Baker Botts lawyers regularly assist clients in responding to accidents and environmental releases. From helping clients navigate the myriad of safety, human health and environmental obligations in the immediate response to an incident to working alongside consultants and government agencies in the investigation and aftermath, Baker Botts lawyers are skilled in working with client employees and stakeholders to manage all aspects of a crisis response. We have extensive experience working with federal and state regulators on a wide array of environmental, safety, security and transportation issues, and we help broker these cross-jurisdictional issues and develop a coordinated response.
Our lawyers provide advice during every phase of accident response, including: containing the crisis, coordinating responses investigations, guiding response personnel through the reporting process, identifying issues, conducting interviews, supervising studies that may assist in minimizing liabilities, resolving resulting damage claims and penalties as well as personal injury liabilities, and handling litigation with insurers and contractors or other third parties that contributed to the accident. We also help obtain emergency authorizations from regulatory agencies to continue to operate or to authorize excess emissions after accidents and natural disasters.
Compliance counseling forms the backbone of our environmental and safety practices and our lawyers represent a first line of defense in preventing crises from arising or keeping a minor crisis from escalating. In addition to counseling on questions of regulatory interpretation, we assist in developing comprehensive compliance programs, risk-management plans, release reporting procedures and emergency response plans. Our lawyers conduct in-house training programs to ensure employees understand corporate environmental policies and applicable regulatory requirements. In addition, we advise clients on preparing procedures for inspections and searches so employees can respond to investigations without compromising company rights and privileges. We also help analyze existing or changing risks associated with particular operations. Strong risk management and crisis management planning help prevent crises before they occur and contain unexpected ones that may arise.
Baker Botts offers significant experience handling high-stakes crisis issues. For example, we represented a blue-ribbon safety review panel in connection with a multinational energy company’s review of process safety corporate oversight and culture at five U.S. refineries. After a major accident occurred just outside of Houston, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board requested that former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III chair the safety panel. The panel’s 300 page report provided systematic recommendations regarding the process safety management systems used to prevent major accidents at U.S. refineries and other large industrial sites.