When Mark Twain wrote, “whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting,” he must have had the west in mind. With recent news that Nevada’s water supply will not sustain our exploding growth as long as previously anticipated, and in light of the environmental protections now incorporated into federal actions (by statute) and federal land reservations (by case law), Mr. Twain’s 150-year-old writing rings true once again. Conflicts abound between the federal government and the states, between the states themselves, and between local water purveyors and industrial, agricultural, and domestic users. Beginning in about 1990, the State Engineer of Nevada, in an effort to protect Nevada’s diminishing groundwater resources, has engaged in an active effort to cancel or forfeit the rights of water users that fail to fully use their appropriation, or who do so without placing water to “beneficial use.” Protecting our clients’ interests and solving water conflicts is becoming more complex, requiring that we implement creative legal, engineering, and political strategies. Members of our Natural Resources Group have employed such strategies successfully for over two decades.
The Natural Resources Group interacts every day with the Nevada State Engineer, on behalf of water rights owners, power companies, chemical manufacturers, and municipal clients, and has fostered equally important relationships with each of the Nevada local governments and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
We have the depth and experience to, among other things, purchase and sell Nevada groundwater rights, prosecute “change applications” through the State Engineer’s office, analyze and perfect title to water rights, negotiate complex arrangements for the purchase and delivery of fresh or reclaimed water, appropriate additional diversions, litigate virtually any water rights issue (including water rights “adjudications,” cancellations and forfeiture hearings, and surface drainage matters), and otherwise help our clients maintain the good regulatory standing of their water rights investment.
Insuring a viable and dependable water supply is a threshold requirement for any Nevada business, and our Natural Resources Group can help you or your business navigate the waters.
The Natural Resources Group handles a multitude of environmental issues involving air, land, and water. While Nevada’s regulatory environment has the reputation of being less stringent than that of its neighbors, that reputation is changing fast. Nevada’s state and local governments now take a very active role in protecting the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency also has a significant presence and impact upon the conduct of business in Nevada. The Natural Resources Group regularly assists mining, chemical manufacturing, power generation, water supply, waste disposal, real estate development, municipal, and state clients in permitting, compliance, and litigation matters. If the Clark County Department of Air Quality Management Hearing Board agendas are any indication, local businesses are having a hard time adjusting to the newly constituted air agency in Nevada. Our Natural Resources Group represents clients in all aspects of Clean Air Act compliance, including prosecuting “Authority to Construct” and “Operating Permit” applications, ongoing reporting compliance, and, when things do not proceed as planned, litigating before local hearing officers and the Clark County Department of Air Quality and Environmental Management Board to defend various enforcement actions.
We also handle matters touching upon major federal and state legislation protecting land and water resources. The Natural Resources Group evaluates client liabilities under CERCLA (a.k.a. “Superfund”), RCRA (solid waste disposal), the Clean Water Act, and SARA (chemical use reporting). We have fostered excellent relationships with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection to help our clients avoid the pitfalls of non-compliance with important environmental legislation, but we are prepared to step up and defend our clients when federal, state, or local agencies fail to follow the law.
Perhaps the most pronounced change in our practice has been the significant role environmental issues have played in large transactions. By allocating the risk of environmental contamination losses, the Natural Resources Group helps negotiate environmental coverage that allows large municipal and industrial clients to concentrate on the business of running a city or a manufacturing facility rather than worrying about whether the next test hole will break the bank.