The movement to address environmental challenges permeates every level of government. With our prominent experience in climate change law, we help clients mine opportunities and avoid risks. Major corporations, state and local governments, and cleantech and renewable energy ventures seek our counsel as they steer a course through a time of rapid change.


The United States is moving aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the regulatory authority provided under the Clean Air Act, as well as NEPA, energy laws, laws governing management of federal lands and facilities, and other existing authorities. Under the cooperative federalism model of the Clean Air Act, states are required to develop their own mechanisms. A majority of states and hundreds of local governments have adopted climate change laws and strategies. These regulatory initiatives will expand to other industries and require greater emissions reductions under the Paris Accord to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. There are substantial federal and state incentives for climate-friendly actions, and green building is increasingly the norm. Shareholders are asking how corporations are addressing these issues, and major banking institutions have developed/are developing “responsible” investment sectors.

The federal government, states, localities and industry are also taking action to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change. Trillions of dollars in infrastructure costs will be required both to increase resilience and to relocate vulnerable facilities. Insurers and rating agencies are carefully examining these potential impacts and industry and governments will need to respond.

The firm has national prominence in climate change law and business counseling. Our attorneys have written extensively on these topics and our practice lead has received Bar Association recognition and a national ranking in the field of Climate Change from Chambers. We represent major corporations, state and local governments, and cleantech and renewable energy ventures. We are also involved in efforts to promote effective climate change policies and efficient carbon markets.

Business Opportunities

Amid the continuing global efforts, government action, and private climate programs are opportunities (and risks) for businesses. Enterprises that emit less greenhouse gas or use less energy from fossil fuel will have lower costs. Those that sell products that allow others to be more climate- friendly will find new markets. Businesses that can produce alternative energy for their own use or for sale can capture new profits.

Our Services

We assist clients in analyzing and commenting on major federal and state laws and regulations requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, as well as other authorities. We have also represented clients in litigation regarding greenhouse gas emissions in the D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court. We represented leading world climate scientists who appeared as amici in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA. We represented major clean energy utilities at all stages in litigation supporting major air rules imposing costs on emissions of pollutants from the power industry, including EME Homer City v. EPA and Michigan v. EPA. We are working with a variety of clients in assessing and commenting on states’ efforts to implement federal climate requirements.

We counsel on:

  • Strategic opportunities and challenges presented by emerging laws and regulations
  • Regulatory and legislative initiatives related to greenhouse gas emissions and alternative energy
  • Strategies for capturing opportunity
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Strategies for reducing emissions cost-effectively
  • Permits, approvals, development issues, and financing for fossil fuel-fired, alternative, and nuclear powered energy facilities
  • Processes for developing state, regional, and local climate policies
  • Registering and trading carbon reduction credits and renewable energy credits in regulated and unregulated markets
  • Disclosure of climate change risks under securities laws
  • Litigation arising under climate change law or to address the costs of adaptation or instigating lawsuits under other laws

Integrated Services

Our climate change and sustainability services are integrated into our environmental, energy and project finance, real estate, and litigation practices. We collaborate with our colleagues to help clients develop, sell, acquire, invest in, or finance all forms of energy projects and operations. As a part of this collaborative effort, we participated in the USDOE’s efforts to provide technical assistance to state and local governments to develop financing mechanisms to promote clean energy and energy efficiency and have assisted in the development of cutting edge financing mechanisms such as sustainable energy utilities and PACE programs.

We collaborate on:

  • Efforts to finance clean energy and energy efficiency projects potentially affected by the impacts of climate change
  • Acquisition of environmental permits and siting approval
  • Litigation to challenge unacceptable permit terms or to defend third-party challenges to project approvals
  • Evaluation of the viability of projects through environmental due diligence
  • Negotiations on project agreement that allocate environmental responsibilities, obligations, and liabilities among participants
  • All forms of traditional fossil fuel-based projects
  • Alternative energy projects, including many varieties of waste-to-energy biomass, and renewable energy projects
  • Nuclear power projects

Sustainability

The world is entering a new era of limits on physical resources. Use of fossil fuel reserves threatens to bust the global CO2 budget, and soil loss and aquifer depletion threaten agriculture (and biofuels). Global warming is a frequently discussed concern. Opportunities await entities that take the lead in reinventing their business models to meet these challenges. We have advised clients on sustainability policies and corporate disclosures.

Emissions Trading and Environmental Banking

We assist with NOx, SOx, and mercury trades under federal legislation and state implementation plans. We have acted as counsel in land-banking and habitat-banking transactions and brownfield recycling.

Green infrastructure

Green infrastructure and renewable energy sources are becoming critical as we face the challenges of growing populations and shrinking resources. Discovering ways to implement green infrastructure requires that these new undertakings deliver benefits to those in both developed and more rural areas. A key aspect to these projects is finding a way to pay for them. Financing these projects sits at the intersection of several practices, including public-private partnerships, tax-exempt finance, mechanisms to leverage tax benefits, and energy, conservation and renewable resource law. Our attorneys can counsel clients on the many aspects and opportunities presented by the growing field of green infrastructure and renewable energy.

“Green” Buildings

Buildings are green if they use renewable materials, create less waste in the building process, and use less energy and water to operate. Our attorneys are familiar with real estate contracting practices in the green building area, including performance standards and certifications. Many of our attorneys are LEED certified professionals.

Reputational Risk and Reporting

Major public companies are under increasing pressure to report publicly on their environmental practices and the sustainability of their business model. Reporting should be consistent with required securities reporting and disclosure, and we assist companies in determining whether risks identified in Sustainability Reports should find expression in SEC filings. The practices of a company's suppliers affect the performance of the company, and contracts with suppliers should specify the reporting needs of the purchaser.

Product Labeling and Certification

Consumer concern with the source and environmental soundness of their purchases raises intellectual property issues. We can assist with labeling and certification issues (e.g., "organic" and “sustainably harvested") and energy use and life-cycle labeling.

contact

Robert B. McKinstry, Jr.
Practice Leader
Tel 215.864.8208
mckinstry@ballardspahr.com