Cole Schotz’s Environmental Department, the largest environmental and energy practice group in Bergen County and one of the largest in New Jersey, has extensive experience with the significant environmental and energy issues affecting our clients in the Mid-Atlantic states and throughout the nation. Our daily involvement with these issues keeps us on top of the latest developments in the law and the marketplace.
Managing Environmental Risk in Transactions. The Environmental Department has extensive experience with the environmental aspects of real estate, corporate and business transactions across the nation, including bankruptcy reorganizations and liquidations. Perhaps our greatest strength is in helping clients that are selling, buying, leasing, financing or developing property to avoid or manage environmental liability so that their goals are achieved. This is accomplished by knowing the full range of options that are available and using them to creatively overcome whatever obstacles may arise.
Transactions Involving Contaminated Property. Many properties that are the subject of transactions today are contaminated. We believe that contamination should seldom be a barrier to closing a transaction, so long as the client understands the nature of the risk and is comfortable with the protections used to address it. The Department routinely coordinates due diligence and environmental site assessments to get a thorough understanding of the facts, the law, and to allow our clients to make the best decisions concerning how to proceed. We have identified some of the most experienced and cost-effective consultants available to address the issues that need to be resolved and recommend them to the client as needed.
Environmental Insurance. One of the greatest obstacles to closing a transaction involving contaminated property is to make all the parties comfortable with how they are going to pay for a cleanup which is much more expensive than was anticipated when they signed the contract or closed the deal. Securing the cost of the “worst case scenario”, so that the buyer, seller and the lender are willing to proceed, is often a significant challenge. The Environmental Law Department has negotiated a variety of environmental insurance policies for over one hundred properties, so that the closing of title and the development and use of the property could proceed before the cleanup is completed. Our extensive experience with insurance companies and brokers that specialize in environmental insurance has allowed us to routinely make the use of innovative approaches.
Remediation Oversight. The Department has substantial experience advising clients concerning the cleanup of contaminated properties under the various state and federal laws which require such cleanups. Our goal is to help clients avoid or minimize the cost of the cleanup. Cleanups are often undertaken in the context of the sale and reuse of property. We can ensure successful cleanup and redevelopment by applying our expertise to coordinate cleanups with development and to negotiate responsibility for environmental impacts on construction costs.
Brownfields Funding. Another approach the Department has used to help clients avoid cleanup costs is to pursue the brownfields funding available from state and federal governments to pay those costs. We have obtained brownfields approvals for several client’s projects, both big and small, that have resulted in governmental approval for our clients to recover many millions of dollars of remedial costs.
Environmental Litigation. The Environmental Department has substantial experience with environmental litigation. We have obtained many millions of dollars from the client’s insurance companies under the typical business liability insurance policies, as well as from prior owners and operators of the property, to help pay for the cleanup. We ordinarily try to avoid litigation to get this money paid by demonstrating to our adversary that we have a full command of the issues to try to convince them that little will be gained through litigation. However, if litigation is needed we have the experience to consistently obtain a favorable result.
Land Development & Sustainable Building. The Department regularly assists our clients with commercial, industrial and residential development of property, including contaminated property. We help obtain permits or approvals to develop in or near wetlands, streams, floodways, the Highlands, the Pinelands, the Hackensack Meadowlands and in coastal or waterfront areas, as well as to address stormwater, vapor intrusion and other site development issues. We are familiar with green building design, including what is necessary to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for sustainable building developed by the United States Green Building Council.
Renewable Energy. The Environmental Law Department is closely monitoring rapidly developing opportunities and incentives for the use of renewable energy as part of the effort to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions arising from the use of fossil fuels. For example, federal tax credits and solar renewable energy credits help off-set the cost of installing solar power systems. Once installed, the resale of renewable energy credits, resale of generated power to utilities and on-site energy generation lower operating costs and offer returns on investment over the life of the system. We can evaluate and negotiate power purchase agreements to help our clients take advantage of the benefits of solar energy while avoiding large upfront outlays.
Regulatory Counseling. The Department counsels our clients on how to obtain and comply with permits and approvals governing toxic and hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, underground storage tanks, worker and community right to know, the New Jersey Industrial Site Recovery Act, solid waste management, air pollution, water pollution and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). We are experienced at defending enforcement actions being pursued against our client by a governmental agency for allegedly violating an environmental law.