Mike Chernekoff is a partner in the Litigation Practice Group. He focuses on environmental law, related areas of environmental litigation and toxic tort defense, and commercial and energy litigation.
Mike’s practice centers principally on matters and businesses located in Louisiana and Texas. As a litigator, he develops and pursues effective dispute-resolution strategies in the context of investigations, trials, and settlement negotiations; as a counselor, he regularly helps clients identify compliance risks and prevent disputes from arising in the first place. In both arms of his practice, he draws on his more than three decades of private legal practice and firsthand experience at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where he worked as an attorney-adviser in the Office of Air, Mobile Source Enforcement before joining Jones Walker in 1982.
Also a member of the firm’s real estate group and Energy, Environmental, and Natural Resources Industry Team, Mike has handled a broad spectrum of environmental issues and matters, including:
- Air, water, and waste permitting
- Regulatory compliance assessment and auditing
- Transaction due diligence
- Enforcement counseling and defense
- Site remediation and response action assessment and coordination
- Hazardous substance and oil release emergency response actions
Mike has represented clients in numerous “first-ever” matters of note that have set the standard for subsequent actions. These include:
- Obtaining the first complete response costs reimbursement against the EPA’s Superfund after completion of an emergency response action pursuant to a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) Section 106 Order
- Negotiating, on behalf of a refinery, possibly the first state-led agreement under the EPA's New Source Review Refinery Initiative with the State of Louisiana
- Negotiating the first private-party partial remedial action agreement with the State of Louisiana under its Voluntary Clean Up Program (brownfield equivalent), placing contaminated property back into commerce
Mike also writes and speaks frequently on a variety of environmental topics, including civil and criminal enforcement, compliance auditing, due diligence, voluntary cleanup projects, the Oil Pollution Act, and CERCLA, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act programs.
Environmental Litigation: Federal, State, and Administrative Matters
A highly effective litigator, Mike has led or been a member of teams of attorneys and experts handling complex litigation involving property damages and health-effects allegations from Superfund sites, hazardous waste landfills, municipal and industrial waste landfills, refineries, chemical facilities, manufacturing facilities, maritime facilities, and oil and gas operations. These cases have included class action matters, mass tort matters, multi-defendant matters, and trials from initial fact finding and depositions through jury verdicts.
Among other high-profile disputes, he participated in the defense of a client in the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Mike also has led or participated in teams defending criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement matters involving EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and the National Enforcement Investigation Center (NEIC); parallel proceedings of contemporaneous civil and criminal matters; internal investigations of alleged civil and criminal violations; CERCLA cost-recovery reimbursement pursuit and cost-recovery defense; and claims under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA). He has served on potentially responsible party (PRP) committees and as PRP group counsel.
In the face of an increasingly creative plaintiffs’ bar, Mike has defended legal challenges by non-governmental organizations to federal and state environmental permits, including permit challenges involving greenhouse gas emissions, as well as citizen suits by landowners and non-governmental organizations involving federal and state laws and regulations. He also has defended companies in complex toxic tort and chemical release matters in federal and state courts, including many that have involved class action issues, punitive damage issues, and claims for property damages and personal injuries — such as fear and medical monitoring — as a result of alleged releases to air, soils, surface water, and groundwater.
Mike has also defended companies engaged in energy production — including service companies — against damages claims associated with those activities, including legacy liability claims, seismic damage claims, and equipment damage claims.
Over the years, Mike has counseled industry participants on compliance with air, water, and waste management requirements and permits, and siting requirements, including wetlands issues. He helps clients conduct internal audits of environmental regulatory compliance (including assisting clients with audits under the Texas Audit Privilege statute). He has counseled offshore oil and gas producer and service company clients on environmental and safety regulations adopted in response to the 2010 BP oil spill incident.
Further, he routinely counsels lenders, purchasers, and sellers in real estate transactions and financing arrangements, including on "all appropriate inquiry" issues. He also provides guidance on environmental due diligence efforts as part of corporate mergers and acquisitions, as well as large asset transactions.
Mike assists clients in coordinating with regulatory agencies on environmental releases and spills, including notification requirements, and helps clients manage response actions and site cleanups. He counsels on responding to governmental cleanup orders, as well as advising on cleanups under state voluntary cleanup statutes, including brownfield developments. He also counsels on environmental issues involved in new project developments and greenfield developments.