Based on experience spanning government and private practice, our environmental lawyers have recognized an important shift over the last decade impacting businesses. While primary environmental enforcement authority remains in the hands of federal and state environmental regulatory agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and creative private citizens are increasingly organizing coordinated and agile challenges. Compared to the government, these citizens groups typically have different agendas – their goal can be as narrow as changing how a single plant operates or as broad as getting the world “beyond coal” or “beyond natural gas.”
Our clients routinely turn to us because we understand the NGO playbook and develop creative defensive responses. Gone are the simple NGO suits filed in protest. Well-funded and well-organized, NGOs now often drive enforcement of major environmental statutes using sophisticated, time-intensive strategies involving the courts, regulatory agencies, local government, and the media to advance issue-driven agendas.
Understanding the NGOs’ strategies allows us to proactively counsel clients before they face a citizen suit or NGO-led challenge:
- We counsel clients on best practices involving the sophisticated online tools created by government regulators to make industry-reported information available to NGOs and the public.
- We stay ahead of available defenses against information gathered by handheld emissions monitoring devices used by citizens to collect data from specific sites.
- We work with clients to address environmental justice initiatives—just as civil rights groups are declaring energy and climate change as civil rights issues, groups are demanding that industry address disproportionate environmental impacts to low-income and minority communities, particularly in permitting decisions.
We have been advising clients in this area for decades. Our knowledge of the underlying regulatory schemes and the possible twists, turns, and solutions informs every strategy we develop. As the NGOs’ tactics have evolved, so too have our legal strategies.