Environmental

Environmental

For more than 40 years, Doerner has helped manufacturers, energy companies, municipalities and public trusts, railroads and landowners manage environmental compliance requirements and risks. Clients rely on us to handle any water, wastewater, water quality, hazardous waste, Superfund and other enforcement, permitting or remediation issue in Oklahoma, as well as regional matters involving Arkansas, Kansas and Texas.

Our key strength as environmental lawyers is that we not only handle regulatory guidance and permitting , but also handle related litigation cases before federal and state agencies and in the courts.  Doerner has practiced environmental law since the field began in the 1970s, and because our lawyers have been part of the process as federal and state statutes and rules evolved, we are strong advocates for our clients – and insightful advisers about whether and how best to negotiate or fight. 

Our experience with complex water rights and water quality compliance issues is critically important. We advise groundwater owners concerning Oklahoma Water Resources Board  rules on groundwater, and help municipalities and public trusts in connection with water issues. Doerner’s vast public trust experience gives us unsurpassed insight into regional concerns over water treatment and replacement.

We also understand that litigation is not always the most practical strategy. Our hidden strength is that we deconstruct and then solve problems, not just point them out. We know that our clients see environmental compliance as a cost; but having been involved in the evolution of environmental law, Doerner lawyers understand the goals and processes of the regulators and add value by developing proactive solutions that minimize compliance expense.

By conducting a cost-benefit analysis we can often identify a low-cost engineering or procedural solution that resolves an environmental problem better than what regulators propose, or what litigating can accomplish. Two of our environmental attorneys are former environmental regulators, and one was on the Oklahoma Mining Commission.  This gives us a depth of insight into regulatory matters not found in most law firms. This is especially important to help clients manage legacy environmental problems involving Superfund sites or other contamination issues. Developing the most practical and expedient solution is our top concern and our strategic advantage.

Recent Doerner Experience

  • Advised a Fortune 500 Company in all regulatory, litigation and construction facets of Superfund and RCRA remedial activities at two Zinc refining facilities, one closed and one operational.
  • Resolved  a regulatory dispute for a drinking water supplier regarding application of Trihalomethane standards.
  • Handled resolution of a regulatory dispute for an operator of industrial waste treatment facilities involving application of POTW regulations, including drafting of required state legislation.
  • Helped a landowner with regulatory, litigation and construction aspects of Superfund remedial activities involving a recycling facility at a closed petrochemical company.
  • Represented the operator of treated water and waste treatment facilities in negotiation and drafting of purchase and sale contracts with municipal, water district and industrial customers.
  • Litigated on behalf of a landowner in a cost recovery action against a former tenant involving waste oil soil contamination.
  • Represent a municipality in a dispute with EPA over Water Quality Standards.
  • Negotiated a settlement with EPA on behalf of a developer regarding alleged Wetlands violations.

Top Areas of Focus

  • Guidance on environmental permitting and compliance, particularly water and wastewater treatment and supply, stormwater and wetlands issues, and compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and environmental impact assessments.
  • Counsel on state and federal environmental programs and requirements specific to the energy sector, including those for pipelines, refineries, renewable energy.
  • Advice to Native American tribal leaders on environmental matters ranging from casino construction to wastewater treatment plants.
  • Due diligence environmental analysis and assistance for clients purchasing  or selling a business, business assets or real estate.
  • Comprehensive help with all transactions, permitting and compliance issues involving water rights, water treatment and water services.
  • Assistance to multiple Principal Responsible Parties (PRPs) involved in Superfund sites.
  • Defend clients in suits filed by private individuals and companies involving property or groundwater contamination.
  • Defense of and negotiation of resolutions to regulatory enforcement actions against clients.

Case Study:  Obtaining a Permit for a Large Solid Waste Disposal Facility

  • Opportunity: Our client sought to construct and operate a large solid waste disposal facility, but faced well-financed opposition from a nonprofit organization in obtaining a government permit.  The local county government adopted zoning regulations attempting to make the project unlawful on a non-technical basis. The result was a lengthy evidentiary hearing in which the opposition engaged a well-known expert from a local university to challenge the permit on putative scientific grounds based upon a geological survey. 
  • Solution: We obtained the services of the most experienced and qualified consultant in the U.S. on the technical questions involved in the case.  In conjunction with our expert witness, Doerner lawyers analyzed every detail of the opposition’s expert to show that there was no basis for denying the permit on scientific grounds.  We filed suit against the local government to overturn the zoning regulations.
  • Result: For our client we won a summary judgment against the zoning regulations on constitutional grounds and secured the permit, thanks to a strategy that turned focus of the evidentiary hearing from political opposition to scientific facts.

Case Study:  Securing Dismissal of Regulatory Allegations

  • Opportunity: Our client was accused by a regulatory agency of polluting groundwater through leaking underground storage tanks, even though no source of pollution on the client’s property had ever been conclusively established.  Our challenge was to defend three separate hearings in which the client was accused of being the source of pollution.
  • Solution: With the help of a top consulting firm, we researched all of the pertinent documents in the possession of the regulator and interviewed the agency’s investigative staff.  We found serious gaps in the data and what we considered to be incorrect analysis of the data that did exist. 
  • Result: After we challenged its findings, the agency conducted a more thorough investigation of our client’s site.  After the agency voluntarily dismissed two of the hearings, we sought at the third hearing to get the matter dismissed without incorrect identification of our client as the source of pollution. Our cross-examination of the government’s chief witness brought an admission that our client’s property was actually affected by groundwater movement carrying contaminants from a nearby site, which the government had previously claimed was not a source of pollution on our client’s property.  In the middle of our examination of its witness, the government asked the hearing examiner to dismiss the case.

Take Action

Businesses in our region have unique land management, water supply, air and water quality, and natural resource concerns that Doerner environmental lawyers fully understand.  Whether the issue is securing permits, defending water rights or resolving regulatory disputes, we use our experience as environmental law pioneers to develop the right solutions that meet compliance and competitive needs.

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Senior Partner
P: 918.591.5307
F: 918.925.5307

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Lewis C. Carter

Lewis N. Carter, Attorney

Lewis has represented a wide range of clients in general and commercial litigation, as well as employment, healthcare and ERISA litigation, and securities arbitration.

 

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