Environmental Assessment, Mitigation and Regulatory Compliance
Environmental degradation isn’t just bad for people, plants and animals; it’s bad for property owners and stakeholders—negatively affecting resale value, imposing significant compliance and remediation costs, and creating the risk of civil and criminal liability. To avoid or mitigate the legal, regulatory and economic impact of air and water pollution, habitat modification and overexploitation on your business or investment, it is essential to have an environmental assessment, mitigation and compliance lawyer in your corner who has extensive experience in compliance and strong relationships with regulators.
Our environmental attorneys have a long history representing owners/developers and funding sources in the development, acquisition, sale, leasing and ongoing management of both raw and undeveloped land and developed commercial, industrial and residential sites and subdivisions.
Manatt lawyers conduct environmental due diligence and compliance audits in connection with any type of transaction in which there is a real estate component, including property acquisitions and divestitures, refinancings, corporate mergers, facility closures, and bankruptcy and foreclosure proceedings.
In conducting due diligence, our aim is to identify and quantify all actual and potential environmental liabilities, as well as associated cleanup, closure and disposal costs. For a corporate merger, we would start by obtaining:
- Lists of all environmental permits under which all facilities owned or leased by the target operate
- All reports regarding environmental testing or other environmental matters affecting the target’s operations or properties
- Any written estimates prepared by the target concerning future environment-related expenditures
- Any notices or demands from environmental authorities
- All environmental compliance records
- Locations of any on-site hazardous waste disposal sites or underground tanks and lines, and any history of leaks or spills.
Other services include drafting provisions in transaction documents allocating remediation responsibilities among the parties, reviewing environmental site assessments to ensure that they do not exceed CERCLA thresholds, negotiating environmental insurance policies and assisting clients in complying with any environmental laws triggered by the transaction.
For transactions involving distressed, contaminated or abandoned buildings or sites, including brownfields, our lawyers evaluate the nature and extent of the contamination; estimate the cost of remediation and the potential return on an investment in cleanup; and develop a response that is environmentally sound, compliant and cost-effective.
Development and Permitting
Developers, engineers, architects and builders turn to Manatt’s environmental team to address the concerns of permitting authorities regarding issues of water pollution, wetlands mitigation, hazardous waste handling, stormwater runoff and the preservation of agricultural land and open space. We have appeared before zoning boards, select boards, regional environmental commissions and state environmental courts, and assisted in the preparation of environmental filings and responses to public and agency comments in transactions ranging from the ground lease and construction of a fast-food franchise to a massive regional energy project involving multiple states and agencies.
Our California lawyers have significant experience with CEQA and NEPA compliance, including filing environmental impact statements and reports and responding to environmental assessments and negative declarations, shepherding clients through the Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting process and, where a development would alter a streambed, affect a wetland area or encroach upon a wildlife habitat, coordinating the filing of permit applications with the Regional Water Quality Control Board and, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state and federal fish and game agencies.
Compliance and Litigation
For clients retaining a post-transaction or post-development interest in property, Manatt lawyers monitor the regulatory landscape and advise regarding draft and final regulations; assist in obtaining permits, variances and exemptions for new or existing facilities or processes; and advise on day-to-day compliance matters. In California, our attorneys regularly appear at state, county and municipal regulatory and administrative hearings, including before the California Coastal Commission, the California State Lands Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
For clients who find themselves in the regulatory crosshairs or are unable to resolve a private-party dispute, Manatt offers consultation and aggressive defense and advocacy services, including with respect to claims by private parties for damages to natural resources and recovery of cleanup/remediation costs, hazardous waste litigation under the CERCLA and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Act, natural resource damages (NRD) claims under CERCLA and the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), Clean Water Act citizen suits, Proposition 65 actions, and toxic tort and inverse condemnation actions.