With decades of experience, Michelman & Robinson, LLP’s (M&R’s) Environmental Department has handled virtually every kind of environmentally-related legal matter.
We understand how environmental issues can substantially impact business, and counsel clients on a variety of environmental services. These include large transactions involving the purchase and sale of real property, industrial facilities and other real estate, such as Brownfields; financings; and asset sales involving environmentally impacted properties or exposures. Our attorneys foresee potential environmental concerns and maximize business objectives while minimizing risk. We are internationally recognized for conducting due diligence in connection with hundreds of environmental transactions for a broad spectrum of entities, including real estate development companies, corporations, insurance carriers and financial institutions.
Our Environmental attorneys have routinely and aggressively litigated environmental disputes for clients before administrative tribunals, regulatory agencies, and in-state and federal courts. The environmental litigation matters we have handled range from enormous Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) cost recovery or contribution actions in where hundreds of millions of dollars are at issue, to smaller disputes over cleanup obligations arising under indemnification agreements. We have also represented numerous clients in the defense of “toxic tort” cases alleging injuries from exposure to contaminants or pollutants – whether in water, soil or air.
Environmental law requirements and processes continue to evolve and expand. We are adept at providing counsel on permitting and compliance related issues, and in partnership with environmental consultants, the development and implementation of cost-effective cleanup remedies on behalf of our clients. We assist our clients in keeping up with environmental best practices, and conducting self-audits in a logical and protected fashion.
Our Environmental attorneys also have vast experience negotiating with regulatory agencies to avoid costly litigation on a wide range of environmental matters, including cleanup obligations, pollutant emissions and discharges, and permit compliance issues.
Areas Of Expertise
- Breach of Representations & Warranties
Our Environmental attorneys have significant experience litigating over parties’ obligations associated with alleged breaches of environmental representations and warranties contained in deal or loan documents.
- CERCLA/ Cost Recovery and Contribution
CERCLA, commonly referred to as the Superfund, often involves complex, multi-party litigation. We routinely represent landowners and operators, and have served as counsel for clients against alleged state and federal CERCLA violations. Our attorneys represent private and public entities in CERCLA cost recovery or contribution and related matters across the country ranging from some of the largest federal Superfund sites to single land owner cost-recovery and nuisance claims. In this capacity we have acted as counsel for both plaintiffs seeking contribution from other potentially responsible parties, and defendants to CERCLA cost recovery or contribution actions.
- Clean-Up & Development
Our Environmental attorneys routinely provide remediation counseling and assist in obtaining regulatory closures of environmentally impacted sites. We review and provide counseling with respect to such things as remediation & mitigation techniques, best available cleanup technology related arguments, Voluntary Cleanup Programs, and Brownfield Redevelopment.
- Contract Negotiation & Drafting
Our attorneys draft, review and negotiate purchase & sale agreements, access and remediation agreements, indemnity and escrow agreements, as well as loan representation, warranties, and covenants. We also handle coverage analysis and procurement of mitigation products on behalf of lenders, borrowers, developers and owners, and assist in the negotiation, drafting, and procurement of various environmental insurance products.
- Environmental Compliance
Drawing on our in-depth understanding of regulation and policy, we provide counseling and assist in developing well-defined and clear environmental policies for our clients to ensure they are in full compliance with often complex environmental rules and requirements.
- Environmental Due Diligence
We are internationally recognized for environmental due diligence, a critical component of any real estate transaction, merger, acquisition, or divesture where environmental risks are involved. Our attorneys focus on three aspects of environmental risk: legacy liability, operational liability, and strategic liability. We frequently represent developers and builders, sellers, purchasers, hotels, casinos, REIT’s, owners, investors, lenders, borrowers, and landlords and tenants in all aspects of environmental due diligence, which include but extend far beyond the review of and providing counseling and advice with respect to Phase I and Phase II investigations.
- Environmental Insurance Litigation
Our Environmental attorneys have represented both insurers and insured’s in disputes over whether environmental related claims are covered under various Comprehensive General Liability (CGL) and other insurance policies.
- Environmental Subrogation
We frequently represent insurance carriers in multi-party environmental subrogation cost recovery actions in state and federal courts.
- Proposition 65
We provide counsel to various manufacturers on the regulatory and economic implications of Proposition 65, and represent those manufacturers who are sued for alleged violations of Proposition 65.
- Toxic Tort
Our Environmental attorneys routinely defend toxic tort actions, having been involved in some of the largest and most noteworthy toxic tort suits brought over the past ten years. The cases we defend often involve large numbers of plaintiffs suing multiple defendants for alleged exposure to some form of pollutant or contaminant. We have vigorously and successfully defended various manufacturers, distributors and municipalities from cases alleging multi-million dollars in injuries from exposure to contaminants in air, soil and water.
- UST Cleanup
We represent environmental consultants by defending against allegations of fraudulent violations, and advise on best practices, regarding the Underground Storage Tank (UST) Cleanup Fund. We have successfully defended clients before the California State Water Resources & Control Board. M&R has also been involved in Qui Tam (whistleblower) actions against UST consultants, and has coordinated civil defense matters concurrent with criminal investigations by the California Attorney General.
The following is a select sampling of our representative matters:
- CERCLA Summary Judgment: M&R’s client was sued for water pollution in federal court under various theories. We succeeded in arguing that our client could not be considered a proper “arranger” under CERCLA, and that it could not be liable under the law of nuisance, which had never previously been done in the Northern District.
- Environmental Defense: On behalf of a manufacturer alleged to have contributed to the contamination of a large Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Superfund site, negotiated a first of its kind $400 million joint water supply/contaminant cleanup project. The negotiations between and among the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), U.S. Attorney General’s Office, several water supply companies and numerous potentially responsible parties lasted for more than a year, with the resulting project serving as a model for future USEPA-driven Superfund settlements.
- Environmental Response: Litigated an environmental response matter arising out of mandated cleanup costs for toxic chemicals allegedly disbursed by a dry cleaning business. Convinced the plaintiff that other parties were responsible for the polluted water, thereby avoiding cleanup payments.
- Insurance Coverage: Represented product manufacturers in lawsuits with the corporation’s liability insurers arising out of environmental and toxic tort claims. We were able to overcome numerous challenges by the insurers, including claims that underlying layers of coverage were not exhausted and occurrences did not take place in particular policy years, to drive the insurers to the settlement table.
- Municipality Toxic Tort/Legislative Investigation: Successful in launching a legislative investigation on behalf of his municipality client into the environmental conditions at a prominent high school, arising out of allegations that the operation of an oil well immediately adjacent to the high school was posing serious health risks to teachers, students and neighboring property owners. The case was eventually dismissed against our client.
- Proposition 65 Cases: Represented product manufacturers in California Proposition 65 cases relating to the corporation’s products, including, for example, a bicycle manufacturer defending claims that the cables on its bicycles were subject to Proposition 65 disclosures.
- Toxic Tort Defense: Represented a multinational corporation in the defense of a toxic tort case filed by more than 1,500 residents claiming injuries due to the ingestion of contaminated drinking water. An M&R attorney was one of the key members of the joint defense group, which after numerous appeals, including to the California Supreme Court, achieved a very favorable settlement.
- Toxic Tort: Litigated a large $500 million water contamination case. Developed a multi-party strategy to reduce the number of exposed wells, due to the lack of evidence of pollutants exceeding the government maximum concentration levels (MCL). After numerous successful motions, the amount was reduced by 90 percent and the number of affected water wells was cut from 244 to 14.
- Whistleblower Litigation: Successfully defended an environmental consultant in an employment retaliation and discrimination lawsuit while concurrently defending a Qui Tam whistleblower case that involved a related criminal investigation. M&R attorneys regularly counsel clients and handle matters arising out of the California State Water Resource Control Board’s Office of Enforcement and involving the Underground Storage Tank Fund.
- Submitting Claims to UST Fund? Don't Become Next Target of Office of Enforcement's New Fraud, Waste & Abuse UnitEnvironmental Leader, July 23, 2013
- CIOMA News Brief, July 2013
- Updated EPA Classification of Contaminant May Have Big ImpactDaily Journal, March 26, 2012
- Law360, April 25, 2011
- Daily Journal, April 20, 2011
- BrownfieldRenewal.com, July 2010
- CERCLA and PRP Contribution Claims: Make Cost Recovery Work For YouBrownfield Renewal, Volume 14, Issue 3, Summer 2010
- Endangered Species Act v. California Water Rights-The Smelt Demand a DrinkUnpublished Law Review Comment
- Real Estate Board of New YorkNew York, NY, October 31, 2017
- International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Law ConferenceSan Antonio, TX, October 27, 2017
- Pacific Oil ConferenceLos Angeles, CA, September 7, 2016
- Professional Environmental Management Association (PEMA)Long Beach, CA, February 18, 2014
- California Unified Program (Cal CUPA) Annual Training ConferenceHyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, San Francisco, CA, February 3, 2014
- M&R Hot Topics SeriesSan Francisco, CA, October 3, 2013
- M&R Hot Topics SeriesSacramento, CA, September 17, 2013
- National Institute for Storage Tank Management (NISTM) Annual ConferenceClarion Hotel, Anaheim, CA, June 27, 2013
- Philadelphia, PA, April 4, 2011
- Significant Developments Affecting the Chemical IndustryPhiladelphia, PA, December 2009
- Basic Practice Series: Client Intake & EvaluationAmerican Bar Association (ABA) Section of Environment, Energy & ResourcesWashington, DC, Fall 2009