Practice Areas

Irvine & Conner practice areas cover the full spectrum of environmental and land use law, including air, water, wetlands, waste, endangered species, and land use. Clients hire us to advise them on matters affecting their private property, including flooding and drainage, condemnation and inverse condemnation, nuisance issues, and other environmental impacts. We are experienced in fighting on behalf of our clients in state and federal courts and in administrative agency proceedings. We also advise on regulatory matters, such as permitting or corporate compliance.

Please click on the issue areas below to learn more about our work. While the list below is comprehensive, it is not intended to be exhaustive. If you have questions about our expertise or practice areas, please do not hesitate to call us at 713.533.1704.

Irvine & Conner attorneys have represented citizen groups in Clean Air Act citizens’ suits and in administrative contested case hearings challenging air permits. The firm’s attorneys also have provided corporations with advice on air permitting to meet their compliance obligations. To illustrate, Irvine & Conner attorneys have represented:

  • A city suffering harms due to frequent air pollution from an adjacent smelting facility. The federal citizen suit resulted in a settlement involving repairs to damaged city property and installation of new pollution controls at the facility.
  • A regional environmental organization on a clean air act citizen suit against a coal fired power plant.
  • A fenceline community group in Port Arthur in their opposition to an air permit for a refinery expansion. The matter settled favorably for the client with the establishment of an innovative community enhancement fund to address environmental justice issues.
  • A multi-national machinery corporation regarding its data collection and tracking obligations under the Clean Air Act.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Irvine & Conner attorneys have represented individual or community protestants in their challenges to the following types of permits: wastewater, water rights, air, waste, and groundwater permits. Irvine & Conner has extensive experience litigating in these so-called “contested cases” before state and federal administrative judges.

Our attorneys recently completed a successful representation for a ranching family who challenged the TCEQ wastewater permit for a large neighboring residential development. The case proceeded through administrative channels before ending up in state court. After an oral hearing, the district court ruled in our clients’ favor, prompting a favorable settlement to our client.

In addition to this recent success, Irvine & Conner attorneys also have represented citizen groups and environmental organizations in:

  • Obtaining a temporary injunction against the Governor of Texas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to prevent fast-tracking of air permits for new coal power plants. As a result, the power plants were never constructed.
  • Challenging the siting of nuclear power plant for safety and environmental concerns before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.
  • Fighting to require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to consider CO2 in air permit matters.
  • Negotiating the settlement of an air permit challenge to a petcoke power plant.
  • Negotiating settlements in other waste, air, water rights, and wastewater contested case proceedings.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Irvine & Conner attorneys also engage in non-litigation matters. We have advised clients on various types of permits and regulatory compliance, and we have served as environmental counsel for corporate transactions and property sales.

Irvine & Conner attorneys have experience assisting:

  • Multiple client groups, in different cases, on submitting comments during an agency’s preparation of Environmental Impact Statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
  • Developers or businesses that need to obtain a wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
  • A local business acquiring assets with environmental risk.
  • A corporation in its efforts to address local environmental justice concerns.
  • A multinational corporation located on the Texas Gulf Coast on improving its environmental management systems.
  • Clients in need of advice for CERCLA compliance.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Irvine & Conner attorneys have experience representing clients that are subject to enforcement actions by the Harris County District Attorney’s office, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and the City of Houston. These defense matters included water pollution charges and violations of recycling rules, as well as regulatory compliance at gas stations. The defense of the Harris County enforcements ended in favorable pretrial intervention agreements. The defense of the TCEQ matters resulted in reduced administrative penalties.

VIEW AREA PAGE
When state and federal governmental entities and utilities such as pipeline companies have sought to condemn land, Irvine & Conner has represented private property owners in challenging the exercise of the condemnation power and in negotiating just compensation. For example, our attorneys represented farmers defending the condemnation of their land for pipeline use, and negotiated a settlement with favorable conditions for preserving the farm’s character. Since 2012, Irvine & Conner attorneys have represented the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel, and Gun Club in both federal and state court in its fight to save Rollover Pass from closure.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Irvine & Conner’s attorneys have developed deep experience in flooding and drainage lawsuits against local, state, and federal governmental entities and private developers and landowners.

Most recently, in 2017, the firm brought a class action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to obtain flowage easements over property within the design pool of the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs. The design pool of the dams exceeds, by several feet of elevation, the amount of land purchased by the federal government. As a result, the federal government effectively designed a reservoir that is intended to hold water where thousands of people own homes and businesses. Until the federal government compensates individuals affected by this flooding, the lawsuit contends its actions are unlawful. More information about the class action is available at www.InsideAddicksBarker.com.

In 2016, Irvine & Conner filed suit on behalf of residential property owners against the City of Houston and other governmental entities. The lawsuit alleged that the governmental defendants’ policy of favoring commercial development over residential neighborhoods has resulted in pervasive, devastating flooding in the neighborhoods near Memorial City. The case currently is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Irvine & Conner’s attorneys previously have represented a national environmental organization in a suit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for erroneous flood elevation maps in Harris County. FEMA corrected the error over the objections of the land developers. Irvine & Conner also has assisted numerous individual homeowners with complaints about neighboring commercial or residential properties that create drainage problems and send floodwaters onto the homeowners’ property. Some of these cases are handled outside out of litigation, and some are taken to court. Our goal in these cases is to seek not only damages but also a remedy to the drainage problem, and we frequently retain a hydrologist or engineer to provide expert advice.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Environmental and animal welfare advocates often find themselves speaking up against the practices of more powerful companies and organizations, who in turn sue them in an effort to intimidate them into silence. The Texas Anti-SLAPP statute is in place to protect the right of free speech, right to petition, and right of association. Irvine & Conner has experience obtaining early dismissal of cases under the Texas Anti-SLAPP statute. More information about the Anti-SLAPP procedure is available on our blog.

In 2017, Kristen Schlemmer defended two animal welfare advocates against a frivolous defamation lawsuit designed to silence them. One of the advocates was from Canada, and the district court agreed she should be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court granted the advocates’ motion to dismiss and awarded attorney’s fees and sanctions. The entire case was heavily litigated and required multiple court appearances over its relatively short six-month lifespan. More about the case is available here.

Charles Irvine also has assisted in the representation of landowners who were sued in state court by a drainage district and other landowners for commenting on a federal permit. This was a classic SLAPP suit designed to intimidate the landowners into silence. Attorneys responded with a civil rights lawsuit in federal court and obtained a favorable settlement of both matters.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Irvine & Conner attorneys have represented clients in CERCLA or Superfund matters, and have provided advice about illegal dumping, and land and water contamination. We assist companies and individuals caught up in CERCLA litigation or enforcement matters. We have advised clients concerned about a proposal to store nuclear waste nearby.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Check back for more information about Irvine & Conner’s NEPA Compliance and Litigation work.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Irvine & Conner attorneys advised on a range of cases and matters with private property protection at its core concern. For example, clients have included businesses located next to various industrial facilities impacting the client’s business viability, or homeowners concerned with activities of their neighbors, whether related to noise, odors, drainage, dust emissions, or some other nuisance condition. In these cases, we work with clients on the most effective approach to achieve the mitigation of the nuisance condition. Where necessary, we retain consulting experts to ensure we obtain the maximum mitigation possible.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Irvine & Conner has represented individuals, civic associations, and environmental organizations interested in protecting water quality. Irvine & Conner’s attorneys have contested multiple wastewater permit applications before the TCEQ; represented environmental NGOs in contested case hearings and litigation concerning water use permit applications filed with the TCEQ; litigated on behalf of landowners with contaminated groundwater wells; and drafted and served notices of intent to sue under the Federal Clean Water Act for illegal discharges of pollutants.

Examples of our work include:

  • Charles Irvine and Michael McEvilly represented a ranching family and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance in contesting a wastewater permit over the Edwards Aquifer. After litigation before the TCEQ and state district court, the clients obtained a favorable settlement.
  • Irvine & Conner represented an environmental organization challenging a river authority’s application for a new water use permit. The challenge was voluntarily dismissed as part of a global settlement strategy aimed at providing additional inflows into the bay system.
  • Irvine & Conner helped represent a landowner whose land was allegedly contaminated by saltwater injection wells. The case settled favorably for the client.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Irvine & Conner attorneys have represented civic associations or environmental organizations challenging the issuance of a Section 404 permit to fill wetlands. Irvine & Conner attorneys have also advised permit applicants with obtaining a Section 404 permit. (For more information, please also see our section on our permitting-related work). Examples of work include:

  • Charles Irvine and Mary Conner worked with other attorneys in representing homeowners in their challenge to development activities on Galveston Island. The suit was against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its issuance of a Section 404 permit authorizing the fill of wetlands on Galveston.
  • Charles Irvine and Mary Conner worked with other attorneys in representing Sierra Club on its challenge to a Section 404 permit and the development of the Grand Parkway and its cumulative impacts on Addicks and Barker reservoirs.
  • Mary Conner assisted with the representation of a County government, alleging uranium mining operation created a public nuisance and violated the Safe Drinking Water Act for contaminating an underground source of drinking water.

VIEW AREA PAGE
Irvine & Conner’s environmental practice encompasses consultations and litigation relating to endangered species and other wildlife found on public property and private lands.

For example, in 2016, Irvine & Conner served the Downtown Aquarium in Houston, Texas with a notice of intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act over the conditions in which it keeps four tigers. It is undisputed that the tigers have not been outside for more than 13 years, and our client contends that this violates the Endangered Species Act’s prohibition against harming and harassing endangered species.

Also, from 2010-2015, Charles Irvine, Mary Conner, and Michael McEvilly represented a coalition of citizens in an Endangered Species Act suit against officials of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to protect the endangered Whooping Crane. While a favorable verdict was obtained at trial, the attorney team lost on appeal. However, other members of the attorney team have continued to work with state and local agencies to focus on public and private partnerships to help the endangered Whooping Crane.

Also our attorneys represented an association of landowners and environmental groups seeking review of the impacts on migratory birds of two large coastal wind farms. And we represented a large ranch defending its property from condemnation by raising concerns about impacts to the endangered ocelot.

In addition to bringing litigation to protect endangered species, Irvine & Conner regularly consults with non-profit organizations and private landowners to assess the effect proposed activities may have on endangered species and advise how to proceed.

Finally, our interest in animal protection has led us more recently to accept a limited number of cases designed to protect the interest of domestic animals and captive species.

VIEW AREA PAGE