John Greenthal has recently transitioned from partner to senior counsel, a transition which has enabled him to enhance his already unparalleled relationships with upper management at both the Region 2 Office of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Since 1980, he has concentrated his practice in the area of contaminated properties, and has dealt with investigations and cleanups across all environmental media – air, water, and soil. He also serves in the cabinet of the NYS Bar Association Environmental Law Section, focusing on the Section’s diversity initiative, and on the Board of the New York League of Conservation Voters. In addition, he teaches a seminar which he created to high school students called “Environmental Issues and Public Policy.”
What do you focus on?
Primarily, I work on Superfund and Brownfield matters with clients both private and public, and I also defend clients in environmental enforcement matters. With regard to the private sector, my clients have largely been major multi-national corporations – in various industry groups. A major public client is the Government of Puerto Rico, which I represent in the context of assertions of liability by federal and commonwealth environmental agencies; the work primarily involves the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company, a landowner of several contaminated sites necessitating soil management plans and a client which I have represented since 1988.
I have practiced environmental law exclusively since 1976, over 10 years of which time were spent with the NYS DEC. There, I developed and led the hazardous waste enforcement program, experience which has been very valuable in my work at Nixon Peabody. I am particularly proud of the relationships I have formed and nurtured over the years, and thus have professional and personal friends throughout the environmental arena – in industry, government, and environmental organizations.
I devote time to volunteer activities at the state and local levels, including as an appointee of the County Legislature to the Schenectady County Environmental Advisory Council. In addition to my volunteer teaching, I also mentor younger attorneys within the law firm.
What do you see on the horizon?
As pressure on the US EPA and NYS DEC, both financial and political, to spend as little as possible increases, the burden of paying for Superfund cleanups will fall almost exclusively on “responsible parties,” including those with an attenuated nexus to the contaminated properties. Attentive and aggressive lawyering will be essential to ensuring that the burden falls on those parties that actually caused or contributed to the environmental threat.