David Michelman has been active in the field of environmental law for more than 35 years. He is recognized for his ability to take a leadership role in litigating or settling Superfund cases involving multimillion dollar cleanups of landfills. He is often asked to serve as Liaison Counsel and/or Common Counsel, to represent the common interests of large groups of parties. In this role, he has successfully steered such cases away from expensive, uncontrolled litigation, toward a managed, cost effective ADR process that is used as a model for other sites. He negotiates de micromis and de minimis settlements designed to get individual parties out of these cases at an early stage. He also participates in global settlement negotiations, on behalf of all of the remaining parties, to settle all of the federal or state governments' claims against them.
His practice also involves counseling clients on environmental compliance issues, permitting and real estate transactions, and representing them in litigation involving landfill cleanups and natural resource damage claims, air quality and asbestos management issues, soil and groundwater discharges from ongoing manufacturing operations, disturbances of wetlands, leaking underground storage tanks, stormwater management problems, violations of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act and FIFRA, and toxic tort claims for property damage and personal injuries.
He has developed innovative ways of settling litigation (and reducing fines and civil penalties) through funding EPA-approved Supplemental Environmental Projects, including: (1) an EPCRA education and training program which provided compliance seminars to the business community and general public in Puerto Rico, as part of the first multi-party settlement that EPA ever entered into under EPCRA; (2) a pollution reduction plan under which a graphics design company completely changed its operating process to phase out all use of a regulated hazardous substance over a three-year period; and (3) a shellfish restoration and pollution reduction project to re-seed 2.5 million clams to replenish Barnegat Bay, New Jersey's shellfish population and to remove nitrogen and other nutrients from this marine estuary.
In 1974, while he was with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), he participated in focusing nationwide attention on the destruction of the ozone layer of the upper atmosphere, by bringing lawsuits against various federal agencies to seek a ban on aerosol spray products containing chlorofluorocarbons. Thereafter, during more than a decade of public service with the District Attorney of Philadelphia, he helped found the field of environmental criminal law, developing and supervising criminal prosecutions for the illegal storage and disposal of hazardous, industrial, municipal and infectious wastes. David Michelman was responsible for bringing the first criminal prosecution in Pennsylvania under the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute, against a hazardous waste transporter who bribed city employees to dump more than 1.5 million gallons of toxic waste at the Enterprise Avenue Landfill. As a result of this investigation and prosecution, the City of Philadelphia successfully cleaned up this site, and was able to persuade the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make this the first Superfund site to be removed from the National Priorities List (NPL).