Environmental Compliance & Enforcement
Our environmental attorneys take a proactive approach to compliance and enforcement, helping our clients see the big picture, both aggressively seeking to resolve current issues on the most favorable terms possible and planning for compliance issues that might arise in the future, thereby avoiding costly enforcement actions later.
We are regularly involved in voluntary audits that assess compliance with environmental and health and safety legal requirements and determine whether any corrective actions are required. Environmental audits allow our clients to assess their own environmental compliance and may allow them to avoid certain penalties if those violations discovered during the audit are self-reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) and Railroad Commission of Texas (“RRC”) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) and then corrected.
State and federal environmental, health, and safety regulatory agencies have robust enforcement authority and regularly conduct inspections to assess compliance with legal requirements. We advise our clients on how to prepare for inspections, what to do when an inspector arrives, and how to respond to inspector requests, including records requests and employee interviews.
In the event of an enforcement action, our attorneys are skilled in every aspect of the case process, whether the case settles, involves an administrative hearing, or goes to trial. We regularly represent clients in negotiations with TCEQ, RRC, EPA, and OSHA, as well as before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) and EPA administrative tribunals. We have successfully defended clients in some of the most significant administrative hearings in Texas.
In addition to our procedural experience, we have excellent working relationships with key decision-makers at the administrative agencies and in the legislature. In fact, several of our attorneys have previous experience working in the various regulatory agencies. Our relationships enable us to act as effective advocates for clients both in administrative hearings and through the rulemaking and legislative processes.
- Before the TCEQ, we represented an energy client in water quality matters concerning the proposed listing of the Lake Arlington cooling water body as thermally impaired under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. We successfully demonstrated that the proposed listing was unnecessary.
- For the owner of a new natural gas-fired, combined-cycled power plant, we successfully obtained the initial wastewater discharge permit from TCEQ required to commence operations at the plant. We also served as developer’s counsel for certain regulatory, project financing, and environmental matters, including providing a legal opinion to the lender regarding the developer’s compliance with all applicable state and local environmental permitting and regulatory requirements.
- We have considerable experience with steel-making and steel fabrication facilities. We help these facilities obtain state air quality permits. Since 2005, we have completed a number of on-site, environmental permit audits for steel mills, steel fabrication facilities, and metal recovery and recycling facilities. In 2009, we assisted clients with implementing area-source MACT compliance programs for existing and new paint booths. We respond to regulatory investigations and notices for alleged air, water and waste violations.
- As state and federal regulations evolve to require the expanded use of low emission fuels, including the use of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel and Texas Low Emission Diesel (TxLED), we have represented clients to ensure that these fuels could be effectively used in their existing operations. We have also assisted clients with evaluating alternative fuel use projects, including the use of biodiesel. In Texas’ ozone non-attainment areas, these clients have taken advantage of the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) to purchase new engines for off-road mining equipment and for near-shore refueling barges. We often represent large industrial clients in their efforts to understand, comply with and mitigate the economic impacts of TCEQ rulemakings designed to expand the current ozone non-attainment areas.
- For a client acquiring a 300 MW coal-fired power generation facility, we evaluated environmental liabilities prior to the acquisition, developed a strategy for an environmental audit under the Texas Environmental Audit Act, considered groundwater availability issues, and evaluated alternative fuel uses. We also assisted this client with all permitting and permit transfer considerations in acquisition of the assets, and prepared and filed all applicable PUCT and ERCOT registrations.
- Provide compliance counseling and regulatory assistance
- Defend regulatory violations
- Investigate and oversee remediation of contaminated property (including federal and state Superfund and private cleanup actions)
- Contribute to development of regulatory policy development and agency rulemaking
- Negotiate remediation measures
- Develop investigation and cleanup strategies
- Develop and review environmental audits to determine levels of compliance