Overview

Our environmental practice offers broad state, regional and national experience to large corporations, small businesses, real estate development interests and local governments.  We provide a full range of legal services in the environmental area, including representation in regulatory affairs, permitting, compliance with federal and state law (and related enforcement actions), commercial and corporate transactions, legislative initiatives and litigation. 

Our attorneys have long-term working relationships with both federal and state regulatory and enforcement officials and have participated in the development of many aspects of various environmental regulatory programs.  Our deep experience enables us to provide invaluable insight to clients and develop innovative solutions to complex environmental problems.

National Recognition

Our environmental team’s work has earned it a long-standing recognition as a “Leading Law Firm” in Ohio for “Natural Resources & Environment” in the Chambers USA guide.  A number of Vorys attorneys are also recognized as “leading practitioners” in this area.

In the 2022 edition, Chambers and Partners notes Vorys has a “reputation for its counsel on regulatory matters, permitting and compliance with federal and state law, and possesses significant litigation experience…,” and also indicates it is “well regarded for its counsel on the environmental issues involved in corporate transactions.”

Additionally, Vorys has earned recognition for years at both the national level and in Ohio for “Environmental Law” in U.S. News – Best Lawyers®Best Law Firms.”

Regulatory

We assist clients in addressing the full range of Ohio and federal permitting procedures and compliance requirements.  We counsel clients on air, water and solid/hazardous waste compliance and permitting strategies.  We negotiate advantageous permit conditions, and appeal disputed permit conditions and requirements.  In such engagements, our attorneys work closely with in-house counsel, plant personnel and engineering consultants to understand our clients’ business needs and to develop cost-effective compliance strategies.  Our experience in this area includes the processing of air new source and operating permits, Title V permits, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, pretreatment permits, solid waste and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and other environmental permits for new and existing industrial, commercial and publicly owned facilities.

Our lawyers are highly involved in the development of environmental laws and regulations at the local, state and national levels.  We regularly participate in agency advisory groups to shape Ohio regulations and appear before the Ohio General Assembly, Congress and various government agencies to advise and comment on pending laws and rules.  Our attorneys also represent our clients in administrative and judicial proceedings involving regulatory interpretation.

Our engagements in this area include the following matters:

  • Representing clients, including foundries, in Title V and PTI appeals and enforcement actions before the Environmental Review and Appeals Commission (ERAC) and appeals from ERAC decisions
  • Representing a client seeking to obtain environmental permits for the construction and operation of a synthetic fuel plant
  • Representing a school district concerning environmental contamination related to a partial school collapse
  • Key involvement in the adoption of several Ohio water quality related statutes, including the Antidegradation Statute, Permit limits Below Quantification Level Procedure Statute and the Sewer Line Review Statute
  • Actively participating in numerous major EPA water quality rule revisions, including representing a large coalition of dischargers in the Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative

Key Areas of Focus

Audits and Compliance

Our clients often draw on the experience and training of our environmental attorneys for assistance in the inspection of operating facilities, the confidential identification of regulatory compliance issues and concerns at facilities across the country, and in obtaining audit privilege protections.  With our environmental enforcement experience, our attorneys provide valuable insight that helps our clients to avoid violations and prepare for government inspections.  We have experience in planning for United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and state multi-media inspections.  We also work with companies to develop environmental compliance plans and obtain ISO certifications.

Air and Water

Vorys has a long history of involvement in the development and implementation of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act at both federal and state levels.  In tackling these problems, we emphasize strategic planning with our clients in order to minimize their regulatory obligations and enforcement risk.  We represent a wide variety of companies, governments and individuals regulated under the key air and water laws and their complex maze of regulations and guidance.

Solid/Hazardous Waste and Toxic Substances

We regularly assist clients with the preparation of applications to obtain permits for new or modified solid waste landfills and transfer stations, composting facilities, and construction and demolition debris landfills and have defended appeals opposing such permits.  We also help negotiate and enforce host-community agreements and have negotiated with citizen groups on behalf of our landfill clients.  Our attorneys also regularly advise hazardous waste generators on waste classification issues and disposal options, and we regularly assist our clients with RCRA closure and corrective action obligations.  We also assist operators of solid waste facilities with interpretation of applicable siting and operation regulations.

Additionally, Vorys counsels companies involved in manufacturing, processing, importing and exporting chemicals regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Our practice ranges from the preparation and filing (or exemption) of PMNs to defending enforcement actions.  Often, our TSCA practice is interwoven with our work on patent issues and commercial transactions for chemical manufacturers and laboratories.

Climate Change and Renewable Energy

We are privileged to work for clients at the forefront of the renewable energy industry.  Our environmental attorneys regularly work with our cross-disciplinary renewable energy team, which has extensive experience assisting with projects on the cutting edge of alternative energy production, such as solar farms, wind farms, waste energy (including scrap tires and bio-mass), ethanol plants, fuel cells, landfill and industrial gas, industrial co-generation and coke oven gas.

For more information on our renewable energy practice, click here.


Transactions and Real Estate

Our attorneys have considerable experience in drafting, interpreting and litigating contractual provisions concerning indemnities and assumptions of environmental liabilities.  That experience is of great practical benefit to our clients who are involved in acquisitions, divestitures and real estate contract negotiations.

Our engagements in this area have included the following matters:

  • Representing a Fortune 500 company in the divestiture of 18 plants in the United States and abroad
  • Representing a client in a corporate restructuring of multiple Ohio solid waste facilities, including the transfer and/or assignment of all permits, leases, real estate and business contracts
  • Representing a client in the purchase of a RCRA permitted facility that had corrective action obligations and active citizen group attention
  • Representing a client in the development of a biomass fueled power plant – permitting, zoning, transmission, agreements, lobbying and more

Vorys also regularly manages due diligence investigations in connection with commercial transactions, corporate acquisitions and real estate transactions.  Additionally, we often represent lenders in real estate transactions and assist them in evaluating potential environmental liabilities and risks. 

Key Areas of Focus

Real Estate

We represent a number of industrial, commercial and residential real estate developers in connection with many federal, state and local environmental law issues.  For example, our attorneys often counsel clients in the real estate industry on wetland and stream protection, the Endangered Species Act, historic resource protection, and storm water permitting and compliance.  We also regularly work with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA to obtain permits that allow projects to proceed on schedule.

Many areas are seeing increased local efforts to regulate and, in some instances, drastically curtail land development.  In such areas, our attorneys are involved in actively evaluating and, if necessary, challenging improper zoning, land use planning and other governmental restrictions on development.

For more information on our real estate practice, please see here.

Brownfield Redevelopment

Vorys represents the entire spectrum of parties in brownfield redevelopment projects - redevelopers, sellers, buyers, lenders, end users, local governments, contractors and neighboring owners.  We combine our environmental, real estate, finance, government incentives and construction law experience to provide a full range of services.  The key to our approach is to anticipate complex problems that brownfield projects often encounter and then identify solutions - rather than merely finding problems as they occur and citing regulations which pose barriers to redevelopment.  We regularly work with other law firms, developers, end user corporations and financial institutions from around the world on complex, multi-party brownfield transactions.

We work on brownfield projects across the nation, with state and USEPA programs applicable in those states and with USEPA regions.  Our brownfield experience dates back to before the advent of major national and state funding programs and so-called "voluntary" programs.  Our practice continues today with active involvement in national and state legislation impacting brownfield reuse.  We have served as lead counsel for all redevelopment aspects, including site selection, the selection of consultants and contractors, oversight of environmental investigations and remediation, coordination with owner and architect/design teams, securing local and state tax incentives and/or special grants, acquisition and subdivision/sale/leasing of the project sites, coordinating financing structure and term negotiation, and interaction with local governments, neighbors and stakeholders.

Our projects include conversion of many different types of former factories, landfills, warehouses, gasoline stations, docks and other industrial sites into such varied uses as office, retail, flex space, residential, park and industrial.  Our sites have ranged from massive nine-figure multi-use sites to tiny city lots.


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