Environmental & Land Use
Since the inception of our environmental practice in 1970, Pierce Atwood's environmental attorneys have worked with businesses, individuals, and government regulators to shape, understand, and navigate the developing regulatory landscape. Our Environmental Practice Group attorneys are adept at strategic thinking to formulate solutions that reduce costs while ensuring legal compliance and environmental protection. As members of project teams, our environmental attorneys offer an intimate knowledge of state and federal environmental processes, including access to key government personnel at all levels, based on relationships developed over several decades.
Our Environmental Practice Group attorneys focus on individual areas of environmental law such as air, water, wetlands, solid waste, hazardous waste, contaminated property, and development permitting. As a result, we offer exceptional breadth and depth of practice, allowing us to match specific experience with clients' particular needs. Our Environmental attorneys also work closely with members of our Admiralty & Maritime, Energy, Government Relations and Real Estate practice groups, as well as our Business and Tax groups to identify financial incentives to reduce compliance costs.
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Areas of Expertise
Permitting - Federal, State, and Local
Air Emissions & Wastewater
Land Use Developments
We are experienced in the permitting of projects under state and federal air, water, natural resource, wetland, land use, and hazardous waste statutes. Many members of our Environmental Practice Group also are members of our interdisciplinary Land Use Team. These attorneys regularly work with clients to obtain all the municipal permits required for a project, including zoning, subdivision, site plan, wetland, and shoreland approvals.
We work with clients, whether utilities, private businesses, or developers, to bring their energy projects to life. When a project is still in the conceptual stage, our environmental attorneys partner with members of our Business, Energy, and Tax groups to help clients finance their energy projects. Successful completion of a project often requires understanding both the environmental laws and regulations and the political influences that affect how a project proceeds through the permitting process. In some cases, we work with clients to amend the law or local ordinances so their projects may proceed.
For projects previously developed and already operational, we assist clients with permit compliance and license renewals and modifications. For example, we have experience helping owners of hydropower projects address fish passage and endangered species issues, achieve desired results in complex stakeholder negotiations as part of FERC licensing, and obtain state water quality certifications. When a project's useful life comes to an end, we also assist with license surrender and decommissioning.
Project Planning & Strategic Advice
- We counsel clients beginning with initial identification of the issues and formulation of a permitting team and strategy, through agency negotiations and public administrative hearings and, if necessary, in administrative and judicial appeals.
Chemical Safety & Product Regulation
Pierce Atwood’s environmental attorneys have addressed chemical safety issues beginning in 1970’s with the passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act and pesticide laws, and advised clients as OSHA and the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission began regulating to protect workers and consumers, now reaching “Green Advertising.”
There has been a proliferation of state laws that affect companies doing business in multip0le states, including California’s Proposition 65. State regulation has exploded and Maine and other states have contributed their own chemical bans, product stewardship and “take-back” laws, recycling requirements, toxics in products regulation, and packaging requirements. Our chemical product regulation and litigation practices assist clients in addressing these requirements and, in appropriate cases, defending marketing and sales of products or challenging government regulatory actions.
More information on our Chemical Safety & Product Regulation Experience
Environmental Management & Audits
We assist clients in developing and implementing management systems to ensure that personnel are knowledgeable about environmental matters, seek continually to achieve compliance, and will respond properly in the event of any noncompliance.
We have developed a program of environmental audits for clients who desire a legal review of their operations and practices to determine compliance with federal and state laws. This program includes procedures, checklists, information requests, and letters that are designed to allow us to efficiently review legal compliance and make recommendations.
If a regulatory agency initiates an enforcement action, we help clients obtain an efficient and effective resolution.
Everyday commercial and residential activity generates waste. The management of this waste is highly regulated and often scrutinized by the public and third party groups. We routinely assist clients who manage waste, whether solid or hazardous, with facility permitting, compliance, and, when necessary, defense of their permits.
Contaminated or potentially contaminated properties present risks and opportunities. We work with both buyers and sellers to identify and minimize the former and maximize the latter. We have experience providing a range of services associated with contaminated property and brownfields redevelopment, including:
- Analyzing and resolving liabilities among multiple parties
- Conducting due diligence and all appropriate inquiry assessments
- Drafting and negotiating environmental covenants
- Managing consultants and cleanup
- Recovering investigation and remedial expenses
- Defending and resolving government claims for liability and windfall liens
Also, in Maine we have guided many clients through the VRAP program and successfully secured liability protections under State law.
Finally, not all real estate and business deals involve contaminated property. We regularly work with buyers and sellers to perform environmental due diligence and to coordinate the transfer of existing permits with federal and state regulatory agencies.
Litigation & Appeals
Projects requiring environmental permits are closely scrutinized by regulators and often by other interested parties. We represent our clients in all types of administrative and judicial appeals to both challenge and defend agency decisions. While the goal is always to achieve the desired result without litigation, our lawyers have the expertise and experience to advise clients during the agency process on ways to improve the odds of success on appeal, such as by building an adequate record during the permitting process and preserving legal arguments that pay dividends later in court.
Superfund & Environmental Cleanup
We advise private parties on Superfund liabilities (and how to avoid them, where possible), and have done so since Superfund was enacted in 1980. Over this period we have addressed, and continue to address, Superfund sites of all sizes on behalf of clients whose potential liability range from being one Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) at a multi-million dollar site to de minimis parties. In addition to counseling clients on strategies for limiting their liabilities, when necessary, we have actively litigated Superfund matters in New England and elsewhere.
Governmental Relations & Agency Rulemaking
Environmental policy decisions directly affect our clients. Our attorneys understand the intricacies of both existing environmental laws and the legislative process. Whether seeking to advance a client's own bills or respond to bills proposed by others, we develop an overall strategy to achieve favorable legislative results. This may involve counseling a client through the legislative process, actively working with legislators and legislative committees, and forming coalitions. We also represent clients in rulemakings conducted at the national and state levels, including under the Superfund Law, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Federal Power Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and state air, natural resource, water, solid waste, land use, and superfund laws.