From natural resource and clean technology issues to chemical disclosure requirements, we take on our clients’ most complicated environmental matters and, when we go to court, we win.

California: Environment
Chambers USA 2015 – 2021


Represent a global aerospace and defense company as lead trial counsel in a $600 million class action alleging environmental contamination and toxic tort claims in the Eastern District of New York.

Represent the state’s largest retailers to address ambiguities and contradictions in the state’s hazardous waste regulations, which have proven to be a trap for the unwary. We chair this effort. Retailers have been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for violation of California’s hazardous waste regulations, which were designed for industrial facilities producing toxic wastes. Retailers must now handle products such as vitamins, cosmetics, and shampoo as “hazardous waste” if they are expired or no long usable. Application of these rules to such products was clearly not anticipated when the rules were adopted, and they are ill-fitting.

Represented railroad intermodal facility operator in enforcement action by California Air Resources Board alleging that the company was required to collect and report vehicle identification numbers from all trucks visiting the their facilities. Collecting such information is impractical and would reduce the flow of traffic-causing congestion and additional air pollution. Successfully settled the action with innovative compliance approach that avoids the requirement to collect VIN numbers.

Clorox Company as outside counsel on legacy groundwater contamination matter and related regulatory negotiations and associated response to citizens group’s threatened claims. Also serve as litigation defense counsel on citizens group’s failure to disclose claims against products marketed under Kingsford Products subsidiary.

In California’s largest environmental settlement in 2006, we recovered $148 million in past and future cleanup costs for contamination at the San Francisco International Airport. The settlement with SFIA tenants included an innovative “pay-as-you go” program that allowed the responsible parties to reduce transaction costs and defer payment of cleanup costs until they are actually incurred.

We favorably settled a decade-long case on behalf of Kerr-McGee against the U.S. Government claiming that an order requiring Kerr-McGee to clean up an abandoned uranium mine was invalid and that the U.S. was liable for a share of the costs of cleanup. After a decade, the case settled with a remedy that cost a total of less than one quarter of the original amount and with a significant contribution to that reduced expenditure from the United States and other parties.

We represented the Santa Clara Valley Water District in a CERCLA action concerning mercury contamination in the Guadalupe River Watershed and South San Francisco Bay. Through extensive engagement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, we were able achieve to an expeditious resolution of claims by negotiating an agreement allowing our client and other PRPs to implement local restoration and enhancement projects in lieu of paying either compensatory damages or federal or state oversight costs or legal fees.

On behalf of our clients, we won summary judgment in a Proposition 65 suit filed against SmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and 15 other manufacturers, marketers, and retailers of Nicoderm CQ, Nicorette, and Nicotrol, smoking cessation products used to help people quit smoking. The lawsuit alleged that the pregnancy warning language on the products did not satisfy Proposition 65’s requirements. The California Lawyer General intervened on behalf of the plaintiff, but the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of our clients. The Supreme Court’s decision was the first favoring a defendant’s position in Proposition 65 action, the first holding that Proposition 65 could be and was preempted by federal law, and the first ruling that the state could not defeat preemption by requiring off-label advertising.

Representing two companies in one of the largest groundwater contamination cases of its kind (TCE, PCE, DNAPL, and perchlorate), involving a precedent-setting issue of whether a water district has the ability to create its own mini-Superfund. Obtained summary judgment for both companies.

In one of the state’s largest RCRA cases set for trial in 2012, obtained cleanup and injunctive relief for solvent (toluene and methane) contamination on behalf of Newark Industries caused by a prior facility operator, and recovery of more than $1.1 million in attorney fees and costs.

In addition to our work for American Pacific in its space flight and fine chemicals activities, we advise the company regarding the development and sale of water treatment chemicals and systems for on-shore and off-shore petroleum production facilities, as well as in water-related issues associated with production of specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals. American Pacific is a manufacturer of active pharmaceutical ingredients and registered intermediates, energetic products used primarily in space flight and defense systems, clean fire-extinguishing agents, and water treatment equipment and chemicals.

We represented the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District in its efforts to control the largest source of particulate air emissions in the country, the Owens Dry Lake bed, enacting new provisions of the State Implementation Plan under the federal Clean Air Act that will involve replacing water in the lake bed and, as a consequence, restoring a portion of the lost ecosystem.

We conducted environmental due diligence in connection with Sumitomo’s acquisition of German injection moulder Demag Plastics Group from MPM Holdings, including drafting indemnity provisions in connection with Demag’s existing and historical operations.

We currently are representing Union Pacific Railroad Company in an effort to mediate the settlement of a case pending on appeal where the trial court granted our client's claims to invalidate air pollution rules. We also are advising Union Pacific on additional environmental matters, including health risk assessments to predict the incidence of cancer and other diseases in neighborhoods surrounding major railyards throughout CA, greenhouse gas inventory, and emissions reduction strategy.

Represent 15 Silicon Valley municipalities on National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater permitting issues resulting from the federal Clean Water Act and California Water Code. Also represent these municipalities in total maximum daily load (TMDL) and other water-quality-related proceedings and on unfunded mandate claims. Representation of the City of Sunnyvale, California also extends to permitting and enforcement issues related to its publicly owned wastewater treatment plant (POTW).

We advised Genentech in replanning its headquarters campus, assisting in land acquisition and securing all authorizations to double (more than 6 million square feet) the company’s headquarters campus in South San Francisco through approval of a new master plan, environmental impact report, and expansion of the Genentech R&D District. This project involved replacing existing buildings and providing for infrastructure improvements and financing to serve the new buildings. We also represented this client in the siting of its $750 million, three-phase biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility on 50 acres in the City of Vacaville, assisting in processing the necessary land use and environmental approvals, managing the environmental review under CEQA, and negotiating a development agreement with the City of Vacaville and the Redevelopment Agency.

We have served as counsel to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority since its establishment. We advised the Authority on compliance with all state and federal laws relating to the establishment of the operation of the Authority, such as the Brown Act and the Political Reform Act, as well as California public contracting laws and public employment laws. We handled the transfer of the airport, and its assets, personnel, and operations from the Port of San Diego to the Authority. We drafted new codes and policies to guide the new Authority’s activities, including its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program and related concession plan for SAN. In addition, we successfully resolved claims the Authority had inherited under construction contracts for the Quieter Homes Program. We continue to assist the Authority on a wide variety of matters, including its first Airport Master Plan and the Environmental Impact Report on that Plan, both adopted in May 2008, and the construction of Terminal 2 West, as well as litigation with the exclusive FBO operator.

Advise FirstSolar, a major developer of utility-scale photovoltaic solar facilities, on environmental, land use, natural resource, and real estate aspects of complex solar permitting, transmission, and facility development, including compliance with NEPA and the CEQA, the federal and California Endangered Species Acts, the Williamson Act, and local zoning and related laws and regulations.

Obtained final approval from Foster City in connection with Gilead’s proposal to double the size of its headquarters/R&D campus. The city approvals included a new corporate campus master plan for the 40-acre campus, environmental impact report, rezoning for greater density and less parking, and a 20-year development agreement to protect Gilead’s rights under those approvals. Contemporaneously, Foster City agreed to transfer to Gilead roadways and water and wastewater facilities that run through the property, allowing Gilead to create a compact and unified campus. During this process, we also represented Gilead in its acquisition of Electronics For Imaging’s 30-acre corporate campus, which borders Gilead’s campus, including the transfer of EFI’s development entitlements for possible future Gilead expansion.

Advise Union Pacific Railroad on land use and other environmental permitting matters for $400 million rail facility in Los Angeles. Because of the opposition of some community groups, the project is undergoing a detailed environmental review.