KMCL has deep experience representing utilities on various environmental issues related to former manufactured gas plants (MGPs).
Before natural gas was widely available, gas for heating homes, lighting streets, and cooking was manufactured from coal and other materials. When those MGPs were closed in the early- to mid-20th century, the residuals were often left in place, leading to a modern-day environmental legacy that began to receive serious regulatory attention in the mid-1980s.
Since then, KMCL's attorneys have been involved in dozens of MGP sites on behalf of a wide variety of utility clients, handling state and federal regulatory requirements, community relations, cost recovery, and toxic tort litigation. In that time, we’ve developed creative legal and economic tools that cover a wide array of litigation, transactional, and regulatory issues.
Because former MGP sites are often located in the heart of urban areas, we have developed a holistic approach to ensure that these properties are reused in a way that benefits the client and the public.
Representing clients in both plaintiff and defendant roles, we’ve managed MGP litigation in many areas, including private cost recovery lawsuits, insurance coverage disputes, toxic tort claims, toxic torts, and common law property damage claims.
Over the last twenty-five years working on MGP issues, we’ve developed forward-thinking legal and economic tools that have allowed deals to proceed despite significant potential liabilities.
Building on this base, our experience with transactional work has grown to include "brownfield" redevelopments, liability transfers, strategic reacquisitions, corporate mergers, and urban renewal projects.
We have counseled clients as they have navigated the complex regulatory shoals governing MGP sites.
In handling dozens of regulatory negotiations, we have learned that the EPA and its state counterparts have developed certain conventions for dealing with MGP sites. We’ve structured our approach to manage these conventions to deliver positive outcomes for our clients.
Our extensive experience as outside counsel to publicly traded companies has given us unique insights into the complexities of MGP legacies.
While a vigorous defense can be essential, it is often better to avoid litigation altogether. We’ve developed creative strategies to provide these outcomes for our clients, which often require a different approach to threatened claims.
- Assisting a client in completely reworking their corporate strategy when a disastrous disputed seemed inevitable. Managing a very aggressive community relations plan, legally prudent acknowledgement of the presence of impacts, an aggressive cleanup program, appropriate compensation to landowners for legitimate losses, and other measures. This increased the client's standing in the community, avoided costly lawsuits, and saved the company money.
- Assisting a client in outsourcing the entire in-house MGP program to an experienced outside MGP consulting firm.
- Capitalizing on a cost-recovery lawsuit, we were able to develop extensive evidence of participation by other potentially responsible parties. This, in turn, led to a multi-party settlement with the EPA and a greatly reduced cost to the clients.
- Coordinated with competing interests to produce a clean-up strategy for a site located in a major urban redevelopment zone that contained a former MGP, a former city-owned landfill, a railroad, a lumber yard, and a river. Managing multiple interests and groups while maintaining sensitivity to the political interests and the timing of various funding options to produce a strategy that was very favorable to the client.
- Developing a comprehensive mechanism to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley requirements to cover environmental cost disclosure controls in general and controls for disclosure of MGP costs. This mechanism was one of the first to be subjected to extensive outside review and confirmation.
- Facilitating a pre-remediation sale of an MGP site located in an urban historic district, which addressed an extensive array of contractual and regulatory complexities. Restructuring the transaction just before closing to substitute parties and use the state's new brownfield law, immunizing the purchasers against further obligations, and in the process easing the burden on our client of future indemnity obligations. The deal closed with a multi-million dollar profit for the client.
- Filing suit against a number of insurance carriers for a utility client seeking coverage for clean-up costs at more than a dozen sites. After five years of hard-fought litigation, the client secured tens of millions of dollars in recoveries after all costs.
- Minimizing costs and complications created by the locations of MGPs along waterways. These sites require costly clean-ups, navigating complex regulations involving “ecotoxicity,” multiple agencies with overlapping jurisdictions, and complicated permitting requirements.
- Negotiating a memorandum of understanding with a state environmental agency to conduct a joint investigation of more than ten acres of impacted sediment on the bottom of a river passing through a town.
- Orchestrating the acquisition of a defaulted first mortgage and foreclosing on a property to address claims of diminished property value on behalf of a utility client sued by the current owner of a former MGP site. Using this rearrangement, we structured a very favorable settlement. Assisting the client in designing a clean-up plan based on future commercial reuse, allowing the client to resell the property subject to restrictive covenants at a substantial profit over the acquisition costs.
- Representing a client confronted with redeveloping a waterfront MGP site into a luxury marina and mixed-use complex. Handling state and federal clean-up requirements, wetland issues, in-stream impacts, and claims for natural resource damages (NRD).
- Representing a major utility in a toxic tort class action lawsuit with potentially dramatic political overtones. Resolving all claims favorably to the client out of court by combining a vigorous litigation strategy with an innovative settlement alternative.
Scott Laseter has been recognized by clients for his “very quick mind” and a style that has been characterized as “sharp, incisive, and aggressive, but tempered by reason.”