EPA, overseeing and administering those compliance audits, preparing extensive audit disclosures to EPA with respect to environmental violations originating pre-acquisition, and resolving those disclosures with EPA without penalty

Energy, chemical and other industrial companies — a range of environmental matters dealing with the Clean Water Act and both EPA and TCEQ regulations, including Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) plan requirements and applicability issues and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits

Independent producer of oil and gas — national coordinating counsel on CWA compliance, auditing, disclosure and enforcement matters

Large international chemical manufacturer — led the owner’s federal and state air permitting effort on a $2 billion greenfield chemical plant in South Texas including the successful defense and resolution of multiple contested case hearing challenges 

The offshore services sector — enforcement matters before the Interior Board of Land Appeals regarding a wholly new area of law to litigate, which raises a question of first impression that will set the legal precedent for the offshore industry

Major chemical manufacturer — EPA Risk Management Plan (RMP) program inspection following an industrial accident

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity — challenge to the Clean Power Plan, acting as one of the leading firms in the litigation in both the D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court

Large oil and gas terminal operator — EPA enforcement action under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) alleging violations related to hazardous waste generator status

Integrated oil company — litigation challenging EPA’s denial of a regulatory exemption for two petroleum refineries

Pipeline developers and anchor shippers — numerous inter- and intra-state natural gas and liquids pipelines, including permitting, environmental impact assessment, FERC environmental requirements, and related litigation

Multinational oilfield services company — serve as national coordinating counsel for regarding various aspects of litigation associated with hydraulic fracturing. Our casework spans federal and state trial and appellate courts across multiple jurisdictions.

Fortune 100 refining company — a challenge to block the shipment of crude by rail to a refinery. Bracewell has been in the forefront of policy and legal issues surrounding crude-by-rail transportation.

Chemical manufacturing company — Superfund cleanup of former hazardous waste disposal facility representation

Numerous Fortune 100 and 500 companies (including real estate developers and power generation, energy, chemical manufacturing, and mining companies) — contested case hearings before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), the administrative body that handles contested case proceedings in the State of Texas

Upstream operator — multiyear investigation, disclosure and resolution of potential criminal and civil violations of Sections 402 and 404 of the Clean Water Act and related state statutes in the Marcellus and Eagle Ford plays 

The Sterling Group LP — The acquisition, operation and divestiture of a middle market private equity firm’s portfolio companies. Recent work included serving as lead environmental counsel in: acquiring the U.S. domestic assets of a European designer and manufacturer of trailer axles, trailer and caravan components, and chassis and motorized chassis, with more than 20 locations around the world; acquiring several bathware ­related businesses across the U.S. in supporting the formation of the American Bath Group; and divesting a company that specializes in providing fully operated and maintained crane services, heavy rigging and specialty hauling services.

Integrated oil company — litigation challenging EPA’s denial of a regulatory exemption for two petroleum refineries, with cases brought against EPA in both the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and the D.C. Circuit

Midstream joint venture — the formation of a joint venture formed by two existing large natural gas pipeline companies that seeks to construct a roughly $2 billion, cross-border natural gas pipeline system that is designed to transport 1.5 Bcf/d of Appalachian shale gas across hundreds of miles to high-demand markets in the U.S. Midwest and Ontario, Canada

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