Ward and Smith, P.A.'s Environmental Practice Group attorneys help individuals, businesses, and local governments achieve compliance with environmental and energy laws. Achieving that goal requires an awareness of the environmental effects of human activities and the applicability of various local, state, and national environmental laws and regulations.
North Carolina has comprehensive environmental laws and regulations. In many cases, these laws complement and reinforce existing federal environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act; Clean Water Act; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA/Superfund); and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Other laws and programs are specific to North Carolina, among them the State Animal Operations Act, Brownfields Redevelopment Act, Coastal Area Management Act ("CAMA"), Oil Pollution and Hazardous Substances Control Act, and Sedimentation and Pollution Control Act. Such detailed laws and regulations govern the disposal of hazardous and solid waste, handling and storage of chemicals, wastewater discharges from industrial and municipal facilities, air emissions from vehicles and manufacturing plants, leaks from commercial gasoline and home heating oil tanks, management of animal waste, discharge of stormwater runoff, land development, impacts on wetlands, and virtually every other aspect of human activity.
We serve clients in three major areas. The first is permitting and regulatory counseling. Our attorneys guide clients through identifying applicable regulations and permit requirements, complying with new regulations and policies, assessing potential environmental liability, responding to enforcement actions, dealing with zoning and land use regulations, gaining adoption of environmental legislation, and obtaining permits for facilities of all types, such as energy generation facilities, manufacturing plants, agricultural operations, bulk cargo port facilities, residential developments, marinas, hotels, food processing plants, and waste incinerators. In addition, our Environmental Practice Group attorneys regularly counsel clients on CAMA permitting and State stormwater matters affecting the use and enjoyment of waterfront property, including residential and commercial development in eastern North Carolina on the coastal shorelines.
The second area is business and commercial real estate transactions. Our attorneys facilitate the sales and purchases of companies, company assets, and real property by devising practical solutions to environmental problems. Today, virtually every business or real estate transaction includes environmental issues. We help identify what environmental liabilities exist and counsel clients on how risks can be minimized and best allocated among the parties. In this area we also advise clients on wind energy projects, shale gas development, biomass, and other alternative energy sources, as well as matters related to sustainable development and green building practices.
The third area is environmental litigation. We represent clients in cases to determine property contamination liability, resolve environmental disputes, protect clients' rights regarding the environment, appeal regulatory permit decisions by federal and state agencies, respond to unfavorable regulatory actions, and defend against agency and citizen suit enforcement actions. We also are well equipped to challenge local ordinances, regulations, and state laws to test their legal sufficiency when necessary.
The Firm's Environmental Practice Group includes experienced environmental professionals. We know the many environmental requirements and agency policies facing clients. We know the regulators, citizens' groups, consultants, and other professionals involved in environmental issues. The geographic reach of Ward and Smith, our skills in environmental matters, and our proximity to clients results in referrals from attorneys outside the Firm who are prevented from serving clients because of conflicts of interest or the lack of such specialized capabilities. Our clients benefit from the substantial knowledge, experience, and contacts of our environmental attorneys and the Firm's client-focused teamwork.