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George O. Wilkinson, Jr.

George O. Wilkinson, Jr. Partner, Environmental & Natural Resources

An accomplished lawyer with more than 25 years of experience, George advises and represents clients on business-critical environmental matters. His broad environmental law practice includes environmental litigation, environmental enforcement defense, emergency response, and environmental compliance counseling.

As part of that practice, George counsels clients on responding to refinery, chemical plant, pipeline, and industrial accidents, including government investigations and enforcement actions, citizen suits, and tort litigation. He represents clients in state and federal courts, where litigation involves substantive environmental matters and toxic torts. He counsels clients on a range of environmental matters, including Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and natural resource damage issues.

George also advises clients on environmental enforcement and regulatory issues related to refineries, chemical plants, other process industries, oil and gas exploration and production, and pipelines. He defends corporations and individuals charged with, or investigated for, criminal violations of state and federal environmental laws. George also conducts internal evaluations and recommends appropriate responses and corrective measures.

Experience Highlights

  • Advising on response to pipeline, hydrocarbon transportation, and hydrocarbon storage facility, OCS platforms, and refinery and chemical plant explosions, fires, incidents, and fatalities
  • Counseling clients regarding response to investigating government agencies, private party claimants, and other legal issues related to incident response; experience dealing with a wide range of responding government agencies that includes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), United States Coast Guard, state environmental agencies and law enforcement, and local agencies and law enforcement

Environmental Litigation

  • Successful trial and appellate defense of an oil company sued by another oil company for CERCLA contribution arising from a large plume of hydrocarbon in the ground water attributed to historic operations at a refinery and tank farm
  • Defended a large integrated refinery and chemical plant against Clean Air Act citizen suit enforcement litigation
  • Defended a large integrated refinery and chemical plant against an EPA flare control enforcement initiative under the Clean Air Act
  • Member of defense team for response to federal investigations and criminal prosecution arising from a major refinery explosion
  • Member of defense team for the defense of toxic tort actions against a pipeline company sued by approximately 18,000 people in approximately 80 different suits following a pipeline rupture and fire; plaintiffs claimed damages for personal injuries, property damage, fear of future disease, and medical monitoring; part of the trial team in the successful defense of the first case to be tried arising from the pipeline ruptures; the case involved a trial class of 14 plaintiffs who claimed personal injuries and property damage, and sought millions in punitive damages; following a twelve-week trial, a Jefferson County (Beaumont), Texas jury rendered a unanimous verdict of no liability and causation
  • Defended an offshore operator against a False Claims Act suit
  • Defended an operator’s claim under an oil and gas joint operating agreement for costs related to a groundwater contamination claim in underlying litigation
  • Assisted with the defense of a large toxic tort class action suit and approximately 200 individual claims against an agricultural chemical company
  • Part of trial team for the successful defense of a lumber mill sued by downstream landowners after a large pile of bark chips caught fire and the runoff from fire fighting operations allegedly befouled private lakes downstream from the mill; drafted the brief which preserved the victory on appeal
  • Assisted with the defense of a medical device manufacturing facility sued for groundwater contamination allegedly arising from historic operations; plaintiffs claimed over $100 million in lost profits as a result of the contamination

Enforcement Defense

  • Defended refiner subject to enforcement under EPA’s petroleum refinery initiative
  • Defending a refinery on EPA Petroleum Refining Initiative Consent Decree compliance issues
  • Defended a refiner against claims that its Benzene Waste Operations program is and was not in compliance with the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants
  • Defended a chemical manufacturer subject to administrative enforcement action for alleged Clean Air Act Risk Management Plan General Duty Clause allegations arising from an explosion
  • Defending an E&P operator in response to a BSEE investigation, third-party investigation, third-party SEMS audit, CSB inquiry, Congressional inquiry, and federal grand jury investigation arising from an incident on a production facility in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Defended a state enforcement action involving alleged RCRA and Clean Air Act violations at a pipeline terminal
  • Defended and counseled a major pipeline company investigated for Clean Water Act violations
  • Advised a contractor supporting oil and gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico on a BSEE investigation related to produced water discharge compliance matters

Criminal Defense

  • Defended an oil and gas operator in the Gulf of Mexico against criminal prosecution related to oil spills and NPDES compliance reporting
  • Assisted with the defense of a refinery operator prosecuted by the United States following a major industrial accident
  • Defended the owner of a paint manufacturing company investigated for, and charged with, numerous RCRA criminal violations; obtained a very favorable result at sentencing that avoided a jail term for the individual
  • Defended a major pipeline company charged with criminal violations of state water pollution laws
  • Defended a refiner being investigated for alleged violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act and RCRA
  • Defended an individual charged with water discharge and hazardous waste felony violations
  • Defended a warehousing company charged with criminal violations of state water pollution laws
  • Defended a used oil recycling company charged with criminal violations of state water pollution laws
  • Defended a petroleum distributor charged with criminal violations of state water pollution laws
  • Worked on the defense of an agricultural chemical company investigated for federal environmental criminal violations at the same time the company was defending significant private party litigation
  • Worked on the defense of a refinery investigated for, and charged with, Clean Water Act criminal violations
  • Defended the principal shareholder of a company investigated for Clean Water Act violations
  • Defended the manager of a pre-stress concrete plant charged, along with his employer, with violations of the Texas Water Code
  • Obtain dismissal of felony indictments alleging used oil and hazardous waste violations against an oilfield services company

Contact Details

Houston

T +1.713.758.4834
F +1.713.615.5142
gwilkinson@velaw.com
1001 Fannin Street
Suite 2500
Houston, TX 77002
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George's Practices

  • The University of Texas School of Law, J.D. with honors, 1991 (Board of Advocates; Notes Editor, American Journal of Criminal Law)
  • The University of Texas, B.S., Mechanical Engineering, 1986 (Mortar Board; Omicron Delta Kappa; Tau Beta Pi; Pi Tau Sigma)
  • Admitted to practice: Texas; U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts of Texas; U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals; all Texas state courts
    • Structural Test Engineer, Major Defense Contractor, 1986–1988
    • Judicial clerk to The Honorable Eugene A. Cook, Texas Supreme Court
      • Chambers USA, Environment (Texas), 2017 and 2018; Recognized Practitioner, 2015 and 2016
      • American Lawyer Media, Top Rated Lawyer for Energy, Environmental and Natural Resources, 2013
      • The Best Lawyers in America© (Woodward/White, Inc.), Environmental Law, 2013—2017; Litigation, 2017
      • Legal 500 U.S., Environmental Litigation, 2011