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Environmental Law

Meyers Nave handles environmental related transactional and litigation matters on major civil infrastructure and economic development projects throughout California. Our clients are public entities, private businesses and public-private partnerships. The national legal publication Law360 recognized Meyers Nave as a “California Powerhouse” – “one of the leading firms for local governments and public agencies throughout the states as well as private clients focused on complex, public-facing transportation and development projects.” “Meyers Nave has flexed its muscle in the areas of environmental, labor and employment, land use, eminent domain and constitutional law.”

Our practice has received two Tier 1 rankings in the nation’s “Best Law Firms” list developed by U.S. News – Best Law Firms® for the categories of Litigation-Environmental (Metropolitan Los Angeles, 2016) and Natural Resources Law (Metropolitan Oakland, 2015-2017). Our attorneys are also listed in “The Best Lawyers in America” in the categories of Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law, Litigation-Environmental, and Litigation-Land Use and Zoning.

Meyers Nave’s environment law practice covers all significant state and federal environmental and natural resources laws, including endangered species acts, the Clean Water Act, California Environmental Quality Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Coastal Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Clean Air Act, Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, Safer Consumer Products Regulations, Water Recycling Act of 1991, and the Urban Water Management Planning Act.

Clients seek out Meyers Nave when approvals of projects are processed under CEQA, NEPA, and other related laws – and when those projects are challenged in court. Many of our clients hire us to help “bullet-proof” Environmental Impact Reports that ultimately withstand litigation. Our team has overseen the preparation of hundreds of Environmental Impact Reports under CEQA and Environment Impact Statements under NEPA. We have also successfully litigated hundreds of environmental law cases throughout the state and at every level of the judicial process, including the California Supreme Court, and have an outstanding track record. We are experienced and aggressive CEQA litigators who know how to manage, present and argue a case to maximize our client’s success. We also have appellate expertise that includes appeals and extraordinary writs in state and federal courts, trial court writs and complex litigation, dispositive motions in complex litigation, and advice and consultation during trial to strengthen or obviate appeals.

Our prominent position as a leader in CEQA law was demonstrated when Amrit Kulkarni, the Chair of our Land Use and Environmental Law Practice Groups, represented Lotus founder Mitch Kapor before the California Supreme Court on a 2015 case that Law360 described as the “biggest CEQA case.” Amrit’s victory was featured in a Daily Journal article that profiled the case as affecting “how public agencies handle common exemptions from California’s bedrock environmental law.”

Representative Experience

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF). Meyers Nave represents BNSF, North America’s second-largest freight railway, in seven consolidated lawsuits and related appeals challenging the company’s planned $500 million rail transfer facility on CEQA and other environmental impact and environmental justice grounds. The Southern California International Gateway Project (SCIG) will create a new near-dock rail yard for the loading of shipping containers heading to and from the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, the nation’s largest container port.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Meyers Nave served as chief environmental counsel for the Los Angeles to Pasadena Metro Blue Line Construction Authority. Responsibilities included the oversight of the environmental aspects of the property acquisition, construction and remediation, and joint development of station sites.

Save Westwood Village v. Regents of the University of California. The University of California’s General Counsel engaged Meyers Nave to help “bullet-proof” the Environmental Impact Report for one of UCLA’s highest profile projects, the 294,000-square foot $162 million Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference and Guest Center. As expected, opposition groups filed lawsuits raising numerous challenges, including CEQA, zoning and taxation. Our guidance during the ERI administrative process, with a focus on anticipating potential litigation, was validated in a subsequent series of courtroom victories, culminating when an appellate judge rejected all CEQA claims filed by a community group to stop construction.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA): LAX Master Plan and Expansion.  Meyers Nave represented LAWA in connection with its approval of a $13 billion expansion of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). We worked with CARB and SCAQMD, and advised on a broad range of land use and environmental issues, including CEQA, NEPA, California Coastal Act, Federal Coastal Zone Management Act, federal and state endangered species laws, and other state and federal regulatory and permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act and California’s SIP. We assisted in preparing a comprehensive legal analysis of the LAX Master Plan operational forecasts and “horizon year” (planning period) for compliance with CEQA and state planning and zoning laws. We also defended LAWA in four consolidated lawsuits alleging CEQA, NEPA and California Coastal Act violations in the approval of the LAX Master Plan.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA): South and North Airfield Improvement Projects. Meyers Nave served as outside land use counsel for the CEQA review of the $240 million South Airfield Improvement Project, the first project to be implemented under the LAX Master Plan. Meyers Nave also advised LAWA on environmental review of the proposed LAX North Airfield Safety Improvement Project.

$477 Million Downtown Arena for the Sacramento Kings. Meyers Nave defeated every legal challenge against the new $477 million downtown arena for the Sacramento Kings NBA team, including (1) an eminent domain victory giving the City of Sacramento permission to take over the final piece of downtown property, (2) a published appellate decision denying a CEQA-based challenge to the project, (3) another published appellate decision denying a constitutional challenge to the special statute passed to streamline the City’s CEQA review, and (4) an 11-day trial alleging that the public-private partnership behind the arena engaged in a “secret subsidy,” collusion, fraud, concealment, waste and illegal expenditure of public funds, along with alleged illegalities in the City’s bond financing. The trial victory was recognized by the Daily Journal among the “Top Defense Results” in 2015.

California Supreme Court’s Most Prominent CEQA Case. Meyers Nave represented Lotus founder Mitch Kapor before the California Supreme Court in Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley. The Court’s highly anticipated decision resolved years of uncertainty by holding that there must be “unusual circumstances” in order for an otherwise categorically exempt project to be subject to CEQA. The Court also resolved a divide among Courts of Appeal, holding that an agency’s findings as to unusual circumstances are subject to the substantial evidence standard. The Court established a new two-part test to analyze a project opponent’s assertion that a project presents “unusual circumstances” that require CEQA review.

Port of Los Angeles Industrial Projects and Master Plan Update. Meyers Nave represents the Port of Los Angeles on environmental compliance and permitting for numerous cargo, shipping and transportation projects for container terminals and dockside intermodal rail yards, including the China Shipping Terminal, Trapac Container Terminal, and Pacific L.A. Marine Terminal, as well as the Clean Trucks Program designed to improve regional air quality. These projects involve numerous complex environmental issues, focusing on air quality, greenhouse gas, biological, water quality, traffic, land use, and cumulative impacts. We have also advised the Port on multiple long-term planning projects, including the Port Master Plan Update.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). Meyers Nave represents the Silicon Valley region’s largest transportation planning agency in numerous land use and environmental law matters. Santa Clara VTA has completed multiple long-range plans and environmental review for those plans. We have provided assistance in the development of those plans and environmental review, as well as litigation challenging those documents. Some of the BART-related expansion projects we have advised on include:

  • Meyers Nave successfully represented VTA in a CEQA action challenging the adequacy of a supplemental EIR for the BART Silicon Valley Project to extend the BART system from Fremont to Santa Clara. The case also challenged VTA’s compliance with the California Public Records Act and sought to compel production of emails relevant to settlement of the CEQA action.
  • Meyers Nave advised VTA on CEQA compliance for a BART extension into the City of San Jose. The project involved complex issues relating to providing CEQA coverage for options for the rail route and design and other potential project revisions during construction.
  • Meyers Nave advised VTA on CEQA and NEPA review for the Capitol Express Light Rail Project, a 3-mile extension of an elevated commuter transit line and accessory passenger station. Representation included consultation with the Federal Transportation Authority as lead agency for NEPA review of the project.
  • Meyers Nave prevailed in a right-to-take trial on behalf of VTA in a condemnation action that included CEQA-based challenges. The case involved acquiring property owned by a shopping center for the construction of a light rail project. Judgment favored VTA on all 10 challenges.