NEPA and State NEPA - Land Use
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires government agencies to consider the potential impacts of their proposed actions in detailed environmental impact statements and assessments. Because of the need to obtain permits or approvals from federal agencies, private developers, natural resources companies, and transportation agencies often must get through a lengthy and costly NEPA process before they can even think about turning dirt. Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. has been involved with NEPA and state analogues (like New York’s SEQRA and California’s CEQA) since the earliest implementation of these statutes. Due in large part to our national reputation in this field and the excellent results we have obtained, Beveridge & Diamond has been hired by large state and even federal agencies to assist in the preparation of complex impact statements and then to defend those actions in federal courts around the country.
Over thirty years ago, Congress passed landmark legislation that ordered federal government agencies to consider the impacts to the environment of all proposals for "major federal action." The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is considered the father of all environmental statutes, and it led to the passage of analogous state and local statutes that require government agencies to consider the environmental impacts of various types of development projects. Since our inception, we have counseled private and public entities on NEPA compliance and have litigated some of the seminal NEPA and state environmental impact review cases.
Private development often requires government approval, and the preparation of an environmental impact review document. The environmental impact review process frequently covers the full spectrum of natural resource issues and socio-economic impacts. We are uniquely qualified to help clients through this process because of our experience in numerous areas of environmental and natural resources law. The geographic diversity of our practice provides us with experience with state and local environmental impact review programs, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), and the New York City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) procedures.
Long before lawsuits commence, and with the goal of limiting or forestalling litigation, we routinely review and advise clients regarding the preparation of environmental impact review documents; manage the analysis of historic or cultural resources protected under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA); and coordinate and negotiate mitigation strategies with regulatory agencies. We also defend our clients in administrative hearings and other proceedings and in court when the opponents of a project seek to challenge compliance with environmental impact review procedures. Our clients' projects often depend on the successful resolution of the NEPA process and the defense of that process before administrative tribunals and federal judges. Our lawyers bring experience gained from the U.S. Department of Justice and the various resource agencies in federal and state government to obtain approvals for major development projects. State and federal agencies with oversight responsibilities over transportation and other development projects also regularly retain Beveridge & Diamond for compliance with environmental impact review requirements, as well as litigation support.
Our experienced lawyers have achieved excellent results for our clients, as the following examples illustrate.
- We served as outside environmental counsel to the Maryland Department of Transportation and Office of Attorney General in the crafting of the strategy and preparation of the environmental and land use documents and voluminous record for the Intercounty Connector (ICC), a new 18-mile highway to connect I-95 and I-270. In the drafting of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the Record of Decision (ROD) for this highly controversial project, we worked closely with two dozen federal, state, and local agencies as well as numerous consultants in an unprecedented collaborative process to work through many contentious issues. Before we were retained, two prior efforts to create an EIS had failed to produce a final document or final agency decision by the federal and state governments. Once the ROD was issued approving the ICC and lawsuits filed claiming violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Transportation Act, and Federal-Aid Highway Act, we were retained as outside counsel to successfully defend the project with the State in court on all counts. The highway will open in stages between 2010-12.
- We assisted the U.S. in its effort to procure a lease for over 2.4 million square feet of office space in Alexandria, Virginia. We helped craft the Final EIS and responded to a broad range of criticism levied by one of the bidders for the lease. We played a lead role in defending against litigation brought by that bidder attacking NEPA compliance and the administrative record. The U.S. District Court issued a sweeping decision that upheld every aspect of the agency's Final EIS and methodology.
- We defended the NEPA compliance for the development of the MCI Center in downtown Washington, D.C. The Draft EIS for the project, for which we provided strategic oversight, was one of the few in the country to receive a "Lack of Objection" rating from EPA. We also successfully negotiated the Memorandum of Agreement associated with impacts to historic resources in the vicinity of the MCI Center.
- We represented a multinational mining company in its efforts to secure an important land exchange in Arizona with the Bureau of Land Management. We played an important role in the preparation of the Final EIS and in defending litigation brought by local environmental organizations before the Department of the Interior Board of Land Appeals. Once again, all challenges to the EIS and related analysis of the land exchange were rejected and our client has since obtained title to valuable property adjacent to its existing mining operations in Arizona.
- We successfully defended the County of Nassau, New York in SEQRA federal and state court litigation which affirmed the right of the County of Nassau to ship the sewage sludge from its publicly owned treatment works for out-of-state disposal.
- We served as counsel to the City of Alexandria, Virginia in its challenge to the Federal Highway Administration's EIS for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Improvement Project. We assessed the agency's NEPA compliance, as well as its related work under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 4(f) of the Transportation Act and Clean Air Act conformity requirements. Our litigation led to a very favorable settlement between the City and the federal government.
- We successfully defended the NEPA compliance of a major state transportation agency for several large highway projects and continue to provide counsel to that state for many of its most complex and controversial proposed highway facilities.
- We served as counsel to a working group of telecommunications companies on CEQA compliance strategies for California.