Environment, Water & Toxic Tort

Ericksen Arbuthnot’s Environment Group draws on its members’ broad technical and legal expertise to successfully handle complex environmental, water, and toxic tort matters.  Practice areas include:


Environmental Litigation

Our attorneys have litigated a wide range of environmental matters from those involving small dry-cleaning operations to industrial sites with potential remediation liabilities of more than $100M.  For example, members have litigated cases involving hexavalent chromium contamination with more than 2000 individual claimants.  This required creative approaches to keep administrative costs reasonable without compromising the quality of representation.   Our experience also includes a regulatory enforcement action involving a 50+-acre site heavily contaminated with mercury.  After an extensive administrative process, that case ultimately resulted in a unique combination of remediation, site stabilization, monitoring, and management that reduced costs for the operator involved while satisfying (to a great extent) the concerns of the community.  Ericksen Arbuthnot understands the complexities and risks our client’s face when dealing with contaminated sites, and we have the knowledge and expertise to address them. 

In addition to the larger-scale matters outlined above, we regularly deal with smaller-scale litigation, including cost-recovery and declaratory actions related to dry-cleaning facilities and light industrial operations.  Regardless of the potential liability, or the type of contamination involved, we have multiple attorneys with technical backgrounds who ensure technical issues (and defenses) are fully and efficiently analyzed.  This means our experts are always well-prepared, and our opponents’ experts must work hard to justify their conclusions.  Whether the audience is a judge, special master, mediator, or a jury, Ericksen Arbuthnot has the tools to successfully litigate your Environmental cases.

While we are always prepared for formal litigation if it proves necessary, Ericksen Arbuthnot understands the benefits that can flow from focusing resources on consensus and cleanup, rather than the courthouse.  Our focus is always on how best to navigate complex environmental matters so as to maximize the value of our services, and minimize the costs and downside risks faced by our clients.  Sometimes this means aggressively advocating a no-liability position before a Regional Water Quality Control Board, the State Water Board, DTSC, or a Federal agency.  More often, however, it means intensively communicating with the community, governmental entities, and other potentially responsible parties in an effort to reach the best result for our client after all of the aspects of the case are given appropriate weight.

Among others, we represent clients in:

  • CERCLA claims
  • Porter-Cologne/Water Board actions
  • DTSC actions
  • RCRA claims
  • CWA claims
  • CAA claims
  • CEQA claims


Water and Natural Resources

EA’s attorneys have a deep understanding of the complex challenges faced by California’s water suppliers and users, along with the agencies that regulate them. Our experience ranges from acquiring and defending private riparian and pre-1914 appropriative rights, to assisting governmental entities in the development of appropriate (and defensible) water management plans and regulations.

Among many others, EA’s services include:

  • Acquisition, transfer, and perfection of water rights
  • Groundwater Sustainability Plan coordination, development, and implementation
    • While surface water has long been the focus of regulation, development, and litigation in the state, recent legislation has finally put a spotlight on a key component of California’s water supply – Groundwater. Passed in 2014, the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) has defied its critics and succeeded in bringing 99.9% of California’s designated groundwater basins under the jurisdiction of dozens of local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). Now, however, the really hard work has begun. Those agencies must develop and implement Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) (or legally-acceptable alternatives) in a relatively short timeframe. Minimizing the risk of conflict among stakeholders (including other GSAs), while complying with SGMA’s requirements, requires a sophisticated combination of technical knowhow, legal skill, and political savvy. These are qualities EA attorneys bring to bear on behalf of our clients every day.
  • Development of sustainable water resource management regulations, which may include:
    • Above- and below-ground storage
    • Conjunctive use and administration of ground and surface-water resources
    • Water transfers and market mechanisms
  • Water right adjudications
  • Memoranda of Understanding, Joint Powers Agreements, and other coordinated management and planning instruments
  • Lobbying
  • Brown Act compliance
  • Public Records Act compliance
  • Administrative Procedures Act compliance
  • Employee relations and Employment litigation
  • Inter-agency coordination and negotiation
  • Trans-boundary/multi-jurisdictional water negotiation, compacting, and compliance.
  • Water Rights litigation
  • Water Rights transactions
  • Conservation easements
  • Timberland transactions and permitting


Toxic Tort Defense

Ericksen Arbuthnot attorneys have extensive experience in California’s unique toxic tort arena.  From asbestos, to benzene, to hexavalent chromium and arsenic, we excel at assessing and defending formulaic and novel cases alike.  For example, as plaintiffs’ firms have expanded the pool of asbestos defendants with low-dose and talc cases, our attorneys have adapted their factual and expert discovery to obtain summary judgment when possible and minimize the exposure of our clients when it is not.  Toxic tort litigation is another area where the technical background of our attorneys leads to better outcomes for our clients.


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