Background - Practices (Details)

Contaminated Lands & Hazardous Waste

Crowell & Moring's work covers the full range of contamination matters. Our practitioners help position clients to avoid or leverage litigation arising from environmental issues whether those relate to toxic sites or to the transportation of hazardous materials.

Our lawyers have practiced under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) since it was enacted in 1980. We represent clients in matters involving all aspects of that law, and also in state Superfund laws.

We are adept at defending against cost-recovery actions, unilateral administrative orders, judicial enforcement, and claims for natural resource damages, while successfully pursuing pioneering theories of government liability. In addition, our services include designing cost allocations in litigation, alternative dispute resolution, and negotiated settlements.

Our recent engagements include counseling potentially responsible parties at National Priority List (NPL) sites and representing owners and developers on brownfields redevelopment projects in negotiations with EPA, and state and local agencies. We have also represented clients in a broad range of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) enforcement and compliance matters.

We have successfully defended clients against federal and citizen suit claims of "imminent and substantial endangerment," as well as counseled businesses on all aspects of regulation under RCRA and corresponding state laws, together with waste characterization and management, permitting, recycling projects, delisting, and rulemaking.

Crowell & Moring's lawyers also advise shippers, carriers and manufacturers on compliance with the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). This includes matters related to packaging, labeling, employee training, and other prescribed requirements for the shipment of hazardous materials, or "hazmat," by water, rail, air, and ground. Enforcement activity and fines for violations of the HMR have increased over the past few years, and the DOT has imposed additional requirements on hazmat shippers and carriers related to security issues since the events of September 11, 2001.

We help clients monitor relevant regulatory developments, including proposed and final rules, new agency policies or procedures, and significant enforcement actions or trends. We defend or advise on enforcement actions and draft comments in rulemaking proceedings. We also provide awareness or other training, conduct audits to determine compliance deficiencies, recommend and design compliance strategies and procedures, and prepare exemption applications.

Crowell & Moring lawyers also have extensive experience with DOT's regulations governing transportation of natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquids by pipeline. We provide compliance counseling on the detailed operation and maintenance requirements of the pipeline safety rules and defense of enforcement actions, especially those arising out of leaks or spills. 

Representative matters include successful resolution without penalty of an oil pipeline spill in Wyoming that resulted in contamination in environmentally sensitive areas, and the successful defense of an enforcement action resulting from a catastrophic oil pipeline failure in a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

Representative Engagements

  • Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust. We currently advise the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust, created through the bankruptcy of GM to own and remediate 89 former GM properties, on issues relating to management and remediation under RCRA of the Trust’s legacy properties.
  • General Electric Co. v. United States, Case No. 1:10-cv-00404-KMB-RHS (D.N.M.). Pending action brought under CERCLA against the United States for contribution relating to alleged contamination at former major underground uranium mine on Navajo Tribe trust lands owned and managed by the U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs.
  • Sierra Club v. San Juan Coal Co., Case No. 1:10-cv-00332-MCA-LAM (D.N.M.). We currently counsel for San Juan Coal Company regarding a RCRA citizen suit based on allegations of "open dumping" and seeking abatement of an alleged imminent and substantial endangerment caused by the disposal of coal combustion residues as minefill. 
  • Rio Tinto Mine Site remediation. We currently represent Cliffs Natural Resources in consent decree negotiations with EPA and State and Tribal authorities and other potentially responsible parties to resolve liabilities associated with acid mine drainage from mine tailings generated at a former copper mine site.
  • Lockheed Martin. We currently represent Lockheed Martin in defending CERCLA and state law claims asserted by the State of Alaska and EPA arising out of contamination at a number of former military radar facilities in Alaska with PCBs, solvents, and other wastes.
  • Chevron Mining. We currently represent Chevron Mining, a subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, in defending CERCLA claims asserted by the U.S. Department of Interior and the State of New Mexico alleging natural resources damages from an active molybdenum mine.
  • Cambrex Corporation. We currently represent Cambrex Corporation in responding to EPA's demand for a major investigation of the Berry's Creek Study Area Superfund site on all issues arising at that site, including risk assessment, remedy selection, and response cost allocation. 
  • Florida contaminated site remediation. We currently represent Fortune 50 company in Florida administrative challenge to remedial action plan relating to contamination at former manufacturing facility near Sarasota, Florida.
  • United States ex rel. Costner v. URS Consultants, Inc., 317 F.3d 228 (8th Cir. 2003).  Successful defense at trial and appeal of action brought against Superfund remedial contractor and alleging unauthorized releases of hazardous constituents.
  • Sierra Club v. Seaboard Farms, Inc., No. CIV-00-997-C (W.D. Okla.) (consent decree lodged Dec. 20, 2002).  Negotiated favorable settlement terms to resolve citizen suit claims of "imminent and substantial endangerment" for alleged lagoon leakage.
  • United States v. Buena Vista Mines, Inc., Case No. CV98-7226-SVW (C.D. Calif.) (Consent Decree entered November 15, 2002). Defended Buena Vista in CERCLA cost recovery action based on alleged mercury contamination, using counterclaim against the United States government as owner-operator to achieve a favorable settlement capping liability and obtaining a broad release.
  • Stringfellow Hazardous Waste Site. Won defense verdicts in both jury and court trials as lead counsel in one of the largest environmental cases in the country, involving claims under CERCLA and RCRA against generators of hazardous waste sent to the Stringfellow Hazardous Waste Site in Riverside County, California.  
  • City of Lodi, California. Represented the City of Lodi in multiple related litigation cases arising from PCE and TCE groundwater contamination, including coordinating the government agency oversight of the environmental investigation and remediation and litigating the federal court environmental cost recovery action under CERCLA against over 100 potentially responsible parties and obtaining settlements totaling over $35 million.