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Environmental Law

Walsworth’s Environmental Law team focuses on the prosecution and defense of environmental damage, cost recovery, citizen suit and regulatory enforcement actions.

We have experience representing a host of different parties in environmental law matters, including

  • Owners
  • Operators
  • Arrangers
  • Generators
  • Property-owners
  • Lessees
  • Permittees
  • Contributors
  • Lenders and Borrowers
  • Tenants

Matters involving environmental pollution or contamination typically arise from alleged contamination of soil, water and/or air over the course of decades of use. We have substantial experience investigating facts and locating witnesses and documents to aid in the defense of these claims and the prosecution of any cost recovery or contribution actions. These matters often involve coordination or direct interaction, either as cooperators or adversaries, with or against public agencies.

Our lawyers have substantial experience working with a broad spectrum of public agencies, including:

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
  • U.S. Department of Defense, Army Corp. of Engineers
  • U.S. Department of Defense, Navy
  • U.S. Department of Defense, Coast Guard
  • California Water Resources Control Board
  • California and District Air Resources Boards
  • California Department of Toxic Substances Control

Our Lawyers have decades of collective experience working with every major environmental statute, including:

  • Federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • Federal Clean Air Act (CAA)
  • Federal Clean Water Act (CWA)
  • Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act (California Clean Water Act)
  • Hazardous Substances Account Act (HSAA)
  • Hazardous Waste Control Act
  • Defending and Prosecuting Environmental Matters

We also have defended numerous citizen suits and Attorney General enforcement actions brought under California’s Proposition 65. Our lawyers have handled a number of cases involving common law tort claims that accompany federal and state claims, such as nuisance, trespass and negligence. Our lawyers understand that the cost of remediating environmental contamination can have a significant financial impact on landowners and tenants over a lengthy time period. Therefore, we focus on both the legal and business issues in the representation of our clients.

Effectively Communicating the Science

The defense and prosecution of environmental matters involves complex issues of science. Our lawyers have substantial experience with the foremost experts in all areas implicated by environmental law practice, including geologists, hydrogeologists, engineers, air quality scientists, water quality scientists, and industrial hygienists.

Formerly known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Proposition 65 was passed by voters in response to a simple campaign message promising to protect California residents, through mandatory warnings, from exposure to chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive harm. Today, Proposition 65 is a “right to know” statute used by the state, private individuals, and groups to enforce the statute in the public interest when companies fail to comply with the act’s warning requirements.

We counsel and defend California businesses and companies doing business in California on compliance and related enforcement actions brought under California’s Proposition 65.

Representative Successes

  • City of Orange v. County of Orange – Secured a favorable resolution for the County of Orange in an environmental contamination case involving property that was converted from a solid waste municipal disposal station to a public park.
  • Macpherson v. Pace – After an 8 week jury trial, secured a defense verdict in favor of the client, a small Bakersfield oil producer, who was sued by one of the largest California onshore oil producers, and others, for subsurface trespass and nuisance. The plaintiffs sought more than $35 million in damages relating to an alleged decrease in oil production. The jury deliberated for less than five hours before returning a verdict in favor of the client.
  • Carter v. GP Resources – Secured a defense verdict for a petroleum supplier after a 10-day jury trial in an action arising out of the plaintiff’s exposure to the client’s product. Plaintiff claimed permanent injuries that prevented work.
  • City of Modesto Redevelopment Agency, et al. v. Various Defendants – Obtained a defense verdict for a commercial laundry and dry cleaner in the jury phase of a four-month groundwater contamination trial. Our client and one dry cleaning product distributor were the only defendants to receive defense verdicts. The jury found other defendants—the chemical solvent and equipment manufacturers—liable for a defective products. Additionally, the jury found malice against two of the chemical manufacturers and one of the equipment manufacturers, eventually awarding verdicts in excess of $178 million against them.
  • City of Pomona v. John Michael Faull, et al. – Successfully secured a defense verdict in an environmental contamination case involving numerous chemicals where we were asked to represent the defendant less than two months before trial. The City of Pomona alleged that the defendants’ operation of a bulk storage and distribution facility of hazardous chemicals for 50 years resulted in the contamination of soil and groundwater on its site and adjacent areas. Soil borings and groundwater logs detected significant concentrations of hazardous chemicals in each and every sample. With only three defendants remaining at the conclusion of trial, our client was the plaintiff’s target defendant. After a hard-fought bench trial, the judge ruled that plaintiff did not prove a single cause of action.
  • Environmental World Watch v. Pacific Custom Materials, Inc. – Successfully resolved a claim for a nominal amount well before trial on behalf of a manufacturer of concrete aggregate products defending claims by several surrounding neighbors and community activists alleging personal injury, property damage, and various statutory violations arising out of emissions of chemicals and metals, including lead.
  • Benitez v. Calderon, et al. – Defeated a case against our government entity client through successive challenges to plaintiff’s complaint. The plaintiff alleged that he unwittingly bought a house located, in part, over an old landfill that our client owned and operated over 70 years ago. The plaintiff sought to hold our client liable for damages for devaluation of the property and potential clean-up costs. We demurred, arguing that the claims were barred by statutory immunities in favor of governmental entities. The court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, ending the case before the client was subjected to significant discovery efforts and other proceedings.
  • Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles v. PCC Technical Industries, et al. – Represented owners and operators of a steel mill sued by the Housing Authority of L.A. in a federal CERCLA action relating to soil contamination at a redevelopment site. Case settled favorably shortly before trial.
  • Orange County Water District v. Various Defendants – Represented two manufacturing defendants in multi-party state lawsuit brought by OCWD alleging groundwater contamination in South Basin. One defendant secured a very favorable settlement prior to trial and the other was extracted from the case via summary judgment (since reversed by California Court of Appeal).
  • Represented counter-defendants against claims arising out of perchloroethylene contamination in the ground and water from a dry cleaning supply facility. the cases are currently on appeal following the granting of a motion for summary judgment made against the plaintiffs.
  • Represented defendants and a third party defendant in the Omega Superfund Site (OU-2 Facility) case.
  • City of Stockton, CA – Drafted the negative declaration for the City of Stockton, California’s waterfront restoration.
  • City of Chula Vista, CA – Defended the City of Chula Vista, California against alleged CEQA violations in the development of new auto mall.
  • County of San Diego – Counseled the County of San Diego on CEQA implications as they pertain to development permitting and MS-4 requirements.
  • City of Berkeley – Advised the City of Berkeley, California on CEQA implications of their redevelopment plan.
  • Represented a top supplier of end-to-end solar energy solutions on lease enforcement issues.
  • Represented a top supplier of end-to-end solar energy solutions in commercial disputes.
  • Plaintiff v. Apparel Company – Obtained a dismissal for a case in which the plaintiff alleged that vinyl/PVC belts sold by client in California contained Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) at a level requiring a Proposition 65 warning.
  • Represented a large wholesale and retail baker in a claim involving acrylamide in products distributed to national grocers and sold in client retail locations. Effectively and efficiently resolved the claim to include coverage for multiple categories of client products and broad protection for the client’s distributors and retailers. Simultaneously, assisted client in developing updated Prop 65 warnings and compliance plan in anticipation of upcoming changes to Prop 65 requirements.
  • Represented a major utility company in groundwater litigation and regulatory matters involving soil, groundwater and sediment contamination.