Environmental Litigation | Practices

Holland & Knight’s Environmental Litigation Team has extensive experience litigating matters in state and federal courts and before administrative law judges. Our lawyers have successfully argued challenges to permits and regulations under the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts; sought injunctive relief under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the common law for damages caused by petroleum releases; obtained damages for environmental claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA); and defended clients in enforcement actions taken by federal and state environmental regulatory agencies and the Department of Justice.

Our firm’s multidisciplinary approach brings together our Environmental Team’s wealth of experience in diverse environmental matters with the hard-won trial know-how of Holland & Knight’s litigators. As a result, our clients benefit from deep industry knowledge as well as wide-ranging experience in trial strategies and tactics.

Defense of Entitlements and Regulatory Litigation

We regularly defend against challenges to permits and other entitlements issued under statutes such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA) the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We are intimately familiar with NEPA, the CWA and the ESA, both in terms of obtaining necessary entitlements and in defending them from challenges. Our lawyers also have successfully challenged agency rulemakings where they exceed the scope of federal authority. 

For example, we have: 

  • defended entitlements for a wide spectrum of activities, including mining operations, housing developments, off-shore drilling activities, oceanfront communities and myriad commercial projects
  • litigated cutting-edge issues, including the adequacy of NEPA documents, consideration of cumulative impacts, adequacy of permit terms and conditions, adequacy of mitigation for impacts, scope of alternatives considered, wetlands avoidance and minimization, water quality impacts and injunctive relief
  • challenged Corps of Engineers’ jurisdictional determinations and permit denials
  • successfully set aside onerous federal rules related to the scope of federal jurisdiction over activities in waters of the United States
  • filed Supreme Court amicus curiae briefs in the landmark cases under the CWA and the ESA

Environmental Crimes

We have assisted companies and individuals through internal investigations and discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice and a variety of investigative agencies pertaining to compliance with environmental laws. Our lawyers have handled both civil and criminal cases in a variety of forums.

For example, we have: 

  • defended homebuilders from allegations of improper management of stormwater on construction sites
  • defended mining companies in a case concerning alleged illegal fill of wetlands and streams
  • defended clients against allegations of unpermitted “take” of endangered species

Superfund and Toxic Torts Litigation

We are intimately familiar with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund). Our dynamic team has counseled lenders, developers, corporations and municipalities about potential liability under the Superfund regulatory programs, including the landowner liability protections (LLPs), successor liability, lender liability, cost allocation, indemnification, contribution protection, natural resource damages and similar issues. For example, we have:

  • represented numerous defendants in national and local MTBE and underground storage tank litigation
  • represented numerous defendants in various federal and state CERCLA cost recovery and indemnity actions seeking contribution for remediation and response costs
  • represented a client in obtaining a seven-figure settlement in a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) lawsuit against the United States for damages resulting from burial of high explosive and chemical weapons during World War I in a neighborhood later developed into luxury housing
  • represented the Spanish government in pursuing billion-dollar environmental damage claims in New York federal court arising from the sinking of the tanker Prestige off the coast of Spain in 2003
  • represented clients in contractual disputes over cleanup responsibilities and costs associated with cleanup, and represented clients in similar types of disputes involving whether a site’s environmental status was misrepresented

Environmental Health and Safety

Our environmental lawyers and professionals — whose prior experience ranges from positions within federal and state governments, the Department of Justice and the EPA to general counsel at Fortune 500 companies — have decades of experience with complex, rapidly changing federal and state environmental regulations. Members of our team have played a role in shaping landmark environmental legislation, including Superfund reauthorization, Water Resources Development Act reauthorization, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

Providing early guidance and advice on all aspects of compliance with environmental policy is part of our strategy for keeping our clients current with evolving regulations. Our attorneys are experienced in providing advice on Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) reporting requirements, Occupational and Safety Health Act (OSHA) regulation of exposure to toxic chemicals, and Toxic Substances Control Act compliance filings.

In the event that an investigation or enforcement action is initiated, we are prepared to mount a vigorous response on your behalf. We are committed to leveraging Holland & Knight’s interdisciplinary resources to defend clients facing enforcement actions as well as those who are under investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Office of Inspector General, other federal or state agencies and the U.S. Department of Justice.

For example, we have:

  • defended clients who have received Notice of Violations under various environmental statutes, including alleged violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
  • defended clients facing criminal prosecution under various environmental laws
  • provided advice and assisted clients in responding to citations received from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • defended a client in an action for alleged violation of state noise standards
  • advised clients under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regarding asbestos
  • represented clients in state courts and in administrative proceedings involving state regulatory enforcement actions, as well as in federal court on EPA enforcement actions

Cross-Industry Practices Get Results

We understand the importance of choosing the right lawyer and the best law firm to handle environmental litigation or controversies that could result in litigation. Our trial lawyers are not only highly experienced in litigation, they also have years of experience partnering with attorneys across diverse focus areas to build the strongest possible trial team. We have the resources to properly staff cases, and the sensitivity to avoid overstaffing. We look for approaches that will be most effective, taking account of economic and non-economic objectives.

With offices across the United States and international offices and relationships that give us a global reach, we are able to mobilize wherever and whenever you need us. Our ultimate goal is twofold: to create opportunities for you to prevail in your dispute, and to provide you with the value that results from having an efficient, seamlessly integrated team for addressing any case or controversy on which we are engaged.

Leading Lawyers on Your Side

Our Environmental Litigation Team is consistently recognized among the leaders in their field by national and international publications. The 2017 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” guide placed Holland & Knight’s Environmental Litigation practice in its first tier nationally.

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