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E. Donald Elliott


Don Elliott, co-chair of the firm’s Environmental Practice, has over 30 years of experience in environmental law, administrative law and product liability and toxic torts, including having served as Assistant Administrator and General Counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and as national coordinating counsel in litigation for several companies. According to Chambers, Mr. Elliott is an “encyclopedic wealth of knowledge,” “he has very deep and substantive knowledge and amazing contacts locally in the legal and professional community,” and “brings a vast amount of experience to his broad environmental practice” while Who’s Who Legal notes that he is a “key figure” in the U.S. and provides clients with “concise and practical” advice.

Mr. Elliott has extensive experience in crisis management involving product and site contamination issues, as well as environmental and legislative advocacy for companies, trade associations and governments. He has successfully defended automotive, energy, mining, real estate, and pharmaceutical companies in major government environmental enforcement cases and in private litigation, including toxic tort and product liability. Many of his cases have involved asbestos, silica, lead, chemicals, special nuclear material and mining waste.

Mr. Elliott has special expertise and a long-standing interest in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). His interest extends back to his clerkship on the D.C. Circuit in the mid-1970’s when many of the key NEPA precedents were decided. He has continued to be active in the field ever since, counseling numerous companies and project developers on NEPA compliance. In recent years, several hedge funds have retained him to advise them on pending litigation. He also teaches on the subject at Yale Law School, and has been active in efforts to reform and speed up the NEPA process.

Mr. Elliott has extensive regulatory experience in Clean Air, water, wetlands, waste and chemical regulation. During his tenure at EPA, Mr. Elliott played a crucial role in drafting and implementing the Oil Pollution Act and the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, including helping to draft the acid rain permit trading statute and regulations. He was also responsible for negotiating two out of the first three contracts for tradable rights for acid rain in private practice. The acid rain program has become the model for carbon trading worldwide. Mr. Elliott also has significant experience in class actions, civil justice reform and complex product liability and toxic tort litigations. He advises several companies on labeling issues, particularly anti-microbial and green marketing claims.

Mr. Elliott has extensive experience in matters involving occupational safety and health (OSHA).  He has represented companies and trade associations in OSHA rulemakings, enforcement proceedings (including fatalities and claims of multiple violations) and counseled them on compliance questions and improving their safety and training systems. He has particular expertise on matters involving asbestos, exposure to chemicals in the workplace and the automotive and construction industries.

Mr. Elliott has worked on many complex domestic and international corporate transactions, legislative and regulatory matters, audits and enforcement cases and SEC disclosure issues. He has advised companies in over 50 significant transactions, including private equity, mergers, asset and real estate sales, reorganizations, IPOs and other public and private offerings.

Mr. Elliott’s clients have included major automotive, energy, utility, chemical, financial services, oil, engineering life sciences and pharmaceutical companies, as well as trade associations and manufacturers of a wide variety of products.

Mr. Elliott also has expertise in Food & Drug and energy law, representing energy companies, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies in transactions.

Mr. Elliott is a leading academic expert on environmental issues including regulation of nanotechnology in the U.S. and EU, and teaches and writes on this subject.

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CEQ Finalizes NEPA Rule Updating Regulations

On July 17, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a Final Rule updating regulations to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Final Rule closely tracks the Proposed Rule released in January 2020. The final rule makes a number of notable changes to existing NEPA regulations.… Continue Reading

Non-binding OSHA COVID-19 Guidance Sparks Calls for Federal Action and Plans for State Action to Create Binding Rules

Critiques of OSHA’s current flexible approach to COVID-19 in the workplace provide insight into how a Democratic administration might regulate differently at the federal level.  Moreover, some states have moved forward with establishing binding rules to address COVID-19 in the workplace, which may provide models for future federal efforts.… Continue Reading

OSHA Issues Interim Enforcement Guidance for COVID-19

In guidance to its enforcement staff released on April 13, OSHA has re-emphasized the obligations of employers, particularly in the healthcare industry, to ensure workplace health and safety and to report illnesses and deaths relating to COVID-19 notwithstanding the pandemic.  The guidance also recognizes shortages of N-95 masks and other PPE and other practical considerations … Continue Reading

President Trump Establishes Regulatory Budgets by Executive Order

Amid  all of the controversy surrounding President Trump’s Executive Order suspending immigration from seven countries, and his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, another executive order that may be at least as significant in the long run to reining in the administrative state has not received much attention.  The Executive Order on … Continue Reading

Energy Efficiency Standards A Quiet Success

Electricity consumption in the United States has generally declined in recent years, due in part to the quiet success of several energy efficiency standards.  In 2013, for instance, the average amount of electricity used in American homes fell to 2001 levels, despite consumers using more products that require electricity. Building on this success, the U.S. … Continue Reading

Comparing Externalities from Energy Sources

Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen recently decried “the failure to develop a framework for assessing the comparative costs of different sources of energy . . . inclusive of the externalities involved.”  As if on cue, the European Union (EU) issued an interim research report by an outside consultancy last month that purported to do just … Continue Reading

EPA Clarifies Standards for CERCLA Assessments

In a move designed to provide greater certainty to those purchasing, selling, or evaluating industrial or commercial properties, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed to remove any lingering effect of ASTM International’s E1527-05, a nine-year-old industry standard practice for evaluating potentially contaminated sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). As … Continue Reading

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Invalidates State Law Encouraging Fracking

A divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated portions of a law designed to encourage economic development through hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as “fracking”).  Robinson Township v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (December 19, 2013).  The case involved challenges to a recently-enacted commonwealth law known as “Act 13,” which was intended to promote energy projects involving fracking by … Continue Reading