Background - Practices (Details)

Environmental and Safety Compliance and Investigations


Investigations involving environmental and safety issues can take many forms: civil investigations by state or federal regulators, internal investigations triggered by whistleblowers, compliance audit results, or a threatened private party citizen suit, criminal investigations by government enforcement authorities, and a combination of all three in response to an industrial facility incident. Environmental and safety compliance requires constant diligence and a robust compliance program and culture; the handling of an investigation must have similar rigor. While most day-to-day compliance can be handled effectively by trained environmental, health, and safety personnel, an investigation requires the additional layer of experienced legal counsel to navigate the complex elements of conducting a thorough investigation, communicating with government enforcement (including timing and substance of disclosures), and developing appropriate corrective actions.

Crowell & Moring’s Environment and Natural Resources Group, ranked by Chambers USA both nationally and in Washington, D.C. as a top environmental practice, has deep experience with the myriad investigation scenarios that spring both from day-to-day business and from industrial facility incidents. Our team includes former civil and criminal government officials who know how to most effectively engage with government enforcement, along with practitioners with decades of experience in representing the private sector in investigations triggered not just by government but also private citizen activists and internal whistleblowers. Our work also includes crafting strategies with clients to prepare for investigations, enforcement, and incident response, as having a thorough and proactive plan can be a helpful and productive element in demonstrating a strong compliance culture to government investigators. Our team incorporates all of these elements in assisting clients navigate challenging and complex investigation and enforcement matters.

Safety Investigations – MSHA

  • Fatality Investigations. We regularly counsel our mining clients through the emotionally draining process of MSHA fatality investigations, which frequently also require coordinating responses to related state and local law enforcement investigations, and coordinating with tort counsel in anticipation of civil suits.
  • Retaliation Investigations (Mine Act 105(c)). When our mining clients are accused of taking adverse employment actions against employees for exercising their rights under the Mine Act, we lead our clients through the MSHA investigation, interview, and document-production process, and defend them in civil litigation if the charge is prosecuted by either MSHA or the individual.
  • Individual Supervisor Investigations (Mine Act 110(c)). A charge of individual culpability for violations of federal mine safety and health laws can take an personal toll on the individual charged; we counsel our clients through the MSHA investigation to safeguard their interests and minimize their legal exposure to both civil and criminal liability.