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Sandi L. Nichols

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Representative Matters

Environmental and Natural Resources Litigation

  • San Diego Unified Port District Litigation. Represented the Port District in multiple high-stakes, multi-party environmental lawsuits brought by or against the Port District under CERCLA, the Oil Pollution Control Act, and various state statutory and common law theories, for cost recovery, contribution, damages and other relief for the cleanup of tidelands property (landside, sediment and groundwater) contaminated by historical and current industrial, utility, and shipyard operations and municipal storm drains. Contaminants included PCBs, metals, HPAHs, petroleum hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents, manufactured gas plant and other wastes. The claims in the cases have ranged from $30 million to $150 million based upon estimated cleanup costs. Each has been settled through protracted mediation resulting in the remediation of valuable San Diego Bay tidelands resources.
  • Major Oil Company. Defended major oil company in numerous state and federal court environmental cases involving alleged contamination or industrial waste water and storm water discharges from refineries, service station and truck stop facilities. Cases were resolved through settlement or upon motions to dismiss or for summary judgment.
  • Commercial Landlords. Represented commercial landlords in litigation over soil and groundwater contamination stemming from tenants' former dry cleaning facilities. Cases were successfully settled through mediation.
  • Private and Public Entities. Represent private and public entities in defense of citizen-suit litigation brought for alleged discharges, effluent limitations violations, reporting and monitoring and other alleged violations under the federal Clean Water Act stemming from operations at refineries, a petroleum coke distribution facility, agricultural mills, boatworks, POTWs, and other industrial facilities.
  • Published decisions include:
    • San Francisco BayKeeper v. Cargill Salt, 481 F.3d 700 (9th Cir. 2007)
    • San Francisco BayKeeper v. Tosco Corporation, 309 F.3d 1153 (9th Cir. 2002), cert. dismissed, 539 U.S. 924 (2004)
    • San Francisco BayKeeper v. Tosco Corporation, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1164 (N.D. Cal. 2001)
    • Communities for a Better Env’t v. Tosco Refining Company, et al., 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1161 (N.D. Cal. 2001)
    • San Francisco BayKeeper v. Cargill Salt, 263 F.3d 963 (9th Cir. 2001)
    • San Francisco BayKeeper v. Vallejo Sanitation and Flood Control District, 36 F. Supp. 2d 1214 (E.D. Cal. 1999)
  • Investor-Owned Utility. Defended investor-owned water purveyor in successfully defending Endangered Species Act citizen suit for the alleged "take" of South Central California Coast Steelhead in the Carmel River (Sierra Club, et al. v. California American Water Company, 2010 WL 135183 (N.D. Cal. 2010)) Achieved dismissal of action upon motion based upon federal abstention doctrine.

Environmental Permitting and Regulatory Compliance

  • Industrial Facilities. Assist industrial facilities with compliance (and litigation) relating to the federal Clean Water Act, compliance under the California General Permit for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Industrial Activities (Industrial General Permit), and Section 402 discharges.
  • Commercial, Multifamily Residential and Retail Property Owners and Developers. Assist commercial, multifamily residential, and retail property owners and developers with vapor intrusion investigation and mitigation, which frequently arises during purchase and sale, leasing and financing transactions.  Assisting multiple commercial owners overlying Northern California Superfund site with access agreements and oversight of implementation of groundwater and vapor intrusion remedies being performed on properties.  Interact with U.S. EPA,  responsible parties and tenants on behalf of owners.
  • Commercial Landlords and Tenants. Represent commercial landlords and tenants in indoor air quality matters stemming from heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVACs), mold, off-gassing of new and remodeled building interiors and related problems. Work closely with certified industrial hygienists to investigate and respond to situations.
  • Developers. Represent residential, commercial, and industrial developers in the development and defense of environmental impact reports (EIRs) and negative declarations prepared under CEQA. Handle administrative writ trials and appeals, including San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center v. County of Stanislaus, et al. (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 713.

Contaminated Sites

  • Oil Company. Represented large oil company in defending cost recovery actions in Northern California relating to petroleum, hydrocarbon and other soil and groundwater contamination relating to former service station operations.
  • Ports, Oil Companies, Commercial Landlords, Property Managers and Large Landowners. Represent ports, oil companies, commercial landlords, property managers and large landowners in negotiations, litigation and remediation activities relating to the contamination of real property and marine sediments by hazardous substances, including metals, PCBs, chlorinated solvents and petroleum. Interface with local and state regulatory agencies in investigation, clean-up and development of real property.

Environmental Risk Management

  • Corporate and Individual Insureds. Represent corporate and individual insureds in negotiating allocation of responsibility for environmental issues in purchase and sale transactions, procuring environmental liability policies and obtaining insurance coverage for defense and indemnity of environmental claims and suits.
  • Major Financial Institutions. Represent and counsel major financial institutions regarding the administration of trusts and estates that include environmentally-impaired real property, including the investigation, leasing, sale and remediation of such property.
  • Commercial and Residential Landowners. Represent commercial and residential landowners, purchasers, and sellers in litigation relating to claims for breach of contract, fraud, negligence and related claims concerning the condition, use and boundaries of real property.
  • Title Insurance Company. Represented title insurance company in actions related to title to real property and the handling of escrows and foreclosures, including Hatch v. Collins, et al. (1990) 225 Cal.App.3d 1104. 

Eminent Domain

  • Landowners. Represent landowners in eminent domain proceedings, including negotiations to obtain or defend "highest and best use" value for permanent and temporary taking of real property in California. Work closely with professional appraisers.
  • Condemnee. Filed amicus brief in support of condemnee regarding calculation of interest rates in eminent domain actions resulting in a favorable opinion from the California Supreme Court in Redevelopment Agency of Burbank v. Gilmore (1985) 38 Cal.3d 790.