Whether rehabilitating an environmentally challenged property, constructing infrastructure, developing and delivering energy, building on coastal property or commencing a large commercial or residential development, companies and public agencies face a complex maze of federal, state and local laws and regulations that must be navigated before a project can be successfully completed. In addition, vocal political forces that can shape both the challenges and resolutions to land use of all sorts must be managed as skillfully as the legal issues involved.
Sedgwick's Land Use & Natural Resources practice group handles virtually all transactional and litigation aspects of land use and development, including land acquisition, securing and defending entitlements, due diligence, regulatory permitting, land subdivision, CC&Rs, conservation easements, and land and construction financing. Our attorneys handle complex negotiations and transactions, employing creative solutions that apply sound business judgment and cost management to meet the client's ultimate business and project objectives.
Below is a listing of specialty areas Sedgwick routinely handle:
Representing private or public entities, our attorneys work on projects such as multihundred-million-dollar shopping centers, sports arena complexes, industrial/research campuses, residential communities/golf courses, quarries, landfills, electric generation facilities and transmission lines, oil and gas development, wind energy facilities, water projects, hospitals and medical office buildings, retail outlets, churches, commercial parks, hotels and resorts, and small residential projects. Our customized approach has attracted clients that include land developers, manufacturers, retailers, trade associations, cities, counties, utilities, local and state public agencies and public interest groups. In addition, with land use experts in multiple states, Sedgwick handles local general plans and other land use ordinances and resolutions, specific plans, development agreements, subdivision requirements, water supply issues, environmental due diligence (including hazardous materials), air quality regulations, annexation and change of sphere of influence, and development and infrastructure fees.
As client needs dictate, Sedgwick’s Land Use & Natural Resources practice group members collaborate seamlessly with other colleagues in the “dirt” arena, including Construction, Real Estate & Finance, Real Estate Litigation, Environmental & Toxic Torts and Intellectual Property.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is known as America’s environmental blueprint and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is NEPA’s most robust state law cousin. Sedgwick represents both public and private companies in all aspects of NEPA and CEQA practice, including assisting in scoping, preparing environmental assessments, environmental impact statements, and environmental impact reports, obtaining determinations of categorical exclusions, and litigation. Sedgwick attorneys have assisted in the successful completion and defense of NEPA processes for a wide variety of activities occurring under the jurisdiction of many different federal agencies. For example, Sedgwick has significant NEPA experience concerning transportation development, electric transmission, water resource projects, and endangered species and wetlands permitting programs. Sedgwick attorneys are also well-versed in building an administrative record that meets NEPA standards.
Conservation and Mitigation Transactions
Sedgwick’s natural resources team has extensive experience in conservation transactions involving innovative tools and strategies such as conservation easements, conservation banks, and safe harbor agreements. Sedgwick attorneys have assisted in establishing key precedents in a number of ESA programs involving land conservation, including the first conservation bank in the Southwest region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the largest conservation bank in the country.
Within Sedgwick’s Land Use and Natural Resources practice group are attorneys comprising one of the leading Endangered Species Act practices in the country. Sedgwick’s natural resources team handles all matters arising under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including species listing and critical habitat rulemakings, planning for compliance, interagency consultations, habitat conservation plans and incidental take permits, candidate conservation agreements, safe harbor agreements, species conservation banking, and obtaining ESA grants for conservation actions. The team also enjoys success in both prosecuting and defending a variety of types of litigation under the ESA (including citizen suits and enforcement actions). In addition to the ESA, this team has extensive experience handling matters under related state wildlife and endangered species laws. Sedgwick’s natural resources team advises clients across the country from a broad array of industries and state and local governments. The team’s clients include state agencies, counties, cities, school districts, public and private water, wastewater, electric, and gas utilities, oil and gas producers and transporters, wind energy developers, mines, real estate developers, agricultural interests, landowners, and conservation bankers.
Historic and Archaeological Resources
Historic properties and cultural resources such as archeological sites are regulated under numerous state, federal and local laws and regulations, including the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Sedgwick works closely with archaeologists, historians and anthropologists at all stages of the NHPA process, including literature reviews, site investigation, development of Historic Properties Restoration Plans, data recovery, and publication. Sedgwick routinely represents clients to ensure compliance with these complex requirements and proper consideration with relevant stakeholders such as state historic preservation offices and tribes.Litigation
Sedgwick’s natural resources team has extensive experience litigating a variety of issues arising under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other federal and state wildlife protection laws. This experience is an outgrowth of Sedgwick’s role as a leading firm that handles listing, permitting, planning and compliance matters under the ESA. Sedgwick’s natural resources team, drawing upon Sedgwick’s robust federal practice and broad geographical footprint, can effectively and efficiently handle ESA-related litigation anywhere in the country. The team brings tremendous depth and breadth of experience to ESA litigation. From knowledge of the species at issue, to selection of expert witnesses, to trial strategy, Sedgwick attorneys have the collective ability to fashion a winning litigation strategy. Sedgwick has successfully handled important and complex litigation involving federal, state and local agencies, major environmental interest groups, and concerning a wide range of species from well-known charismatic megafauna to obscure cave-dwelling beetles.
Migratory Birds and Eagles
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) can affect a variety of commercial activities including renewable energy, electric transmission, and oil and gas development. Sedgwick’s natural resources team is intimately familiar with the potential implications the MBTA and BGEPA can have on a variety of activities, and are well-versed in mechanisms for compliance, such as the development and implementation of Avian Protection Plans, Eagle Conservation Plans, and the eagle programmatic permit process.Stormwater
Stormwater discharges, such as from construction, industrial sites and municipalities, are regulated under a number of federal, state and local laws and regulations, including significantly the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System and state-delegated programs thereunder. Sedgwick represents a wide array of clients on stormwater matters, including permitting and compliance and defense of enforcement actions.Wetlands
Sedgwick has extensive experience in representing both private and governmental interests in connection with state and federal laws and regulations affecting wetlands and other jurisdictional waters. Sedgwick attorneys work collaboratively with scientific and technical consultants to establish effective permitting and compliance strategies and assists clients in finding mitigation solutions that work for their projects. Sedgwick attorneys provide counsel to those facing enforcement actions and, as needed, defend our clients against permit denials, challenges and litigation that may arise. Sedgwick attorneys have assisted in large-scale wetlands permitting under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act for commercial developments and industrial facilities.
Zoning and Special Districts
Sedgwick is known, particularly in California and Texas, for its representation of clients in navigating complex local land use systems including subdivision, zoning, planning, development agreements, and a wide variety of special districts.