The area of environmental litigation is quite broad and includes national and regional issues. Working with insurance companies on environmental claims is a significant component of some of the litigation. Environmental coverage issues are currently being vigorously litigated in many state and federal courts throughout the country.
In general, environmental attorneys often work with insurers to defend corporate policyholders against environmental claims asserted by governmental agencies and private parties seeking damages under state and federal environmental laws. In addition, these attorneys work with companies of many sizes and assist with a wide variety of environmental areas.
Key governmental agencies or issues of environmental litigation areas include:
• Superfund liability
• Land use
• Compliance with local, state and federal environmental regulations
• Real estate transactions involving contaminated property
• Maritime pollution matters and related regulatory compliance issues
• Environmental liabilities in mergers and acquisitions
• The Clean Air Act
• The Oil Pollution Act
• The Clean Water Act
• The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
• The National Environmental Policy Act and its implementing regulations
• The Safe Drinking Water Act
• The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996
• The Toxic Substances Control Act
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the federal agency responsible for environmental legal issues and the EPA issues requests for information about environmental matters of concern. The EPA also deals with the regional Superfunds and all federal legislation regarding environmental concerns.
Generally “Superfund” litigation involves working with companies that are named as potentially responsible parties (PRPs) at the federal Superfund sites throughout the United States. Understanding every phase of the Superfund process and the proceedings is legally complex and an understanding of federal and state Superfund laws for the loss of significant natural resources caused by hazardous waste contamination is critical.
Legal guidance in the above areas also provides valuable insight and knowledge in handling requests from the EPA about their environmental concerns about contaminated sites. Lawyers can assist, from the investigative phases designed to characterize the scope and extent of site contamination, to working with consultants to formulate and implement cleanup plans, negotiating consent orders and decrees, through to resolving cost allocation issues and evaluating settlement options. Arbitrations involving contractual cleanup claims may also be part of the process.
At times environmental issues are criminal matters that require a different type of legal assistance. The defense and management of complex toxic tort actions and access to consultants in specialized fields such as toxicology, chemistry, epidemiology and risk assessment is part of environmental litigation that can be provided by qualified attorneys.
Environmental litigation legal assistance can be provided for individuals and companies dealing with:
• Exposure to hazardous chemicals and other toxic substances in the workplace environment or home.
• Exposure to radiation at nuclear power plants.
• Exposure to solvents such as benzene and ethylene glycol ether used in heavy industry.
• Exposure to ethylene glycol ether and other chemicals used in the clean rooms where semi conductor chips are manufactured.
• Serious diseases as the result of toxic substances found in groundwater, surface water and the air.
• Problems of toxic mold in homes that can cause serious health problems and property damage.
• Exposure to asbestos.
• Exposure to lead paint.
• Tobacco industry related health concerns.
Lawyers also provide effective representation in many areas of toxic tort litigation.