Environmental Crisis Response

"Prominent pillar of a national group tackling crisis management and transactions in areas including waste and clean air."

Chambers USA 2020

An experienced response team that manages all aspects of an incident so clients can focus on their business.

We are available 24 hours a day to guide clients through major industrial accidents, environmental incidents and related investigations so they can focus on their business imperatives.

  • Our nationwide team is available twenty-four hours a day to provide crisis management counsel for major accidents and environmental incidents.
  • We deploy within hours, and provide experienced advice on every aspect of a crisis.
  • Our approach is informed by the judgment and experience gained through managing over 100 major accidents.

Baker Botts lawyers have handled the response to many of the most significant accidents and incidents in the energy industry over the last 15 years, including:

  • Refinery fire and neighborhood air quality incident
  • Refinery vapor cloud explosion with damage to multiple process units
  • Chemical plant on-site chemical release, multiple worker fatalities
  • Midstream gas pipeline, explosion, fire, and multiple worker fatalities
  • Midstream gas plant vapor cloud release and explosion
  • Upstream well site loss of containment and explosion
  • Upstream well site rigging collapse and employee fatality

Our nationwide team of over 50 dedicated environmental, safety, and health attorneys, includes response practitioners, former government regulators and prosecutors, skilled trial lawyers, experienced investigators and regulatory practitioners.

The Baker Botts crisis response team is able to work fluidly together to manage all phases of a major accident, including:

  • Experienced boots-on-the-ground incident response support anywhere in the country in the wake of a crisis
  • Counseling on the environmental and workplace safety issues arising from incidents
  • First chair civil, administrative, and criminal litigation experience

Our crisis experience involves all types of accidents, including fires and explosions, spills, toxic releases, and worker fatalities/injuries. The relevant federal and state investigators know us well—we have counseled clients in connection with investigations before all federal accident investigative agencies, including the U.S. EPA, OSHA, CSB, NTSB, PHMSA, BSEE, and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as equivalent state and local authorities. The trusted relationships we have built with these agencies enables us to foster helpful and persuasive dialogue with regulators and investigators.

Our clients range from household names on the Fortune 100 to smaller, regional employers. During a response our team works closely with company leadership to assess the magnitude and potential long-term impacts of an event, and to anticipate and prepare for developments in the incident.

We partner with our clients to guide them through the wide-ranging issues associated with a major accident, including:

  • Investigations
  • Civil and criminal enforcement
  • Lawsuits
  • Remediation
  • Disclosure
  • Shareholder derivative actions
  • Commercial disputes
  • Insurance coverage issues

Featured Experience

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.