Hicks Thomas Environmental Litigation Team Successfully Navigates Clean Water Act Enforcement Action Brought by San Francisco Baykeeper

Hicks Thomas LLP is pleased to announce that its environmental litigation team has reached a favorable settlement on behalf of a California company sued by a public interest group under the Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit, filed in January 2020 by the non-profit corporation San Francisco Baykeeper, claimed that the company’s Bay Area industrial facility violated the Clean Water Act by discharging polluted stormwater that exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California standards for certain metals and suspended solids.

The company turned to Hicks Thomas’ Northern California office, which collaborated with the firm’s veteran team of environmental litigators in Houston.

“California is the first in the nation to enact more-detailed and stringent water standards, so it is a brave new world for many,” said Hicks Thomas Partner John Thomas. “I am very proud of the solution developed for our client, and I think it speaks to the expertise and experience we have helping businesses navigate the challenges around stormwater runoff. In this case, I am pleased we were able to find a cost-effective business solution to the problem that enabled the client to continue operating it business without interruption.”

In response to the lawsuit, Hicks Thomas teamed with environmental consultants to quickly assess technical aspects of the claims and develop a cost-effective business solution to the lawsuit claims. The Hicks Thomas team then negotiated a consent decree that enabled implementation of the business solution with minimal penalties or fees.

Hicks Thomas also worked with the company to navigate multiple challenges at the site, determining that the best and most cost-effective approach would be to consolidate the stormwater runoff and all the existing discharge points to one location for treatment.

After less than four months, the system installation was completed and deemed effective when zero exceedances were reported after the first significant rain event.

“The key to the solution was a quick assessment of the claims and a focused approach to cut off any future claims,” said Hicks Thomas Partner John Deis, who led the project to implement the remedy. “This meant developing a strategy using not just the law, but the technical expertise of our consultants to home-in on a remedy that would satisfy the needs of the client without breaking the bank.”