Richard S. Davis has practiced almost exclusively under the federal Clean Water Act and its state analogues since joining Beveridge & Diamond in 1981. Chairing or co-chairing the firm’s Clean Water Practice Group for more than 15 years, Mr. Davis helps direct one of the most innovative and dynamic clean water practices in the United States.
Mr. Davis represents both individual industrial dischargers and industry groups, including groups representing the nation’s airlines and manufacturers of recreational vessels. He also has extensive experience representing local clean water agencies, giving him an excellent understanding of the demands on those publicly owned treatment works and, in turn, their perspective when regulating indirect industrial dischargers. His work for these private and public clients runs the gamut of Clean Water law, including permitting, pretreatment, TMDLs, CSOs, enforcement defense of agency and citizen suits, and regulatory negotiation and strategic planning.
Accomplishments of which he is particularly proud include his ongoing representation of a coastal Florida community whose incomparable natural resources were threatened by massive releases of contaminated water from Lake Okeechobee. Working firmly but cooperatively with the Corps of Engineers and other stakeholders, Mr. Davis has given his client a voice in directing those releases, and has successfully reduced the likelihood of damaging future releases by supporting a program of controlled draw-downs that are biologically sound. Moderated releases this past winter have effectively saved the community’s signature wildlife refuge.
In another notable matter, Mr. Davis worked with the aviation industry in a multi-year effort to stave off inflexible regulation of aircraft deicing runoff at the nation’s airports. EPA initiated an Effluent Limitations Guidelines (“ELG”) rulemaking for this sector in the late 1990’s. In 2009, following extensive information collection, the Agency proposed a one-size-fits-all regulation that would have cost the industry well in excess of two billion dollars in compliance costs. As chief outside counsel to the U.S. airlines’ trade association, Mr. Davis developed and executed a strategy to demonstrate to EPA that its proposed regulation would not survive challenge. Following further negotiations after the close of the comment period, EPA accepted that fact and in 2012 issued a final ELG that left regulation of aircraft deicing discharges to individual permit writers. The industry currently is in the final year of a voluntary program to track and characterize improvements in runoff management that is expected to demonstrate the adequacy of voluntary pollution prevention measures.
One final recent achievement was Mr. Davis’ successful representation of the recreational boating industry when it faced the prospect of having its sales decimated by a federal court decision that for the first time would have required all private boat owners to obtain federal discharge permits. Employing a strategy that included protective litigation, constructive engagement with EPA at the regulatory level and a legislative component, Mr. Davis helped to lead an effort that culminated in the passage of the federal Clean Boating Act of 2008. The Act protected recreational vessels from permitting under an NPDES program better suited to address industrial dischargers and instead placed recreational boating under the control of a joint EPA/Coast Guard program modeled on the successful program that regulates discharges from U.S. Navy vessels.
Mr. Davis clerked for the Honorable H. Emory Widener, Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, from 1980 to 1981. He has authored numerous articles on subjects of interest under the federal Clean Water Act. He has authored numerous articles, speaks often on cutting edge Clean Water Act topics, and was the principal author of M. Bender’s Environmental Law Practice Guide on water pollution. He has also been a Professorial Lecturer at Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America.