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Helmsing Leach attorneys draw upon years of experience in helping clients navigate the maze of environmental law and regulation at the local, state, and federal levels. We handle administrative and legal issues related to land, air, and water. Not only are we well-versed in regulatory compliance to avoid litigation and damages from such matters, but our environmental lawyers are experienced litigators who can handle any case should it arise from an environmental issue.

What is Environmental Law?

Environmental law encompasses a wide range of legal issues related to protecting the environment and natural resources. It covers regulations and statutes that aim to prevent pollution, preserve ecosystems, and promote sustainable practices.

Best Environmental Lawyers in Alabama

Through its attorneys, the firm has served as general counsel to Partners for Environmental Progress, Inc., a non-profit corporation consisting of hundreds of local and regional business and non-profit organizations with a common purpose of promoting economic prosperity and environmental sustainability in the Gulf Coast region.

Our environmental legal services in this field fall into three categories:

Regulatory Compliance

Helmsing Leach attorneys counsel clients regarding state and federal regulatory compliance involving land, air, and water. We have assisted clients in obtaining and complying with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits under the Clean Water Act, Title V permits under the Clean Air Act, §404 permits for dredging or filling of wetlands, and state permits for the storage and transportation of hazardous waste. Firm attorneys have represented clients charged with violations of the permit programs for air, water, and land and assisted in defending and negotiating notices of violation, orders of non-compliance, and penalty assessments.

Environmental Litigation

Our environmental law attorneys have represented clients in administrative agency proceedings as well as in state and federal courts involving issues of environmental law. Clients have included owners and operators of contaminated “Superfund” sites in Mississippi and Louisiana, and we have successfully litigated the issue of insurance coverage for various claims of environmental liability arising out of these sites. We have successfully defended claims of personal injury allegedly caused by exposure to toxic chemicals as well as claims of contamination to the environment. We have obtained compensation for landowners whose land has been contaminated by the migration of chemicals from adjacent properties or other sources.

Real Estate Transactions

The purchase and sale of potentially contaminated land is fraught with risks of future environmental liability to both the seller and buyer. Such transactions require a working knowledge of such liabilities and skill in the negotiation of the necessary disclaimers and/or indemnities in the instruments used in the conveyance or lease of real estate. Without such legal expertise, the buyer or seller may face enormous liabilities that could have been avoided, minimized or allocated to others.

Our environmental law practice has experience negotiating and drafting the appropriate documents for such real estate transactions. They can also assist respective purchasers, investors, and lenders in assessing the environmental risks discussed in the property’s Phase I and/or Phase II environmental assessments.

Get in Touch with an Experienced Environmental Litigation Lawyer

Environmental regulation is complex and always evolving. We represent our clients in this unique field to ensure the costs and risks associated with this area of the law are mitigated. With a proven track record of successful outcomes and satisfied clients, our attorneys have the technical skills and experience to handle all aspects of environmental law.

Ready to discuss your environmental law defense needs?

Question & Answer

“Hazardous waste” is one of many labels used to describe the targets of governmental regulation. The term overlaps with other labels such as “hazardous substances,” “hazardous materials,” “toxic substances,” “regulated substances,” and “hazardous air pollutants.” The chief targets of land regulation are “hazardous wastes” under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The RCRA is the complex regulation of hazardous wastes from their generation to their eventual disposal.

“Hazardous substances” fall under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), which relates to liabilities arising from the “release” of such “hazardous substances” into the environment. These are federal regulatory programs that have their state counterparts.

To determine whether a material is a “hazardous waste” subject to RCRA regulation, it must first be a “solid waste” and then also be “hazardous.” A “solid waste” is “any discarded material” not otherwise excluded by regulation. A “Discarded Material” is any material that is “abandoned,” “recycled” (only secondary materials), or “inherently waste-like” (certain dioxin-containing materials).

What is discarded material?

Materials are “abandoned” by being 1) disposed of; 2) burned or incinerated (with exceptions for industrial furnaces for energy recovery) or accumulated, stored, or treated (but not recycled) before or in lieu of being abandoned by being disposed of, burned, or incinerated.

“Recycled” is further defined as a material that is “used, reused or reclaimed” in certain ways, including by “speculative accumulation.” Waste can become potentially hazardous simply by storing potentially recyclable material too long before recycling it.

Solid waste is a “hazardous waste” if it is contained on certain “listings” of hazardous wastes or if it has one of four “characteristics”: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity.

Mixing a “listed” hazardous waste with non-hazardous water makes the entire mix hazardous. Mixing a “characteristic” waste with a non-hazardous waste is hazardous if the mixture retains the “characteristic.” “Dilution” of a hazardous characteristic is a prohibited treatment of hazardous waste and is subject to penalty.

The bottom line is that generating, transporting, or disposing of “hazardous waste” is an exceedingly complex and technical issue. Failure to have a permit to do any of these things can entail significant penalties.

Environmental law violations can result in significant fines, penalties, cleanup costs, and legal liabilities. Our environmental litigation lawyers can help clients understand the potential consequences of violations and work to minimize their impact through proactive compliance efforts and strategic legal representation.

  • Those considering buying land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes that could potentially have released hazardous waste, petroleum products, or other waste material (e.g., scrap tires). An environmental lawyer can advise of the liability risks and what steps can be taken to minimize or shift those risks for any clean-up of the site, future injury, or other property damage from potential contamination.
  • Those considering the sale of potentially contaminated land. An environmental lawyer can advise on future liability risks to a former owner and ways to avoid or minimize those risks.
  • Those transporting, storing, or disposing of hazardous wastes, discharging pollutants into navigable waters or into the air, or dredging or filling wetlands. An environmental lawyer can advise you of the regulatory requirements for those activities and assist in negotiating with governmental agencies over the consequences of any violations of the regulations.

The above is a summary of some of the more common areas in which environmental law attorneys can help. Environmental law and regulation are extremely complex and far-reaching in their scope and impact on numerous commercial and industrial activities. When in doubt, contact Helmsing Leach’s environmental experts.