Adam is the co-leader of McGuireWoods’ Crisis Management & Incident Response and Environmental Enforcement & Regulatory Counseling practice groups. Fortune 500 companies turn to Adam when they face major legal and reputational risk in environmental, health, and safety (“EHS”) criminal, regulatory, and civil proceedings. With more than 25 years of experience as an EPA enforcement attorney, a general counsel with an international manufacturing company and a private practice lawyer, he has helped clients manage bet-the-company environmental matters in all media, including air, water, and waste. Adam is recognized for “his strong defense of civil and criminal enforcement matters” and is described as “excellent in all aspects” of environmental practice by Chambers USA (2021). Other market recognitions include being named a “Georgia Trailblazer” for his work in crisis management by The Daily Report.
Adam leads the response and investigation of catastrophic accidents, fires, explosions and spills, and he handles environmental crisis management matters, such as criminal and civil inspections and investigations. Over the past several years, he helped clients recover more than $2 billion in insurance proceeds to rebuild post crisis. Adam defends clients in government inquiries following an EHS crisis, such as investigations by the Chemical Safety Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and state and local regulatory agencies.
He also counsels on matters involving emerging contaminants, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”). Adam was the lead attorney in one of the first major regulatory matters involving PFAS contamination from a manufacturing facility that impacted a municipal wastewater treatment plant, including the investigation of a three-county area in Northern Alabama impacted by biosolids from the wastewater plant.
Adam is an author and frequent speaker on environmental compliance and enforcement issues, including co-authoring the “EPA Compliance and Enforcement Answer Book” published by PLI in 2013 and 2015 and serving as a contributing author for the LexisNexis Practice Guide: “Georgia Environmental Law” published in 2022.
Representative Environmental, Health and Safety Matters
- Counsel to a Fortune 100 company defending a criminal and civil enforcement action involving EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”), resulting in the largest ever settlement in a TSCA enforcement case by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”).
- National counsel to one of the largest U.S. homebuilders, providing counsel to the company on environmental matters throughout the country, such as stormwater and wetlands compliance under the Clean Water Act, environmental management systems, self-disclosure of environmental violations, natural resources, and endangered species.
- Representation of a major international manufacturer in a national industrial storm water enforcement action by EPA headquarters, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), and several states initially involving over 400 manufacturing locations.
- Representation of a major international manufacturer in Clean Water Act enforcement action by EPA headquarters, the DOJ, and the State of New York involving allegations that the company violated its NPDES permit at a large cement plant.
- Representation of a transportation company in defense of a criminal enforcement action in the Southeast involving allegations by EPA, DOJ, and the United States Attorney’s Office that the company was involved in intentional illegal disposal of wastewater.
- Representation of a Fortune 100 company in addressing historical contamination including polychlorinated biphenyls with EPA and a state agency, and complex allocation issues with the other potentially responsible parties, involving a former major manufacturing site under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”).
- Counsel to a large municipal government in defense of a pending civil enforcement action by the EPA, a state agency, and local environmental group alleging Clean Water Act violations regarding its wastewater system (sanitary sewer overflows) and its municipal separate storm sewer system (“MS4”).
Representative PFAS Matters
- National counsel for several Fortune 100 companies providing strategic advising on PFAS issues, such as litigation and risk avoidance, including major chemical, consumer products, and heavy manufacturing companies.
- Currently defending a large chemical manufacturing company on PFAS provisions added by a state regulator in water and other permits impacting its flagship manufacturing facility.
- Advise a private equity company regarding impacts of PFAS contamination at several facilities in a large transaction.
- Representation of a large global corporation in response to an inquiry by a utility regarding the discharge of PFAS into the utility’s wastewater treatment plant resulting from the use and release of aqueous film forming foam (“AFFF”).
- Counsel to a major international manufacturer in responding to new PFAS legislation in states such as Washington, Colorado, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York which is impacting its manufacturing operations and product sales.
Representative Environmental, Health and Safety Crisis Management Matters
- Representation of a utility services company alleged to have falsified records involving its wastewater operations, including leading an internal investigation and the defense of search warrant executed in February 2023.
- Representation of a utility services company that had a trenching accident in December 2022, resulting in a fatality and significant injury of its employees and the subsequent investigation and enforcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).
- Representation of a large chemical manufacturing company in response to a cyber-attack of its chemical plants by a foreign threat actor that implicated national security issues. Coordinated the response with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Coast Guard.
- Representation of an international energy company in response to an explosion and fire in June 2022, resulting in substantial damage to its liquified natural gas exporting facility in Texas, including helping to lead the company’s root cause investigation and respond to regulatory inquires by CSB, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, (“PHMSA”), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”).
- Representation of an international energy company in response to an explosion and fire in April 2022, resulting in the total loss of a natural gas production facility in the Southwestern U.S.
- Representation of a large international chemical manufacturer in the southern U.S. in response to chemical release in November 2020, resulting in a fatality, including the incident response, internal investigation, and responding to regulatory inquiries by the Chemical Safety Board (“CSB”), State OSHA, and State environmental agencies, among others.
- Representation of a paper manufacturing company in the northeast U.S. in response to a catastrophic explosion in April 2020, including the incident response, internal investigation, and responding to regulatory inquiries by the State and Federal OSHA, State and Federal environmental agencies, CSB, and State Boiler Inspector, among others.
- Representation of a chemical manufacturer in Houston, Texas, in response to an industrial accident resulting in a fatality in February 2020, including defending investigations by OSHA and EPA and defending the company in resulting litigation by third parties.
- Representation of a paper manufacturing company in the northeast U.S. in response to a catastrophic fire in January 2019, including the incident response, internal investigation, and responding to regulatory inquiries by the National Response Team of ATF, state and federal OSHA, and state and federal environmental agencies, among others.
- Representation of a large international chemical manufacturer in the southern U.S. in response to an explosion in September 2017 at its largest U.S. manufacturing facility, including leading the incident response, internal investigation, and defense of regulatory inquiries by the state and federal OSHA, state and federal environmental agencies, CSB, ATF, among others.
*The above matters were handled by Mr. Sowatzka prior to joining McGuireWoods LLP.
Vermont Law and Graduate SchoolMSEL
magna cum laude
Vermont Law and Graduate SchoolJD
University of Wisconsin – Green BayBS
Member, Environmental Law Section, Georgia Bar Association, 2006 – Present; Former Chairperson
Member, Environmental Editorial Advisory Board, Law360, 2011–2016
- District of Columbia
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
- U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia
- U.S. Supreme Court
Selected for inclusion, “Best Lawyers in America,” Environmental Law and Litigation; Environmental, Woodward/White, Inc., 2013-present
Selected for inclusion in America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Environmental, Georgia, Chambers USA, 2011-present
Named a “Georgia Super Lawyer” in Environmental Law, Super Lawyers, 2014 – Present
Named a “Georgia Trailblazer in Incident Response,” Daily Report, 2020
Named a “Georgia Rising Star” in Environmental Law, Super Lawyers, 2011-2013
- Author, PHMSA Proposes Revising Pipeline Safety Regulations, McGuireWoods Legal Alert, October 18, 2023
- Author, FDA Issues Draft Guidance for Cosmetic Product Listing and Facility Registration, McGuireWoods Legal Alert, August 24, 2023
- Author, PFAS Liability and Insurance: Potential Avenues to Mitigate Exposure for PFAS Risks through Insurance, Pro Policyholder, July 31, 2023
- Author, SCOTUS Wetlands Ruling Significantly Reduces Federal Jurisdiction Under Clean Water Act, McGuireWoods Legal Alert, May 26, 2023
- Co-author, How New Laws Could Tighten FDA Regulation Of Cosmetics, Law360, January 25, 2022
- Co-author, LexisNexis Practice Guide: Georgia Environmental Law, LexisNexis, 2022
- Co-author, Environmentally Challenged Property Foreclosures In A Crisis, Law360, April 24, 2020
- Co-author, EPA Compliance and Enforcement Answer Book, Practicing Law Institute, 2013 and 2015