Overview

Mike is a problem-solver whose practice focuses primarily on resolving high-stakes environmental disputes that are legally novel or technically complex.

He is well-versed in decades-old statutes and regulations that govern rapidly-evolving areas issues such as fracking, superfund remediation and carbon capture sequestration. Mike’s mission is to cut through confusion and explain his clients’ needs to decision makers in terms they can easily digest.

While much of his current work involves disputes arising under environmental statutes including CERCLA, RCRA, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, Mike has represented parties involved in commercial, class action, toxic tort and regulatory litigation in courts throughout the United States. His past clients span diverse industries including manufacturing, power generation and transmission, and the financial and insurance sectors; and he has worked with hundreds of experts in fields ranging from history and economics to environmental engineering and risk assessment.

Mike’s beginnings in a West Virginia steel town provide him with a unique perspective when litigating headline-grabbing cases involving large industrial sites. Not only does he understand the details of each case, he can distill complicated facts into compelling arguments that carry weight with courts. This measured approach has successfully disentangled dozens of Mike’s clients from costly and time-consuming disputes.

  • Experience

    • Mike defends parties against “citizen suits” brought by private parties and non-governmental organizations alleging that their activities have violated federal or state law.  Recent successes include securing the dismissal with prejudice – upheld by the Ninth Circuit – of a case alleging that a West Coast utility’s use of hundreds of thousands of telephone poles was illegal, and securing the dismissal of air-related claims at the federal and state level against a Midwestern utility.
    • In a high-profile case, Mike secured a summary judgment win for a natural gas company alleged to have contaminated groundwater through “fracking.” After the conclusion of expert discovery, the Court dismissed the claims, finding that Plaintiffs had failed to produce any evidence linking their damages to Mike’s client.
    • Mike has extensive experience working on Superfund-related matters throughout the United States through both litigation and negotiation. Mike is part of the team representing National Grid at the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site in New York City. National Grid is one of 28 parties that has been directed to investigate, characterize, and address contamination in a complex urban environment. In addition to this Site, Mike has assisted clients in resolving intractable disputes at various other high-profile sites through federal and state litigation and mediation.
    • In a recent matter, Mike filed litigation to secure access necessary for a client to remediate a site listed on the federal NPL and subsequently secured summary judgment against an $11 million counterclaim based on a never-before-litigated state law provision allowing compensation paid by a remediating party to a current site owner. The court’s decision relied on Mike’s team’s factual and legal analysis in awarding less than 1 percent of the amount claimed in compensation. The court’s decision was affirmed on appeal by the Sixth Circuit.
    • Mike has extensive experience in representing parties in toxic tort litigation, including claims related to injuries stemming from exposure to asbestos, silica, benzene, PCBs, and other chemicals.
    • Mike provides legal advice on pending federal legislation and rulemakings and has represented parties in rule challenges and appeals of administrative action before various federal circuit Courts of Appeal. In recent matters, Mike represents clients challenging EPA’s startup, shutdown, and malfunction SIP call and multiple clients potentially affected by EPA SO2 NAAQS designations in both regulatory and judicial proceedings in courts across the country. In addition, Mike has extensive experience advising clients regarding legislation and regulatory changes involving asbestos.
    • Mike represents parties involved in building, maintaining, and operating pipeline infrastructure across the United States in federal and state litigation as well as in discussions with landowners.
  • Credentials

    Education

    • Vanderbilt Law School, J.D., 2004
      Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Managing Editor
      Raymonde I. Paul Scholarship
      Grace Wilson Sims Medal
      Moot Court Board
      Jessup Moot Court Team
    • Columbia College - New York, A.B., Political Economics and Religion, 2000
      Henry S. Coleman Scholarship

    Bar Admissions

    • Illinois
    • New York
    • Virginia
    • West Virginia
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
    • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
    • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York
    • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
    • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia
    • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia

        Clerkships

        • Hon. David A. Faber, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, Charleston, West Virginia (2005-2006)
        • Hon. Michael F. Urbanski, Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court, Roanoke, Virginia (2004-2005)

        Professional Memberships

        • American Bar Association
        • The Sedona Conference
          • Working Group 1, Member
          • Brainstorming Group on Proportionality in Discovery and Drafting Team regarding the Use of Technology Assisted Review in Litigation, Member
      • Insights

        TITLE
        Event

        Citizen Suits and Community Complaints (Odors)

        2017 Air Quality Management Conference

        Location:
        Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.
        News Release

        Nineteen Schiff Hardin Attorneys Named Emerging Lawyers

        Schiff Hardin is pleased to announce that 19 of the firm’s attorneys have been named to the 2017 Emerging Lawyers Network.

        Blog Post

        Methane Rule Litigation Creates Uncertainty for Oil and Gas Companies

        Schiff Hardin Energy & Environmental Law Adviser

        Blog Post

        EPA Litigation Snapshot: Pivotal Cases See Continued Delays

        Schiff Hardin Energy & Environmental Law Adviser

        Event
        Blog Post

        Trump EPA Delays Ongoing Obama-Era Litigation

        Schiff Hardin Energy & Environmental Law Adviser

        Blog Post
        Article

        Recent Developments in Toxic Tort & Environmental Law

        Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal

        Blog Post

        Run-Away Liability and the BNSF Ruling

        Schiff Hardin Energy & Environmental Law Adviser

        Other Publications

        • “Punitive Damages,” in Business Torts and Unfair Competition Handbook, American Bar Association Section of Antitrust Law (2014)
        • Scientific Evidence in the Fourth Circuit, in Cynthia H. Cwik et al. (eds.), Scientific Evidence Review: Admissibility of Expert Evidence, Monograph No. 9, American Bar Association Section of Technology & Law (2013)
        • Scientific Evidence in the Fourth Circuit, in Cynthia H. Cwik et al. (eds.), Scientific Evidence Review: Admissibility of Expert Evidence, Monograph No. 8, American Bar Association Section of Technology & Law (2008)
        • Judicial Deference to Educational Judgment, (co-author) 30 J.C. & U.L. 583 (2004)
        • Note, A Cruel Trilemma: The Flawed Political Economy of Remedies to WTO Subsidies Disputes, 37 Vand. J. Transnat’l L. 587 (2004)

        Speeches & Presentations

        • “Citizen Suits and Community Complaints (Odors),” 2017 Air Quality Management Conference, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. (Oct. 17, 2017)
        • “Citizen Enforcement of the CCR Rule: How Will Enforcement Actions Be Brought, and What Can You Do to Prepare for Them,” (co-presenter) 2017 World of Coal Ash Conference Short Course, Lexington, Ky. (May 8, 2017)
        • “Trends & Upcoming Issues in Environmental Law,” (co-presenter) Agricultural Law Section of the Michigan Bar Association (Sep. 22, 2016)
        • “Legal Update,” (co-presenter) Midwest Environmental Compliance Conference (Nov. 2, 2016)
        • “Ban Asbestos Legislation, Regulation, and Asbestos Litigation,” Defense Research Institute Seminar on Asbestos Medicine, San Diego, California (2010) 
      • Citizenship

        Pro Bono Activities

        Mike devotes substantial time to pro bono matters, particularly related to civil rights and immigration. Recent engagements include:

         

        • Securing the First Amendment rights of non-religious persons to perform marriages in Illinois through litigation to have provisions of Illinois’ family law declared unconstitutional.
        • Intervening, on behalf of a class of foster children, in litigation filed by religious groups opposed to same-sex relationships against the State of Illinois to ability of same-sex couples to become foster parents.
        • Pursuing civil-rights claims on behalf of incarcerated persons related to religious discrimination and unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
        • Assisting children and applicants for political asylum to secure the ability to remain in the United States.

      Energy and Environmental Law Adviser

      Methane Rule Litigation Creates Uncertainty for Oil and Gas Companies

      The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently denied the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed delay of an Obama-era rule that limits methane emissions from new oil and gas equipment, sending oil and gas companies scrambling to immediately ensure compliance with the rule to avoid any enforcement actions. The Trump EPA has...… Continue Reading

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      Product Liability and Mass Torts Blog

      TSCA and Asbestos—a New Approach or One That Reveals the Same Old Problems?

      On November 29, EPA announced that it will review the hazard and exposure risks caused by asbestos. Asbestos will be one of the first ten substances to be evaluated under the TSCA amendments commonly referred to as the Lautenberg Act. As we have discussed elsewhere, TSCA now requires EPA to produce a risk evaluation work...… Continue Reading

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