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Vinson & Elkins Clean Air Act (CAA) practitioners work closely with all sectors of the energy industry, including electric utilities, pipeline companies, refiners, exploration and production companies, and bulk storage terminal operators, as well as chemical manufacturers, consumer products companies, waste management companies, and similar enterprises in permitting, compliance, and enforcement matters arising under federal and state air quality laws and regulations.

Our representations include the following:

  • Obtaining and renewing permits for construction and operation of air emission sources, including contested-case permitting proceedings
  • Defending challenges to permits
  • Counseling regarding compliance issues arising under rules and permits
  • Defending enforcement actions at local, state, and federal levels, including both government- and citizen–initiated cases
  • Creating and trading emissions allowances, including cross-border transactions
  • Assisting in the regulatory development process, including judicial challenges to unfavorable agency rules and policies
  • Analyzing air issues in transactions

Throughout Texas and many other regions of the country, our CAA lawyers have assisted clients with obtaining and defending the issuance of permits for controversial projects, including coal-fired power plants and waste disposal facilities. We have played leading roles in the judicial review of major CAA regulatory initiatives. Our practitioners have defended clients in enforcement cases initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state and local authorities, and citizen groups.

Experience Highlights

  • Obtained dismissal by trial court of Clean Air Act enforcement action against a former owner of a coal-fired power plant seeking extensive injunctive relief; Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal in unanimous 68-page opinion

  • Representing a client in an EPA enforcement action alleging violations of the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review (NSR) requirements and exceedences of air emissions limits

  • Counsel to lead petitioner group in DC Circuit challenges and Supreme Court petitions to EPA initiative to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the CAA

  • Defended a large integrated refinery and chemical plant against Clean Air Act citizen suit enforcement litigation

  • Defeated challenges to air permits for a coal-fired power plant, obtaining precedentially-important vindication of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality policies by the Texas Court of Appeals

  • Obtained air permits for surface facilities associated with controversial proposed hazardous waste injection facilities 

    • Obtained air permits for entity seeking authorization to construct surface disposal facility for industrial waste in sensitive community 

      • Defended an enforcement case brought by a state agency against a natural gas treatment facility alleging longstanding periods of excess emissions, yielding complete dismissal of claims 

        • Obtained PSD permit for locally opposed gas-fired power project through contested case proceedings, the conclusion of which allowed our client to enter into a collaborative settlement with former opposition

          • Defended a federal CAA citizen suit against a coal-fired power plant before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit alleging violations of Maximum Achievable Control Technology requirements 

          • Obtained dismissal of a case against a coal-fired utility alleging that it contributed to global warming and was, therefore, liable for damages, including impacts to a coastal village in Alaska 

            • Assisted a client in developing legislation to authorize cross-border, cross-pollutant emission trading; obtained governmental approval of the first trade under those rules 

              • Negotiated the first-ever multi-party emissions trade with the area emission credit organization in Texas 

                • Defended a nationwide enforcement action brought by the EPA to enforce rules governing industrial use of chlorofluorocarbons 

                  • Defended a civil action brought by a state agency against a gas-fired electric generating unit, leading to a favorable mediated settlement 

                  • Defended an enforcement case brought by a state agency against an upstream oil gathering facility alleging violations based on fenceline infrared monitoring, yielding complete dismissal of claims

                  • Obtained Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacatur of EPA’s rule denying approval of important elements of Texas’ air permitting program