Crisis management starts well before a crisis. Prevention and preparedness are the keys to mitigating the risk and effects of any environmental crisis. Baker Botts environmental lawyers apply years of experience in compliance counseling and risk mitigation to help our clients anticipate, avoid, and prepare for environmental crises.
We have assisted in:
- Assessing crisis risks in corporate planning sessions
- Developing and advising on contingency plans and response measures
- Acting as outside counsel “in the room” during company simulations and drills
- Helping companies develop training materials and “lessons learned” on crisis issues
By teaming with members of our litigation practices, we ensure that these pre-crisis engagements cover not only the environmental law aspects of crisis response, but also broader, related topics including:
- Criminal liability
- Toxic torts
- Insurance coverage
- Officer and director liability
- Business interruption
- Commercial disputes
- Personal injuries
Unfortunately, even the best prepared companies will experience crises. From the outset of an environmental crisis, Baker Botts provides a steady hand by adhering to certain guiding principles:
- Securing safety and security as soon as possible
- Directly engaging regulators, officials and stakeholders in effective and appropriate ways
- Maintaining “true north” integrity of evidence and facts
- Tracking and mitigating response costs, fines and damages
- Setting a civil, respectful tone with stakeholders to resolve the crisis
The following real-world examples illustrate how we serve clients on the ground in a crisis:
- Texas Industrial Plant Whistleblower Allegations
Whistleblower allegations by an ex-employee of a client gave rise to a state criminal investigation into whether pollution controls were intentionally circumvented. Our team drew on our litigation and environmental experience to draw together a seamless response. We coordinated an internal investigation, developed a comprehensive dataset for response to government subpoenas and assisted in the negotiation of an effective settlement.
- Houston Ship Channel Vessel Collision and Spill
A vessel collision in the heavily trafficked Houston Ship Channel, a key U.S. trade gateway, quickly implicated several environmental, legal and financial issues involving multiple parties and agencies. The immediate response involved containment of any fuel or cargo spill into the waterway and surrounding shores, assessment of any personal injuries, insurance claims by vessel owners/operators and regulatory reporting and investigation cooperation. The longer-term response involved incident investigations and natural resource damage assessments.
- Water Supply Contamination Response
Our client, a water utility, faced local, state and federal legal challenges in the aftermath of a third-party spill of toxins into its water supply. The event led to scores of lawsuits, including putative class actions, against the utility by drinking water customers and other downstream parties. The client is also responding to state and federal investigations and inquiries, legislative actions, third-party bankruptcy issues and media relations.
- U.S. Hurricane Response
Industries with assets along coastal areas and inland thoroughly prepare for storms, but only after a hurricane makes landfall can the damage assessment and emergency response begin. Our legal team moves quickly to help ensure that any emergency authorizations are properly and timely requested. For example, we helped assure compliance when refinery and fuel terminal operator clients needed emergency authorization for regional transportation fuel supply and logistics after Hurricane Sandy hit the critical New York Harbor market.
- Central U.S. Dam Release
After heavy rains saturated a flood control basin, the release of water by a federal agency operator caused a washout of some of a client's industrial assets. Our team promptly reached out to urge a lessening of the dam release to forestall further damage to the client's operations.
- U.S. Migratory Bird Kill
A client faced a criminal investigation due to an incident with migratory birds dying on its property after a regulatory advisory. Our experience in this challenging regulatory program informed a prompt and effective client response.
- North American Train Derailments
Crude oil train car derailments are high-profile, multi-faceted events and our team's experience with these incidents runs the gamut from emergency response to analyzing liabilities. We have deployed on-scene to derailments and helped coordinate agency response.
Publications, Speeches & Presentations
Trends, American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources Newsletter, Vol. 48 Issue 2