James A. Thornhill Partner

Jim has advised developers, lenders, purchases and sellers on environmental, energy and land development matters for over 30 years. He concentrates his practice on environmental due diligence, Brownfield redevelopment, real estate and renewable energy development and transactional matters.


Environmental Aspects of Transactions/Contaminated Property Transactions

Jim advises on environmental and land use due diligence and permitting issues in real estate, corporate and energy transactions, including leases, purchase and sale of real property, asset and stock purchases and sales, loans and donations. He has also advised clients on the environmental and land use aspects of wind and solar energy generation facilities. He has reviewed hundreds of Phase I and Phase II environmental site assessments and compliance audits for a broad range of clients. He has also written articles and spoken on the environmental due diligence.  Additionally, Jim handles real estate sales and leases of sites subject to federal and state corrective action using his years of real estate and environmental expertise to manage the transactions while addressing the nuances of post-closing remedial obligations.


Jim has represented developers in assessing and resolving issues for re-development of Brownfield sites across the country for industrial, commercial and residential projects. Jim is actively working on or recently completed projects under voluntary remediation programs in Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia as well as sites regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Jim understands not only how to identify and resolve liability issues at contaminated sites, but also how to address the practical implications of residual contamination and development restrictions that may be encountered after the regulator’s sign off on the site. He has extensive experience using environmental insurance in transactions and brownfield redevelopment, having negotiated terms on behalf of sellers, purchasers, developers and lenders.

Waste & Hazardous Substances

Jim is experienced in landlord, tenant, owner, operator, trustee and lender liability issues involving underground and above ground storage tanks (USTs and ASTs), hazardous and solid waste, hazardous substances, petroleum, asbestos containing materials, lead-based paint, lead in water, radon, mold, wetlands and navigable waters, endangered species and historic resources. He has worked on a broad range of industrial uses with environmental and natural resource impacts, including energy-related facilities such as power plants; municipal solid waste (MSW), rubble waste and construction and demolition debris landfills, transfer stations and recycling facilities; and sand, gravel and aggregate mining, storage and distribution facilities.

After earning his law degree, Jim was a law clerk for the Honorable Walter E. Hoffman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. While attending the University of Richmond School of Law, he was Managing Editor of the Law Review and a member of the McNeill Law (Honor) Society.


Representation of developer of 2 million square feet of office space on former rail yard and landfill using Virginia Voluntary Remediation Program.

Advice to manufacturer in the defense of potential RCRA enforcement action by EPA Region 3 in West Virginia.

Representation of liquidating trust on environmental issues related to transfer of going concerns, closure of facilities and corrective action on multiple sites across the United States.

Representation of manufacturer in closure of facility and investigation and remediation under Virginia Voluntary Remediation Program.

Representation of owner in re-start of manufacturing facility with providing water, wastewater, waste and air emission services to new tenants.

Representation of manufacturer in investigation and remediation of contaminated site under South Carolina Voluntary Cleanup Program.

Representation of developer in environmental aspects of financing a landfill gas project in California.

Advice on possible biosolids-to-energy facility in the mid-Atlantic.

Representation of owner of multiple retail centers in the investigation and remediation of dry cleaning solvent releases under the Maryland Voluntary Cleanup Program and Controlled Hazardous Substance Program.

Representation of developer of an over 300 acre former rail yard with regulatory approvals, investigations and environmental insurance program.

Representation of convenience store owner and operator in the acquisition and financing of over 250 service stations and convenience stores, including negotiation of pollution legal liability and costs cap insurance policies.

Representation of owner in the detailed investigation of over 25 convenience stores in connection with a financing.

Representation of manufacturer in property transfer and permit transfer requirements in the sale of facilities in over twenty-five states.

Representation of owner of former manufacturing site in completion of closure requirements of site on the New York Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site list.

Representation of foundation in limitation of environmental liability associated with gift of former metal recycling sites.

Representation of owners, purchasers, lenders and tenants with regard to over 30 sites in or having completed the Virginia Voluntary Remediation Program.

  • University of Richmond School of Law, JD, cum laude, Managing Editor, University of Richmond Law Review, 1987
  • Wake Forest University, BA, 1984

Named "Lawyer of the Year," Environmental Law, Richmond, The Best Lawyers in America, 2020

Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, Environmental Law, Woodward/White, Inc., 2007-2020

Selected for inclusion in America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Environment, Virginia, Chambers USA, 2005-2019

Named to "Legal Elite," Environmental Law, Virginia Business, 2015, 2017

AV Preeminent Rating, Martindale-Hubbell

  • Virginia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia
  • Speaker, Brightfields 2019 - Virginia, April 9-10, 2019
  • Panelist, "Regulatory Due Diligence Issues in Energy Financing," Renewable Energy Law Conference, January 2017
  • Speaker, "Brownfields Revitalization and Total Project Integration: North Virginia Redevelopment," Environment Virginia Symposium sponsored by the Virginia Military Institute, April 2016
  • Speaker, Redeveloping Contaminated Properties in Virginia: Managing Liability and Costs, October 2015
  • Speaker, "Life After Landfilling—The Evolution of Carlyle," Virginia Brownfields Conference sponsored by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, May 2015
  • Speaker, "Show Me the Money! What Lenders Want and Why," Virginia Brownfields Conference sponsored by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, March 2012
  • Speaker, Environmental Due Diligence and Liability Limiting Strategies for Real Estate Assessment, Sponsored by the Association of Corporate Counsel, May 2011
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