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Whether we are in the courtroom, before agencies or in settlement negotiations, Bracewell is able to combine the experience and talents of our nationally recognized environmental regulatory practitioners with our seasoned trial lawyers. The successful handling of complex environmental litigation matters requires lawyers that are not only intimately familiar with the details of the regulations and regulatory process but who also know their way around the courthouse and can effectively communicate to judges and juries the nuances and boundaries of often arcane requirements. Bracewell’s environmental litigation practice emphasizes both skill sets. Our lawyers have decades of experience handling high-stakes environmental matters of all types for our energy, industry and other regulated clients, consistently delivering excellence in advocacy that is crucial to our clients. Adding a thorough understanding of how our clients’ businesses and technologies work, as well as how they are regulated, we are able foresee how a particular case will likely unfold and what arguments are likely to resonate with judges, juries and enforcement officials.
Fundamentally, the aim of our environmental litigation practitioners is to position clients, by providing cogent and practical advice, in such a way as to avoid litigation arising from environmental issues. But when litigation appears possible, likely or imminent, we can rapidly assemble a team that will vigorously represent our clients’ interests. When warranted, our environmental litigation teams can rapidly expand to include Bracewell’s government relations and media specialists, who likewise have unrivaled hands-on expertise in environmental policy matters, with long-standing relationships with relevant legislative bodies, government agencies, and non-governmental environmental organizations.
Civil Proceedings: Our environmental litigation teams are routinely involved in complex, multi-party civil litigation involving contamination claims, infrastructure development, indemnity disputes, citizen suits and Superfund cost-contribution claims. By way of example:
- Our trial and environmental lawyers are teamed together to serve as national coordinating counsel for a multinational oilfield services company, regarding various aspects of litigation associated with hydraulic fracturing. Our casework spans federal and state trial and appellate courts across multiple jurisdictions.
- Bracewell teams have represented refining companies in contamination and natural resource damage cases brought by states. These actions, brought by the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont and New Mexico, have alleged damages in the billions of dollars. The claims also include everything from negligence for releases to products liability and failure to warn relating to the specific formulations used by industry.
- Represented one of the nation’s largest real estate development and management companies in opposition to the expansion of a natural gas pipeline through the client's master planned community in Las Vegas, Nevada. The representation included intervention in a related FERC proceeding and the filing of a breach of contract claim in the U.S. District Court of Nevada.
If disputes with federal or state government agencies cannot be resolved, our trial teams litigate with an eye towards appellate and collateral issues. Our recent work includes defense of an unprecedented county-prosecuted enforcement action asserting billions of dollars in liability. The lawsuit was filed by Harris County, Texas, on a novel theory related to previously legal activity engaged in by a separate, later acquired company that allegedly caused historical contamination of the San Jacinto River near Houston. The county also used private counsel on a contingency-fee basis for prosecution of the suit.
Administrative Proceedings: Bracewell’s environmental litigation teams handle disputes before the key federal and Texas state agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, the Department of Energy, Department of Commerce and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. By starting with a deep understanding of the political and organizational dynamics within these agencies, we are able to formulate and advocate nuanced positions to achieve our client’s business objectives. By way of example:
- Our environmental litigation team represents an offshore contractor in a case of first impression related to the authority of the Department of the Interior to issue penalties against contractors. The decision could have significant implications for how offshore industry contracts are structured and priced.
- We have also represented numerous Fortune 100 and 500 companies (including real estate developers and power generation, energy and mining companies) in contested case hearings before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), the administrative body that handles contested case proceedings in the State of Texas.
Enforcement Defense: Bracewell’s white collar, trial and environmental attorneys defend companies and executives nationwide against criminal and civil allegations involving issues such as violations of the Clean Air Act, hazardous materials spills and exposures and associated fraud and conspiracy issues. We represent these clients before the Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, state enforcement agencies, local district attorneys’ offices, and before local, national and international media. When required, we conduct internal investigations worldwide for companies before regulatory inquiries start in order to proactively contain and resolve issues. By way of example:
- Bracewell’s team represented Halliburton in federal criminal and administrative investigations arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, perhaps the most noteworthy piece of environmental litigation in the last decade. Our work included high-level strategic counseling, high-stakes negotiations with federal agencies (including the White House-appointed Deepwater Horizon Task Force, Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and U.S. Chemical Safety Board) and leading-edge case management (including preparation of dozens of witnesses, hundreds of thousands of documents and complex and technical factual development). In August, 2013, Bracewell resolved the Task Force’s criminal investigation of Halliburton in what was widely viewed as a resounding success.