Environmental Litigation

McGuireWoods’ environmental litigators draw on their deep legal and industry experience to deliver strategic counsel to clients anywhere they do business. Our lawyers successfully litigate environmental and toxic tort cases in state and federal courts throughout the United States, including all the federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. We lead vast and overlapping discovery, navigate novel legal theories, defeat class certification, tackle complex technical and scientific issues, and manage difficult facts. Drawing on our familiarity with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice policies and procedures, the team works closely with EPA and DOJ staff and counsel to negotiate responses to investigations and enforcement actions.

While prepared to mount an aggressive defense at trial and before federal and state regulatory agencies, the team is proud of those cases that do not make it to court. Our environmental litigators also recognize the value of a positive reputation, and work with affiliate McGuireWoods Consulting’s strategic communications, public relations and government relations teams to manage the publicity that often surrounds environmental incidents and complaints — and to ensure that clients’ perspectives on important issues are heard and understood.

How We Help

McGuireWoods partners with clients through strategic and cost-effective negotiations and litigation. The firm resolves issues with regulatory agencies and other interested parties through negotiation, but stands ready to litigate when required. Our lawyers draw on decades of experience handling disputes over permit appeals, rule challenges, cost recovery claims and contribution actions, as well as citizen suits and toxic torts. When clients face a government investigation and/or enforcement action, the team’s bench of former federal prosecutors leverage experience from both sides of civil and criminal enforcement actions.

Types of Environmental Litigation

Clients call on McGuireWoods to handle environmental enforcement and litigation matters, including: 

  • CERCLA Environmental Cost Recovery and Contribution Litigation | McGuireWoods has an exemplary record of achievement in CERCLA contribution and cost recovery actions in U.S. District Courts and Courts of Appeal involving Superfund sites throughout the country. Our litigators have recovered or saved clients hundreds of millions of dollars at sites where liability is disputed but equitable allocations must be made. When potentially responsible parties cannot agree, we take the case to trial. And this sets McGuireWoods apart. In just the past five years, the team has tried and appealed numerous CERCLA contribution cases to a successful conclusion. McGuireWoods has a strong record of success and trial experience in CERCLA contribution and cost recovery cases.
  • Challenges to Regulations and Agency Actions | Administrative Procedure Act litigation draws on McGuireWoods’ regulatory know-how and experience with administrative litigation, the exceptional brief-writing and practical clerkship experience of team appellate litigators, and the strategic thinking of our experienced environmental litigators. Leveraging broad environmental regulatory know-how, the team prepares comments on proposed regulations, challenges unlawful regulations in court and defends favorable agency decision-making from others’ attacks. 
  • Citizen Suits | McGuireWoods defends chemical, solid waste management, agricultural and other companies around the country against citizen suit claims under RCRA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. Our experienced environmental lawyers effectively advocate how the multitude of environmental laws, regulations and guidance documents should be interpreted and applied.
  • Class Actions | McGuireWoods represents agricultural, automotive, solid waste management, manufacturing and other companies around the country in environmental class actions. The team takes a proactive approach to defending these cases, developing the record to put clients in the best position for favorable resolution at any stage of the litigation. The firm has a strong record of obtaining dismissal of claims at the early stages of litigation, defeating class certification motions after commencement of discovery, winning on summary judgment at the close of discovery, and obtaining favorable verdicts at trial in some of the country’s largest, high-stakes cases. Our lawyers bring sector-specific class action experience, combined with broad business and industry knowledge, to approach litigation from clients’ point of view.
  • Environmental Enforcement | McGuireWoods defends clients in government investigations and enforcement actions brought under all federal and many state environmental, safety and health statutes — responding to civil information requests and subpoenas, advising on criminal investigations, and defending against government enforcement actions in federal or state court or before administrative agencies. The firm’s environmental litigators understand EPA and DOJ policies and procedures, and work closely with the agencies’ staff and counsel to negotiate responses to investigations and enforcement actions.
  • Environmental Justice | McGuireWoods has tackled environmental justice problems since President Clinton’s 1994 executive order directed the federal government to address disproportionately high environmental impacts on minority and low-income populations. That work includes responding to federal rulemaking actions, representing industry in proceedings that raise environmental justice considerations and working with affected communities to foster improved understanding. Recent federal and state environmental justice policies are impacting cleanup and response activities in new and consequential directions. The team offers deep environmental justice experience, working with communities, companies, municipal clients and trade organizations to understand, address and resolve environmental justice issues. Our lawyers also have unique litigation experience, including winning the first case under a new state environmental justice statute and winning a Freedom of Information Act administrative appeal requesting wrongfully withheld, critical documents from EPA’s Office of Civil Rights.
  • Fraudulent Transfer and Bankruptcy-Related Environmental Litigation | McGuireWoods represents publicly traded and private companies and their subsidiaries in some of the most complex and high-stakes bankruptcy cases in the country. The firm leads matters in which channeling injunctions are used to direct environmental claims to litigation trusts. While McGuireWoods’ experienced bankruptcy litigators handle bet-the-company matters through trial and appeal in any court across the country, the team offers practical solutions where a consensual approach best serves clients’ interests. The firm’s success in contested matters, fraudulent transfer litigation and lender liability claims is a result of the firm’s collective knowledge, judgment and the ability to quickly structure a deep and experienced team. McGuireWoods anticipates where company subsidiaries are impacted by significant financial cleanup obligations, and litigates to seek financial recovery. Team lawyers maintain longstanding, productive working relationships with EPA, DOJ and state agencies and officials to establish productive resolutions for the parties involved. Notably, McGuireWoods represents the Chapter 11 plan administrator and the reorganized debtor in In re ASARCO LLC, et al. (Bankr. S.D. Tex.), the largest environmental Chapter 11 filing in history, involving distributions of more than $3.4 billion to creditors.
  • Insurance Recovery | McGuireWoods’ environmental litigators partner with firm insurance recovery lawyers to provide risk mitigation and other strategic considerations in instances where clients face declined coverage. We represent clients on every aspect of insurance coverage and recoveries, as well as arbitration and litigation of coverage matters. The insurance recovery team litigates large insurance-coverage actions in state and federal courts nationwide. The team’s pursuit of claims through trial has led to recovery of approximately $1 billion per year, for each of the past three years, on behalf of policyholder clients.
  • Land Use Litigation | The firm advises commercial, industrial and infrastructure project developers in the appeals of both favorable and negative zoning decisions made by localities and permit issuances and denials by regulatory authorities. We also engage with “NIMBY” public opponents and other interested parties to hear their concerns and why they oppose a project, and to explain clients’ goals and objectives. Firm lawyers also enlist strategic communications support from public affairs subsidiary McGuireWoods Consulting to help clients successfully navigate project development hurdles.
  • Mass Tort Litigation | McGuireWoods represents corporate defendants in cases arising from alleged exposure to toxic substances such as PFAS, asbestos, lead, silica, latex, mold, tobacco, benzene, solvents, PCBs, VOCs and other chemicals. We also defend consolidated cases municipalities file in states such as California, New Jersey and Ohio. The firm has a national reputation for navigating the legal complexities of these cases while developing defense strategies focused on the client’s risks and business needs — including coordinating and managing large-scale defense efforts involving hundreds of cases pending in different jurisdictions, defending emotionally charged severe injury and death cases, and litigating complex medical and scientific issues. 
  • Natural Resource Damages Claims | McGuireWoods represents public and privately held companies in negotiating NRD assessments and claims with state and federal agencies and trustees. The firm resolves clients’ potential NRD liability claims, with a focus on contaminated sediment sites in rivers, bays and estuaries containing substances such as PCBs, heavy metals, PAHs, dioxins/furans and mercury. Firm lawyers also address NRD liabilities arising from contaminated groundwater, wetlands and soils, where sediment and groundwater sites typically raise complex legal, technical, economic and political issues associated with remediation and NRD.
  • Public and Private Nuisance Litigation | McGuireWoods defends clients against public and private nuisance cases, including some of the largest, most complicated nuisance litigation in the nation. Team lawyers serve as:
    • national coordinating counsel for a Fortune 100 chemical manufacturer in multiple state and federal jurisdictions in suits seeking billions of dollars;
    • trial and appellate counsel for an international animal agriculture company in several sets of high-dollar nuisance cases involving hundreds of plaintiffs in several states;
    • trial and appellate counsel for a Fortune 200 utility in multiple multibillion-dollar nuisance cases alleging environmental contamination due to global warming and fly ash residue; and
    • trial counsel in mass tort and class action nuisance suits alleging environmental contamination against numerous clients in the transportation, utility, chemical, automotive, solid waste and agricultural industries.
environmental litigation brochure

Download a copy of our team brochure.

Nationally recognized for Environment


Nationally recognized for Environmental Litigation


No. 1 law firm to defend Fortune 500 Companies in tort litigation


“Litigation Powerhouse”

– LAW360

Environment practice recognitions in North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.


Partner named “Environmental Law MVP” multiple times

– LAW360

Multiple partners named Environmental Law “Lawyers of the Year”


Multiple partners named “Energy & Environmental Trailblazers”