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United States > Industry focus > Environment: litigation > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Environment: litigation
  2. Leading lawyers

The ‘extraordinary team of environmental litigators’ at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP is acclaimed for its ‘exceptional work’ across the full extent of environmental matters, including federal and state enforcement actions, toxic torts, class actions and mass torts, as well as air, water, wetlands and permitting litigation. The firm continued its work for BP and, in 2015, a team led by Washington DC-based Thomas Milch assisted the supermajor negotiate a global settlement with the DOJ, the five Gulf states and approximately 300 local government entities to resolve civil CWA claims, NRD claims, and all economic damage claims from the Deepwater Horizon incident. Other matters saw Lester Sotsky successfully defended The Mosaic Company against the EPA’s national enforcement initiative against the US phosphate industry. Other notable clients include Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Monsanto and Reckitt Benckiser. The New York office was boosted by the arrival of Edward McTiernan, former deputy commissioner and general counsel of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Brian Israel in Washington DC is the new chair of practice.

Kirkland & Ellis LLPranks head and shoulders above any other firm in capability, bench strength and efficiency’, according to sources. Praised as being ‘extremely responsive, professional and courteous’, the firm is best known for its litigation expertise, and regularly represents clients in an array of civil, criminal and administrative environmental proceedings. A recent highlight was representing the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute in a settlement with the DOE, accepted by the Fifth Circuit, regarding a challenge to a rule passed by the DOE setting stringent new energy efficiency standards for walk-in coolers and freezers. In another standout matter, the team defended Boeing in a groundwater contamination case brought by nearly 200 property owners in Washington State. The firm was also called upon by ExxonMobil to defend cases relating to the rupture of a crude oil pipeline near Billings, Montana in 2011 that led to an escape of oil into the Yellowstone River; and it continued its work for BP in several cases relating to the Deepwater Horizon case. Other notable mandates included handling a toxic tort case for Axiall Corporation and its subsidiary, Eagle US, before the Fifth Circuit. Chicago-based Catherine Fitzpatrick and Richard Godfrey are recommended.

Sources say of Latham & Watkins LLP that ‘there is no better firm for getting high-quality bang for your buck’ and that it ‘never fails to live up to its reputation as one of the best firms in the world’. The environment, land and resources practice, which comprises more than 160 lawyers across the US, is chaired by Los Angeles-based James Arnone and vice chaired by Chicago-based Mary Rose Alexander. The firm is recognized for handling all types of environmental dispute, including toxic torts, product defense and climate change-related litigation. The team is representing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection before the US Supreme Court in a case against the state of Georgia related to water rights in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin. The team was also busy in the insurance coverage area, where it successfully represented Fluor in a coverage action against Hartford Accident & Indemnity before the California Superior Court, the California Court of Appeal and finally the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found in Fluor’s favor and overruled a longstanding interpretation of the Insurance Code that restricted the assignment of insurance rights. Another name to note is former practice chair Robert Wyman, who is based in Los Angeles. Marc Campopiano in Orange County and Andrea Hogan in San Francisco were both promoted to partner.

Sidley Austin LLP can count on the experience of prominent figures in environment litigation, including Samuel Gutter and Roger Martella in Washington DC and Robert Olian in Chicago. The experienced team represents a broad array of clients in environmental disputes, including National Alliance of Forest Owners, Bayer Healthcare and TransCanada, and excels in complex air, water, waste and climate change-related litigation. Recently, the team successfully defended NV Energy against a challenge before the Ninth Circuit by an environmental group seeking to vacate an EPA decision over air emission limits for the company’s Reid Gardner power plant. A team including Martella was retained by a coalition of 20 trade associations to draft comments and prepare for litigation regarding the EPA’s proposed revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone. Washington DC-based David Buente is highly recommended and considered ‘one of the most brilliant guys in the environmental field’.

Boutique firm Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. provides comprehensive environmental law services to domestic and international clients from its seven US offices. In 2015, the team was active in settling citizen suits for clients including Valero, E.L. Harvey and Sons, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Washington DC-based Benjamin Wilson was recently appointed by North Carolina Eastern District Court to monitor Duke Energy’s implementation of and compliance with a criminal plea agreement related to a major coal ash spill. The firm is defending Siemens against Thomas & Betts before federal court in Boston regarding alleged liability for PCB contamination in Mother Brook. Nancy Kaplan recently took an in-house role at Eversource Energy, while in Washington DC, the firm saw the retirement of Steve Herman and the departure of Scott Fulton to the post of president of the Environmental Law Institute.

The environmental litigation and mass tort practice at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP has a strong presence on both coasts, and is co-led by Patrick Dennis in Los Angeles and Peter Seley and Daniel Nelson in Washington DC. It is best known for its experience in complex and multi-plaintiff toxic tort matters, civil and criminal environmental enforcement actions, and climate change and clean air litigation. The team continues to act as lead counsel to International Paper in two mass actions filed by private plaintiffs arising from the Harris County lawsuit over alleged toxic waste disposal in the San Jacinto River, which was resolved by jury verdict in favor of the client in 2014. In other matters, Seley continues to represent Chevron in the RICO suit against attorney Steven Donziger and his co-conspirators for obtaining a $19bn environmental remediation judgment against the client in Ecuador through allegedly corrupt means; the firm is currently handling the appeal, which is pending in Second Circuit. Dennis successfully defended Intel against claims regarding birth defects in the offspring of workers in semiconductor manufacturing, obtaining the dismissal of claims in Arizona and Delaware. WestRock, Dole Food and Freeport McMoRan Oil and Gas are other notable clients.

The ‘excellent’ team at Hogan Lovells US LLP is above average’. It is frequently involved in high-profile civil judicial enforcement actions, natural resource damage claims, challenges to regulations, permit litigation, administrative proceedings, internal investigations, and citizen suits in the environmental arena. In 2015, the team defended Frontier Airline against an attempt by a citizens group to shut down its service at an East Coast airport for alleged environmental violations; and filed a crude-by-rail lawsuit on behalf of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers against BNSF Railway in the Southern District of Texas. Washington DC-based James Banks is considered a ‘true expert in environmental litigation’, and Denver-based Daniel Dunn is also noted. Counsel Christie Iannetta joined the Washington DC office and Andrew Spielman is now at WilmerHale.

Hunton & Williams LLP is a go-to firm for ‘critical environment litigation matters’. The ‘top-notch’ team is led from Washington DC by William Wehrum, who is described as ‘hands down one of the finest Clean Air Act attorneys in the country’. Wehrum acted for the American Forest & Paper Association, a coalition of other major trade associations and the Utility Air Regulatory Group in three sets of cases challenging three related EPA rules that regulate air emissions from industrial boilers and process heaters as well as industrial solid waste incinerators. The team is also well regarded in CWA litigation, were it represents clients such as the Utility Water Act Group, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Gas Association. Environmental law and litigation expert Tom Boer joined the San Francisco team from Barg Coffin Lewis & Trapp, and Washington DC-based Aaron Flynn was promoted to the partnership. Former Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP attorneys Charles Knauss and Shannon Broome recently joined in Washington DC and San Francisco respectively. Washington DC-based William Brownell is also noted.

The service level at King & Spalding LLP is ‘second to none’, according to clients, and this service has been further enhanced by the hires to its Washington DC office of former Kirkland & Ellis LLP lawyers Granta Nakayama, Ilana Saltzbart and Joseph Eisert. One of the firm’s main clients is Chevron, and a team lead by Houston-based Robert Meadows has recently acted as trial counsel in more than 100 environmental lawsuits pending in Louisiana concerning damage to groundwater, soil and sediments. Patricia Barmeyer of the Atlanta office is considered a ‘top environmental lawyer in the state of Georgia’ and is praised for being ‘of great integrity; professional and a true expert’. She successfully defended Rayonier Advanced Materials in a CWA claim brought by an environmental group regarding alleged contaminated discharges into the Altamaha River. Lewis Jones in Atlanta and Matthew Blaschke in San Francisco are newly made partners, while C. Brannon Robertson left the firm and is now at Fernelius Alvarez Simon PLLC.

Baker Botts L.L.P. is very well known for energy litigation and is one of the key names in related environmental and toxic tort disputes. The Texas-headquartered firm has offices in New York and Washington DC and is opening a new office in San Francisco. Top mandates included serving as lead environmental counsel to Marathon Oil and securing a summary judgment in a private nuisance and personal injury claim regarding exposure to regulated air emissions from a production operation in Karnes County, Texas. In other matters, it successfully defended Waste Control Specialists in three separate attempts by the Sierra Club to have Texas state courts reverse decisions by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality authorizing the construction and operation of radioactive waste disposal facilities. Washington DC-based Steven Leifer and Austin-based Aileen Hooks are the main contacts. Megan Berge from the Washington DC office was promoted to the partnership.

Bracewell LLP’s environment practice is anchored in Austin, Houston and Washington DC, and was recently enhanced by the addition of a team from Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP to the Austin office, including Sara Burgin, Kevin Collins, Matt Paulson and Whit Swift. The ‘excellent’ team, made up of ‘outstanding problem solvers’, recently defended two waste management entities against civil penalty claims brought by Harris County and the state of Texas for alleged pollution of the San Jacinto River; after five weeks of trial, the team successfully settled with the government for less than 1% of the penalty sought. It is also representing one of North America’s largest independent manufacturers of bleach and consumer products in an indemnification dispute over numerous Superfund sites. Other notable clients include Apache, Baker Hughes, ConocoPhillips and Pilot Chemical Company. Jason Hutt and Jeffrey Holmstead in Washington DC and Austin-based Timothy Wilkins are the key names.

The practice at Covington & Burling LLP is spread across its Washington DC and California offices and draws upon the expertise of two former EPA general counsels, Donald Elliott and Gary Guzy, both of whom are based in Washington DC. The team is experienced in liability, contribution, remedy selection and NRD matters under the Superfund statute, among other environmental issues. Practice co-chair Lawrence Hobel, based in San Francisco, leads the representation of Aerojet Rocketdyne in cases related to the management of its Superfund site in Sacramento, California, including response to EPA Records of Decision for operable units, water purveyor claims for replacement water supplies, and property owner damage litigation. In other matters, Washington DC-based Steven Rosenbaum is handling the defense of the American Petroleum Institute in a suit filed by the Environmental Defense Center seeking to block the use of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands in New Mexico. The Washington DC team was reinforced with the recent additions of former EPA attorney and senior of counsel Robert Matthews, and federal regulatory and litigation expert Mark Perlis, who joins in an of counsel capacity from the now defunct Dickstein Shapiro.

Greenberg Traurig, LLP handles all stages of environmental disputes, including taking complex civil and criminal cases to trial and to appeal. A team led by Philadelphia-based David Mandelbaum is defending P H Glatfelter in several cases relating to the Lower Fox River and Green Bay Superfund site in northeastern Wisconsin. In other matters, Tampa-based David Weinstein is representing Mosaic Fertilizer in federal litigation involving multiple parcels of real property located in Hillsborough and Polk counties in Florida. Other clients include Coronet Industries, FMC Corporation and Tetra Tech. Miami-based Kerri Barsh is the other key name.

The environmental team at Mayer Brown is well regarded mainly for its expertise in CWA and CAA litigation. In a recent matter, a team led from Chicago by Timothy Bishop is representing a dozen major industry groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Petroleum Institute, in a complaint filed in the Southern District of Texas challenging the legality of the EPA’s new regulation redefining ‘the waters of the US’ under the CWA. In a CAA-related matter, the team is representing longstanding client US Sugar Corporation in challenging EPA regulations on emissions limits for hazardous air pollutants from industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and process heaters, and is defending the client in a multi-front challenge by the Sierra Club to the Florida sugar industry’s practice of burning cane fields prior to harvest. Other clients include Alexander & Baldwin, American Farm Bureau, CSX Transportation and Foster Poultry Farms. Led by Richard Bulger and Mark Ter Molen from the Chicago office, the team also has boots on the ground in New York and Washington DC.

The environmental practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP has ‘gained more strength and recognition’, following the arrival of a group of lawyers from the defunct Bingham McCutchen in 2014. The team is led by ‘first-class lawyer’ James Dragna in Los Angeles and John McGahren in New Jersey. In a recent CWA highlight, the team acted as national counsel to Anadarko Petroleum in a multibillion-dollar claim by the US government regarding the release of hydrocarbons from the Deepwater Horizon incident, achieving a very favorable result for the client. Regarding the same incident, the group also achieved a recent victory for M-I L.L.C., a subsidiary of Schlumberger. In a TSCA-related matter, Washington DC-based Ronald Tenpas led the reversal of a $2.5m penalty imposed on Elementis Chromium by the EPA after an agency trial for allegedly withholding toxic risk information. The team was bolstered with the promotions to partner of Yardena Zwang-Weissman in the Los Angeles office, and Brad Nes and Randall Mark Levine in the Washington DC office.

At Morrison & Foerster LLP, the environment and energy practice is led by the San Francisco-based Christopher Carr and benefits also from the experience of Michèle Corash. The team is best known for its expertise in chemical exposure litigation, air quality and greenhouse gas litigation, and water controversies, especially in the state of California. In a recent highlight, the team successfully represented 16 food manufacturers, including Gerber, J.M. Smucker and Dole Foods, in a Proposition 65 trial initiated by the Environmental Law Foundation claiming failure to disclose the presence of traces of lead in baby foods, 100% fruit juices, and packaged fruit and vegetable products; the decision was affirmed by the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court denied a review. In other matters, it is defending Sierra Pacific Industries before the Ninth Circuit against the Center for Biological Diversity and others in a challenge to the approval of a CAA permit for a biomass facility emitting greenhouse gas. The team also acts on behalf of 15 Bay Area municipalities in several administrative and judicial proceedings regarding water pollution control requirements. Washington DC-based Joseph Palmore is the main contact.

The environmental practice at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP is acclaimed for its ‘extreme responsiveness and great bench depth’. The team is led from Los Angeles by Christopher McNevin and includes figures such as the ‘outstanding’ Margaret Rosegay in San Francisco, who ‘knows the hazardous waste law and regulations in California better than anyone’; Washington DC-based Matthew Morrison, who is a ‘joy to work with, extremely knowledgeable and reliable’; and Sheila McCafferty Harvey, who is a ‘smart, strategic, determined and pragmatic lawyer’. Notably, the team acts as general counsel to Western States Petroleum Association and is involved in a full array of environmental matters on behalf of the client, including representing it in litigation and counseling it on the implementation of Assembly Bill 32 on greenhouse gas emissions, California’s cap-and-trade system, and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard program. It also represents the Association of American Railroads on all air quality, climate change and related matters affecting the industry in California, Oregon and Washington state. Also recommended are John Hansen in San Francisco and Michael McDonough in Los Angeles. Andrew Strong rejoined the Houston office.

At Vinson & Elkins LLP, the ‘excellent’ environmental and natural resources practice represents a notable list of clients in the energy sector, including Anadarko Petroleum, Freeport-McMoRan, Maxus Energy Corporation, Tierra Solutions and White Stallion Energy Center. It advises on the full breadth of environmental administrative proceedings and litigation, and has been involved in numerous notable contamination cases as well as challenges to EPA regulations. Recent mandates include representing a client in the mining industry in a federal class action regarding alleged environmental contamination and property damage. Austin-based Susan Snyder is endorsed for her ‘deep industry expertise’ and for being a ‘fast worker and an innovative and practical lawyer’, and ‘great litigatorKevin Gaynor in Washington DC is recommended as ‘one of the finest environmental lawyers in the US’. Following the retirement of Carol Dinkins, Houston-based Larry Nettles now heads the practice.

At Goodwin Procter LLP, the environmental team ‘consistently exceeds expectations’. It is led from Washington DC by Laurence Kirsch and, in 2015, it was particularly active in the mining sector, as well as in matters regarding contaminated sites. ‘Environmental mining superstarMichael Giannotto in Washington DC is national counsel to the National Mining Association in several environmental matters, including representing it in opposing a petition for mandamus brought in the DC Circuit by several environmental and citizens groups seeking a court order requiring the EPA to promulgate financial assurance regulations for the mining industry. In another highlight, Kirsch leads the representation of Rohm and Haas (a subsidiary of Dow) and Morton International (Rohm and Haas’ wholly owned subsidiary) in matters related to the investigation and clean-up of Berry’s Creek Study Area, one of the country’s most significant waterbody Superfund matters, as well as in relation to claims for natural resource damages.

At Jones Day, the environmental, health and safety practice group is led from Washington DC by Kevin Holewinski, who is experienced in environmental, climate change and toxic tort litigation. Representative matters included representing PCS Nitrogen in a Superfund matter, Chevron in environmental lawsuits filed in Ecuador and Brazil, Axiall in environmental matters related to inquiries and requests for information by the EPA, and Fluor Corporation in a federal RCRA and CWA citizen suit filed in the Northern District of California. Other clients include the City of Detroit, Procter & Gamble and NRG Yield. San Francisco-based Thomas Donnelly is also noted.

New to the ranking, the environmental litigation practice at K&L Gates represents clients in the full spectrum of environmental matters, including private party and citizen suit litigation, challenges to regulatory authority rules, and first-party and third-party administrative appeals before regulatory authority tribunals. Highlights included acting as lead trial counsel to Hess Oil and Hovensa, as defendants, in a CERCLA NRD and common law jury trial regarding alleged ground water contamination and damages to near-shore marine ecosystems from hazardous substances and petroleum released from oil refining operations. Other clients include Shell, Astra Oil and Titan America. Charlotte-based David Franchina and Craig Wilson in Harrisburg co-head the team. Newark-based William Hyatt is described as an ‘extremely talented environmental lawyer’. The practice added three more partners in the Austin office, including Steve Morton, William Moltz and Janessa Glenn.

The environmental team at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP remains strong despite losing a group of partners from the Austin office to Bracewell LLP, including Matt Paulson, Whit Swift, Kevin Collins and Sara Burgin. The practice has particular expertise in climate change law, environmental crimes, workplace safety, and major accident response. In a highlight matter, Greg Dillard, who recently joined the Houston office from Vinson & Elkins LLP, is defending BP Amoco Chemical from citations issued by OSHA and the subsequent trial that resulted from a complaint about the use of relief valves and the potential release of highly hazardous chemicals. The Texas Oil & Gas Association recently retained the firm to assist in challenging CAA regulations regarding emissions from fracking that affect oil and gas exploration and production. The matter is being handled by ‘air quality stars’ Shannon Broome in San Francisco and Charles Knauss in Washington DC. Daniella Landers joined the Houston office from Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP.

Led by New York-based Peter John Sacripanti, McDermott Will & Emery LLP’s practice has a strong track record in representing clients in contentious and non-contentious environmental matters. A team led from New York by James Pardo has represented ExxonMobil in more than 120 mass tort product liability, natural resource damages, and environmental contamination matters cases, and recently won a case brought by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for alleged groundwater contamination. Other matters included representing Irving Oil in lawsuits and environmental investigations arising from the derailment of a train that was carrying allegedly misclassified crude oil from the US to Canada in violation of Canada’s Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. Chicago-based Craig Zimmerman and Todd Wiener are also noted.

Perkins Coie LLP’s environmental practice is spread across the country, with representatives in the firm’s Chicago, Oregon, Los Angeles, Washington DC and Alaska offices. The team represents clients in a wide range of environmental issues, including Superfund matters, major projects and in relation to high-stakes permit challenges in trial courts, appellate courts, administrative tribunals and ADR forums. Among its notable engagements, the team is representing Boeing at more than 25 contaminated sites throughout the country, including the Lower Duwamish Waterway site in Washington state. It also assisted the Tennessee Valley Authority in a London arbitration related to environmental clean-up costs associated with a coal ash spill. Other clients include Usibelli Coal Mine, NRG Energy and Chevron Products. Portland-based Tom Lindley is the key name.

White & Case LLP’s environmental team represents corporations and governments in the full spectrum of environmental matters, including litigation relating to the clean-up of contaminated sites, toxic tort claims, land-use disputes and litigation concerning wetlands, endangered species and hazardous waste. It also handles climate change litigation and the defense of environmental crimes. Recent highlights include reaching a public settlement on behalf of the city of Dania Beach, Florida, after years of litigation arising from the expansion of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The team also acts as outside legal counsel to the Conservation Law Foundation’s environmental enforcement program in litigation against multiple violators of the CWA in New England. Miami-based Douglas Halsey and Neal McAliley are the key names.

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Legal Developments worldwide

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