Agency Legal Reviews Including Chemical Sector In-House Counsel Houston

In order to achieve success in the chemical and energy sectors, it is essential for a business to establish good working relationships with a variety of state and federal regulatory authorities. The Law Office of C. William Smalling works with clients to analyze the legal aspects of permit and agency submissions and to provide cost-effective solutions to their pressing regulatory challenges and potential liabilities.

Regulatory Agencies

We represent clients before a number of federal and state regulatory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as the Departments of Energy and Transportation, the Department of Justice, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Railroad Commission. 

In addition, we work closely with a number of other agencies with jurisdiction over energy projects and facilities, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation (pipeline safety, offshore LNG), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Minerals Management Service (royalties, pipeline rights-of-way), the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Coast Guard (waterways, safety of harbors). We also practice before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Our practice is focused on number of areas of law including:

  • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • The Endangered Species Act (ESA)
  • The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • The Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA/ Superfund)
  • The Clean Air Act (CAA)
  • The Clean Water Act (CWA)
  • The Occupation Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

We are well-versed in a wide range of controversial issues affecting our clients, such as federal air quality standards, climate change and regulatory requirements for hydraulic fracturing (fracking). We advocate on their behalf regarding these matters before the U.S. Congress and federal and state regulators.

Enforcement Actions

For businesses facing anticipated or ongoing civil and criminal government actions, we provide a vigorous legal defense and respond to government information requests. As part of a comprehensive legal strategy, we conduct internal investigations and prepare responses to government investigations and enforcement actions. We are well-aware that such investigations may be triggered by a release to the environment, a whistleblower, a citizen complaint, an internal audit finding, a search warrant, or a grand jury subpoena.

Once an outside investigation is commenced, we coordinate responses of employees, direct internal investigations and evidence preservation initiatives under the CWA, RCRA, CAA, OSHA, among other worker safety and environmental regimes.

Project Development

Our firm routinely handles the environmental aspects of project development for major energy, industrial and infrastructure projects, including LNG projects, pipeline projects, electric power projects and refinery projects. We are capable of dealing with issues surrounding:

•             Air Quality

•             Climate Change

•             Natural Resources

•             Oil and Gas Environmental Issues

•             Solid and Hazardous Waste

•             Toxic and Hazardous Substances

•             Toxic Tort and Environmental Litigation

•             Water Quality

•             Water Resources

•             Contaminated Site Clean-Up

•             Crisis Response and Preparedness

•             Civil and Criminal Enforcement

•             Environmental Aspects of Business Transactions

•             Health and Safety

•             International Environmental Law

Representations before TCEQ - The Enforcement Process

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is a large regulatory agency with broad powers to enforce state and federal environmental laws and regulations. TCEQ is charged with adopting and enforcing rules to protect individuals and the environment in Texas. To achieve this objective, the agency inspects facilities on a regular schedule or in response to a specific complaint or incident.

Assume that an investigator has just finished inspecting your place of business for the TCEQ. Under the federal and state law, the TCEQ must adopt and enforce rules that protect the people and environment of Texas. TCEQ has designed these rules to reduce and prevent pollution and to ensure that public health is protected. Part of TCEQ’s job is to find out whether the people TCEQ regulate are complying with these rules. They do this by inspecting facilities on a regular schedule. Also, the TCEQ may inspect a facility in response to a specific complaint or a spill. Remember that anyone can file a complaint; this means disgruntled employees or ex-employees, competitors, or neighbors can file a complaint. Complainants can choose to remain anonymous.

At the end of the inspection, TCEQ investigators should go over their findings with you in an exit interview. You should find out in this interview what violations, if any, the investigator found. If the investigator finds no problems, you should receive a letter called a “general compliance letter” within several weeks. If, after further review of agency regulations, additional violations appear to have occurred, the investigator should but do not always contact you by telephone to discuss them. If violations are discovered, we work closely with clients to bring their operations into compliance.

Self-Reporting of Compliance Data

Ultimately, all health, safety and environmental laws and programs require continuous monitoring and self reporting of compliance data. This lends itself to the potential discovery of violations and subsequent enforcement action by state agencies and the Environmental Protection Agency. We regularly assist clients by performing a detailed legal review of submissions to identify potential problems and assist in compiling and validating the data. We take a proactive approach in order to mitigate costs and minimize our clients' legal liabilities.

For example, EPA’s operating permit program is intended to fold together the various air permit and standard requirements into a single permit document. It also allows the state to specify any additional requirements to meet federal or state ambient air standards, or to meet other state-level requirements. Note that the operating permit does not change the review process for new or modified sources of air pollutants. Whenever applicable, you would still have to apply for and receive a state NSR permit, which would then be folded into your operating permit. Congress intended that the states administer the operating permit program. The operating permits all require semi-annual deviation reports and annual compliance reports. These reports should be legally reviewed for a number of reasons; one reason is to ensure that that the reports do not report “deviations” not required to be reported, for example in Texas, by TCEQ’s Title V Deviation Reporting and Permit Compliance Certification guidance, thereby exposing the company to needless fines and administrative orders.

Another example is the reporting of planned and unplanned “emission events.” These reports should be legally reviewed for a number of reasons; one reason is to ensure that that the reports are not misworded so that a “non-preventable” emission event is interpreted by the agency to be “preventable”, exposing the company to needless penalties.

The Law Office of C. William Smalling represents clients in all phases of regulatory counseling, strategic permitting, litigation, legislative matters, rulemaking, criminal investigations, corporate crises, civil enforcement, contaminated site remediation and business transactions. We assist in resolving issues under major environmental statutes and regulatory programs. We utilize effective advocacy in court and before the agencies. Over the years, we have developed strong relationships with federal and state regulatory authorities that have proven to be beneficial to our clients. By retaining us, we can reduce costs and legal liabilities to the company. If you're are contemplating a new project or facing an agency review, call our office today at (713) 513-7153.



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2 Allen Center, 1200 Smith Street, Ste. 1600, Houston, TX 77002
| Phone: (713) 513-7153

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