Libby Ford, senior environmental health engineer and a member of the Energy and Environmental practice group, works with her clients on various aspects of water quality and wastewater compliance, facility siting and permitting, wastewater treatment and industrial pretreatment and the technical aspects of environmental negotiation.
What do you focus on?
Water Permitting and Compliance
I often lead the water permitting and water quality protection aspects of new facility permitting, major expansions and permit renewals. My focus is obtaining workable permits that comply with requirements but which allow my clients to retain as much flexibility as possible over the 5 to 10 year life of the permit. I also work with my clients, their attorneys and technical consultants to put together and implement long-term water-related compliance strategies, especially around such complex issues as cooling water intakes and discharges, wet weather management and nutrient reduction.
Power Plant Decommissioning, Demolition, Deconstruction and Remediation
I am currently working on multiple coal-fired power plant sales, decommissioning, demolition and/or remediation projects, including two of the largest (and first) in the Northeast. In addition to the water-related aspects of these projects, I focus on making sure the technical specifications and the contract language are consistent with each other.
Site Investigation and Remediation
These projects can drag on for decades unless they are well planned and their mountains of data understood and then presented in a manner that shows that the remedial objectives have been met, or that the site is as clean as is reasonably practical. Together with Nixon Peabody attorneys, I work with clients and their technical consultant at all phases to make sure the technical “case” is made and communicated.
What do you see on the horizon?
Water as a resource and a necessary component of virtually every industry and institution is becoming an increasingly critical aspect of their future success. I see more stringent requirements being placed not only on treatment and discharge/reuse of wastewater, but also on managing stormwater. The purpose and need for water withdrawals will undergo heightened scrutiny. All of this will be accompanied by higher costs.
Libby was previously employed as an engineer with an environmental consulting firm primarily involved in preparing environmental impact statements. She has on going attendance at numerous short courses and seminars, often as a presenter or instructor. She has received a number of professional certifications (listed below) as well as awards and other recognitions from various professional organizations. Ms. Ford has also served on a number of agency and educational institution advisory boards.
Wastewater and Water Quality
Libby works with clients to identify and resolve a broad range of water-related issues including: S/NPDES permitting and investigating alleged violations of S/NPDES permits and developing corrective actions, technical explanations and/or defenses for same. In addition to traditional S/NPDES issues, she works with clients and their chemical suppliers to get approval of their use and discharge of “Water Treatment Chemicals,” residuals of which may end up discharged to surface or groundwaters. Recently, Libby has been involved in the emerging field of wastewater treatment for shale gas and other hydraulic fracturing wastewater, with a specific focus on how management and treatment of this wastewater is or will be regulated and what level of effluent quality is needed depending on the end use of the treated wastewater (reuse in hydraulic fracturing, discharge to the environment etc.).
Libby has coordinated the work done by a team consisting of the utility’s corporate environmental staff, its plant level environmental and operations staff and an outside environmental technical consultant involving a detailed engineering and environmental review of thermal discharge alternatives for the power plant’s once through cooling thermal discharge. She is now involved in moving this project through the Army Corps of Engineer permitting and NEPA review phase. She prepared the DEIS scoping statement and essentially coordinated the team which prepared the DEIS.
Building upon her 35 years of working on industrial and municipal wastewater treatment issues and in recognition of the intense focus that is being devoted to water-related issues arising from Shale Gas recovery, Libby has co-chaired a New York Water Environment Association Committee which has produced several White Papers on water-related High Volume Hydrofracturing issues. With the encouragement of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, this NYWEA Committee is likely to be moving forward to produce a White Paper on setting treated wastewater endpoints for High Volume Hydrofracturing (HVHF) shale gas-related flowback and production wastewater.
Environmental Impact Assessments
Coordinated and prepared or reviewed environmental impact assessments and environmental impact statements. Lead or coauthor of EISs on:
- The EIS scoping document and preliminary sections on alternatives and project need for an alternate cooling water discharge system for a 990 MW oil-fired power plant.
- Conversion of a stream electric power plant from oil to coal.
- Black fly and mosquito control programs in Northern New York (including a Supplemental EIS that examined an additional chemical pesticide).
- Expansion of an existing sand and gravel operation to include blasting and consolidated material mining (including a Subsequent EIS prepared for related rezoning).
- Proposed municipal collection sewer systems.
Resolution of Environmental Technical Conflicts
It is not unusual for qualified technical experts to disagree as to the cause and/or the effects of an environmental issue. Such disputes can block the resolution of broader conflicts (such as between current and past property owners or between a permit applicant and the permitting agency). Libby draws on more than thirty five years of tackling and resolving these issues, allowing the broader conflict to be subsequently resolved. Trained as a mediator, Libby has applied her science, engineering and working experience with the legal and regulatory community to help resolve technical questions. Past successes include:
- Reviewing reports by environmental experts to verify that their conclusions are supported by the underlying facts, and evaluating whether there are other/alternative conclusions supported by the facts.
- Clarifying the viewpoints of two hydrogeologists as to groundwater flow dynamics, allowing a common interpretation to be developed and integrated into a report supporting the application for a new power generation facility.
- Serving as the coordinator of a Science Advisory Board set up as part of the settlement of a citizen suit. She helped craft consensus statements at the end of each meeting which provided technical suggestions and statements of concern to the electric utility which convened the Advisory Board.
- Coordinating the preparation of comments on draft regulations, policy etc. by the diverse members of an environmental technical professional organization while insuring that the final comments were based on sound science and were fully representative of interested members of the organization.
- Working with technical experts to craft effective affidavits or testimony by identifying the legal arguments which need technical support and then structuring the affidavit or testimony to support the legal case.
Professional Certifications, Registrations and Clearances
- California Environmental Assessor I (# 04820)
- Qualified Environmental Professional Certification #1194040 (Specialty Area: Water)
- Hazardous Materials Manager—Master Level (CHMM #816)
- Certified Environmental Professional—Environmental Documentation (Certification #02112)
- NY Department of Environmental Conservation Water Advisory Committee (1987–1993)
- Monroe County (NY) Department of Health Environmental Health Advisory Committee (1987 to 1991)
- Rochester Institute of Technology Advisory Board for the Masters in Environmental Health and Safety Management Program (1996–1997 and 2007–2009, 2011–2012)
- University of Kansas Continuing Environmental Education and Training Center National Advisory Board (1993–1995)
Publications and Seminars
Libby has published and lectured on a wide range of environmental technical, regulatory and policy issues in such forums as Water, Environment & Technology, Clearwaters and The Practical Lawyer. A list of publications and lectures is available upon request.