Practice Areas & Industries: Morris Polich & Purdy LLP


Group Profile Lawyers in this Group Offices Locations for this Group

Practice/Industry Group Overview

Morris Polich & Purdy LLP has more than 40 years of experience providing cutting-edge representation in environmental matters, including: litigation, arbitration and mediation of disputes, regulatory compliance, enforcement defense, business and real estate transactions, and day-to-day management of environmental remediation projects.

Our wide range of public and private clients utilize our services in court and before agencies in connection with planning for, avoiding, minimizing and resolving environmental liabilities, and pursuing recoveries against others for environmental liabilities and costs.

Our clients include:

  • Heavy industrial facilities such as refineries and petrochemical plants
  • Property owners, developers, tenants, prior owners, prior tenants and adjacent property owners
  • Water, waste water and other utilities
  • Manufacturers and distributors of chemicals
  • Manufacturers, generators, transporters, and handlers of hazardous substances
  • Banks and fiduciaries, such as trustees of private trusts
  • Municipalities and other state and local governmental entities
  • Environmental consultants and remediation contractors
  • Manufacturers and designers of chemical protection equipment


We have experience in every aspect of environmental law and litigation, having represented clients with respect to:

  • Investigation, characterization, remediation, reporting and planning for future use, and management of land, water and air impacted with hazardous substances or other regulated material
  • Litigation, management and settlement of potential environmental liability, including actions brought by governmental and private parties under the Federal Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), and State law equivalents, as well as related claims for damage under common law
  • Regulation and reporting of hazardous materials under federal, state and local laws, including the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”), State equivalents, and local entity requirements
  • Environmentally-related permitting at the federal, state and local levels
  • California’s Proposition 65 and other notice, community right-to-know and public participation requirements
  • Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act requirements, including wetlands regulation, release reporting and oil spill regulations, and State law equivalents such as California’s Porter-Cologne Act, the California Coastal Act, and the California Water Code
  • Clean Air Act matters, including management of indoor air pollution potentials and compliance with requirements relating to air issues in construction and remediation projects. Legal assistance for the preparation of environmental impact statements and reports as well as review and challenges to projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) and the Federal Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”)
  • Requirements for protection of sensitive or endangered species under the Federal Endangered Species Act, requirements of State fish and game agencies, and other statutes such as those relating to protection of migratory birds
  • Requirements for reporting under federal and state laws, and negotiating cleanup levels and approaches with the regulatory agencies responsible for oversight
  • Closure of RCRA treatment, storage and disposal facilities


Examples of CERCLA and State Superfund Experience

  • Service as counsel at the trial and appellate phases of a seminal CERCLA decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concerning prior owner liability. The plaintiffs sued an assortment of public and private entities seeking recovery for the costs of removing hydrocarbon contamination from a wetlands area. We convinced the Court to uphold the dismissal of all CERCLA claims against our client, who was the prior owner of the property. That decision, which was rendered by the en banc panel of the Court, has been the subject of extensive nationwide commentary
  • Representation of a California City in CERCLA litigation relating to a lake allegedly contaminated by our client. The suit by the lake owner is against another city and county as well as private businesses
  • Defense of a private CERCLA action filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The plaintiff, a California city, claimed that our client’s shipbuilding operations contaminated industrial property on the Sacramento Delta
  • Representation of an agricultural cooperative and a chemical blender and filler in connection with the Purity Oil Sales and San Gabriel Valley Superfund sites
  • Representation of numerous private entities in connection with allocation of liability under federal and state Superfund laws, together with representation of PRP Groups as outside counsel to the group

Examples of Our Experience in Water Quality Issues

  • Representation of a California theme park cited by an administrative agency for violations of its operating permits due to exceedences of metals discharge. We are working with the park to resolve the matter with the agency and create new systems to assure compliance
  • Assisting a landowner with efforts to remediate extensive groundwater contamination in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County. The property was the location of an aircraft parts manufacturing plant for several decades. On and off site releases of TCE, PCE and Chromium 6 have been identified in both soil and groundwater. We acted as the client's representative in extensive negotiations with the Regional Water Quality Control Board to obtain approval for a cutting-edge in situ remediation technology
  • Service as counsel for a California theme park in Clean Water Act litigation. This matter, brought by environmental groups, claims the client discharges trash and various minerals and chemicals into a river that borders the property
  • Representation of a client in litigation against the State Water Resources Control Board seeking to enjoin the Board from withdrawing from an agreement to issue a No Further Action Letter with regard to volatile organic compound contamination allegedly threatening groundwater. The case was satisfactorily resolved by settlement
  • Assistance to a variety of parties in negotiations with the EPA regarding the Omega Chemical Superfund Site. Our clients rely on our firm to determine the nature and extent of the potential damages and to evaluate the possibility and potential outcomes of suit or agency enforcement
  • Representation of a property owner in a multi-defendant action brought by a public water district alleging contamination of groundwater by industrial solvents
  • Representation of large public water provider to litigate against thousands of polluters whose contamination has impacted an important water basin

Representative Air Quality Matters

  • Participated in the first purchase of air credits for use on a major remediation project where equipment emissions required mitigation
  • Representation of a national telecommunications company in connection with a proposed multi-million dollar penalty by a local air pollution control district for fiber optic cable installation. We successfully negotiated elimination of the penalty
  • Representation of paint manufacturers, dealers and contractors against various local air quality management districts and the California Air Resources Board to invalidate regulations limiting the organic compound content of architectural coatings
  • Challenge of the environmental, economic and constitutional appropriateness of a local air quality management district’s air permit-trading scheme on behalf of a metals industry alliance
  • Securing stipulated orders for abatement from local air quality management districts allowing continued operation, pending permit modification, for a ski resort, a cheese manufacturing facility, several metal fabricators and coaters, a wood treatment facility, an industrial bakery, and a food flavoring manufacturer
  • Representation of a national telecommunications company in connection with a proposed multi-million dollar penalty by a local air pollution control district for fiber optic cable installation. We successfully negotiated elimination of the penalty
  • Representation of a construction company in a criminal action arising from an alleged violation of local air quality standards
  • Representation of a vehicle manufacturer in connection with issues relating to required documentation of vehicles
  • Representation of a PRP group in connection with air quality issues relating to a major site remediation project involving an old landfill

Representative Species-Related Matters and CEQA Litigation and Counseling

  • Representation of the San Bernardino Municipal Water Department in consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service regarding the Santa Ana suckerfish. Our client is one of the few to be excluded from critical habitat designation proposed for this species
  • Representation of a recreational motorcycle club in a successful challenge to designation of desert tortoise critical habitat
  • Serving as counsel for the proponents and opponents of a variety of projects, including a regional airport, a major metropolitan airport, a hazardous waste cleanup, and expansion of a commercial building
  • Assistance to a PRP group in handling issues relating to threatened or endangered species, establishment of mitigation measures, and project coordination to accommodate such measures

Proposition 65 Matters

  • Representation of the owner of a ski area in the San Bernardino Mountains in an environmental damage and Proposition 65 action. The case was successfully settled and the Proposition 65 action was dismissed
  • Representation of a retail distributor in a private Proposition 65 action regarding a nicotine-containing dietary supplement
  • Representation of one of the nation’s largest direct marketers of industrial supplies and equipment regarding numerous catalog items
  • Advice to numerous clients regarding requirements for notices and methods of notice, strategies for avoiding Proposition 65 litigation, and settlement of Prop 65 actions

Examples of Matters Involving Multiple Environmental Issues

  • Representation of a large multi-national entertainment conglomerate in complying with the various hazardous waste disposal / handling / storage, water quality, air quality, and storm water discharging guidelines. The client’s manufacturing arm had allegedly not complied with the governing agencies’ requirements for several reporting periods and was faced with substantial penalties. We obtained a dismissal of the pending action by the creation of a comprehensive environmental, health and safety program
  • Representation of an aerospace industry client in connection with alleged impacts to soil and groundwater, erroneous status as a hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility. Obtained a delisting of the facility despite early “protective” filing under RCRA
  • Representation of clients in cases concerning MTBE contamination of groundwater, the investigation of soil and possible groundwater contamination by volatile organic compounds allegedly released by a medical device manufacturer, and the heavy metal contamination of nutritional supplements
  • Representation of a former lessee who was sued by a local redevelopment agency under California’s Polanco Act. The agency alleged that our client was responsible for the costs of investigating and remediating soil and groundwater contamination on industrial property
  • Representation of an egg production facility with alleged releases of hazardous materials
  • Assisting owner in closing a major industrial RCRA permitted facility, including handling of ongoing issues due to on-site conditions, obtaining insurance coverage under existing policies, assessing site conditions and strategy for facilitating future sale of the property
  • Management of remediation of former and currently operating metal plating facilities, including obtaining access to adjacent properties, interface with regulatory agencies and multiple defendants and their consultants, and litigation planning to assure that prerequisites to future litigation are implemented
  • Assistance in planning and structuring estates and entities so as to protect trustees and beneficiaries from liability for site conditions at impacted properties, together with handling issues inherent in existing site conditions

Articles Authored by Lawyers at this office:

CERCLA Preempts Local Bylaws
Sudhir Lay Burgaard, December 18, 2014
In Town of Acton v. W.R. Grace & Co., a federal district court held that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), commonly known as Superfund, preempts local cleanup bylaws. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) had...

Ninth Circuit Upholds District Court Decision Finding State Route 47 Expressway Project is not in Violation of NEPA or the Clean Air Act
Hubert T. Lee, November 27, 2014
On October 30, 2014, the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court’s finding that the State Route 47 Expressway Project, a planned 1.7 mile stretch of elevated highway connecting the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to I-405, did not violate the Clean Air Act or the National Environmental...

California’s Good Intentions Gone Haywire
Steven L. Hoch, November 24, 2014
In 1969, stirred by Congress’ passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), California thought it was doing one better. California passed the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of...

Court Strikes Down Environmental Review of the Kern Water Bank
Christopher G. Foster, November 24, 2014
In 1994, in response to the devastating drought of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the California Department of Water Resources and the State Water Project contractors entered into the so-called “Monterey Agreement,” regarding water deliveries to certain contractors, primarily in...

The Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser Defense to CERCLA Liability
Ryan C. McKim, November 24, 2014
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) is a strict liability statute. Nonetheless, CERCLA provides for a limited number of defenses to liability. One of these defenses is called the “bona fide prospective purchaser” exception to...

To Seek Cost Recovery or Contribution under CERCLA? The Seventh Circuit Seeks to Further Clarify the Distinction in NCR Corp. v. George A. Whiting Paper Co.
Hubert T. Lee, November 24, 2014
In CERCLA cases, courts are often confronted with scenarios where it is unclear precisely which cause of action a party can or must pursue to recover incurred cleanup costs against Potential Responsible Parties (“PRPs”). Whether a party must proceed under two critical sections (107(a)...

EPA’s Data Dilemma
Steven L. Hoch, November 01, 2014
Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the EPA was relying on data that is more than two decades old to analyze economic impacts of its regulations. The GAO said it “estimated effects of its regulations on employment, in part, using a study that...was based on data...

Fifth Circuit Aligns With Third and Ninth Circuits Holding That EPA Notices of Violation Are Not “Final Action”
Christopher G. Foster, November 01, 2014
In a recently issued decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the recipient of a Notice of Violation (“NOV”) could not challenge the NOV in the circuit court. Luminant Generation Company, LLC v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Nos. 12-60694, 13-60538). This brings...

Fifth Circuit Rules that an Army Corps Judicial Determination is Not a Final Agency Action Reviewable Under the Administrative Procedures Act
Sudhir Lay Burgaard, November 01, 2014
On July 30, 2014, in Belle Company, LLC v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (No. 13-30262), the Fifth Circuit ruled that a jurisdictional determination by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (“the Corps”), stating that property contains wetlands and is subject to regulation under the...

Ninth Circuit Issues a Head-Shaker in a Clean Air Act Permitting Case Supporting EPA’s Failures
Summer L. Nastich, October 31, 2014
In an opinion likely to strike terror in the hearts of would be permit-seekers, the Ninth Circuit held in Sierra Club v. EPA, --- F.3d --- (9th Cir. 2014) (2014 WL 3906509) that the EPA cannot grandfather a permit to build a power plant, even though grandfathering was necessary only because of the...

Supreme Court Denies Certiorari to Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station, Allowing for State Law Air Pollution Tort Claims to Co-Exist with the Clean Air Act
Hubert T. Lee, October 31, 2014
On June 2, 2014, the Supreme Court denied certiorari for a petition filed by Cheswick Generating Station (Cheswick), a coal-fired power plant in West Pennsylvania. GenOn Power Midwest, L.P. v. Bell, 134 S. Ct. 2696 (2014). Cheswick had petitioned the Supreme Court to hear its arguments after the...