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As an environmental and energy law firm, MGKF is uniquely positioned to work with an array of clients in addressing current and prospective legal mandates and market demands related to Sustainability and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). We assist in identifying and managing emerging legal risks, developing policies and programs, evaluating the application of current and prospective regulatory standards, and auditing current practices. We help clients capitalize on new opportunities in green building; renewable energy; energy efficiency; emissions trading; carbon sequestration; waste reduction, recycling, and beneficial reuse; and green marketing and product labeling. We also counsel clients with respect to their corporate governance and litigation issues that can arise in the Sustainability and ESG context.

Some example focus areas within our Sustainability and ESG practice include the following:

Renewable/Alternative Energy and Energy Efficiency
As global and national energy policy undergoes revolutionary transformation, opportunities for energy generation from renewable and alternative sources—including wind, solar, geothermal, and landfill methane—continue to expand. Renewable and alternative energy companies  seeking to capitalize on the new opportunities have turned to MGKF for sophisticated environmental counsel on complex issues involving siting, permitting, contracting and regulatory compliance related to their projects.

Climate Change
MGKF's climate change practice draws upon the practical experience of its attorneys in the full range of climate-related matters, from regulatory programs at the federal, state, and local levels to voluntary corporate programs. We have worked with clients on a broad range of matters and have assisted in evaluating strategic opportunities pertaining to current and anticipated greenhouse gas regulation.  We are also familiar with complex issues related to climate change adaptation initiatives, carbon trading, efforts to achieve net zero or "carbon neutral" climate goals, and climate change risk disclosure.

Corporate Governance, ESG Reporting
Corporations are increasingly facing internal and external scrutiny with respect to disclosure of potential or existing ESG risks and liabilities, including those related to climate change such as greenhouse gas emissions, water resource availability and energy. We stay abreast of the rapidly evolving regulatory programs and market-driven sustainability initiatives and provide strategic legal counseling to clients with respect to their environmental, energy, and sustainability concerns.

Green Building
As demand continues to grow for high-performing buildings that are more sustainably-designed, constructed and operated, owners and developers often look to distinguish their projects and assets through green building certification programs.  Our firm assists clients in evaluating green building opportunities, managing liability risks, negotiating contracts, and complying with voluntary and mandatory green building standards.  Our firm is a member of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and we have both legal and technical staff who are  LEED® Accredited Professionals (LEED APs). 

Green Stormwater Infrastructure
The effective management of stormwater runoff is an aspect of sustainable development and green building that is receiving increased attention from real estate developers, property managers, and building owners, particularly as cities and municipalities adopt stormwater impact fees and new systems of stormwater regulation.  Those that have enacted stormwater impact fee programs, such as Philadelphia, typically require new construction projects to incorporate sustainable stormwater control measures  into their design in order to manage the majority of the property’s stormwater on-site.  Properties developed prior to the implementation of such fee programs are also encouraged to retrofit older infrastructure and implement sustainable  design in order to obtain credits that can be used to reduce the property’s total stormwater impact fee.   

Green Marketing and Product Labeling
As demand for “green” products continues to expand, many companies are responding with greater disclosure of ESG information and marketing based on the environmental or sustainable attributes of their products, services and operations. Claims of “greenwashing”, or making false or misleading statements about the environmentally-friendly nature of products and services, are also becoming more common with increased public and regulatory scrutiny of corporate statements and marketing claims. We provide counseling and representation to clients seeking to  mitigating risks of such claims when marketing their products and services. We have assisted clients  with respect to matters involving green building and leasing, renewable energy projects,  Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims ("Green Guides"), and  partnering on projects with environmental organizations.

Market-Based Programs
Policymakers are increasingly turning to market-based regulatory programs to address  climate, environmental, and sustainability challenges, such as cap-and-trade markets to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissionsenergy portfolio standards and renewable energy credits to promote alternative energy generation capacity, and nutrient trading to control point and nonpoint discharges. While the application of market-based systems to achieve emerging sustainability goals is an evolving area, market-based programs have been used successfully in established environmental regulatory programs for some time, such as the Acid Rain Program and the NOx Budget Program under the Clean Air Act. We apply our decades of experience in environmental regulatory programs to help clients navigate emerging and evolving market-based programs.  

Waste Reduction, Recycling and Beneficial Reuse
Management of waste can be both a challenge and an opportunity for clients. Given the tremendous interest in material reuse and recycling at the state and local level, we are frequently called upon to advise clients whether ancillary materials generated in their processes are subject to waste treatment and disposal legal requirements or whether the materials may be reused or recycled and to assist with permitting where required. Likewise, clients purchasing secondary materials from others consult with us to analyze the regulatory status of these materials and how they may be used or reused in other applications.

Sustainability in the Firm – Leadership Starts at Home
At MGKF, sustainability is a key component of our firm culture and professional practice. As an environmental, energy and land use law practice, we take pride in our commitment to providing the highest quality legal services to clients while also acting as responsible stewards for the environment. We have incorporated many sustainable aspects into our office design to support this. The firm’s own sustainable business practices serve as a foundation for assisting clients and engaging the community.  

MGKF was an early leader in sustainability. The firm helped to pilot the American Bar Association's Law Office Climate Challenge Program, joined the Greater Philadelphia Green Business Program as a charter member, and continues to participate as a member of the Law Firm Sustainability Network and the New Jersey WasteWise Business Network. Joe Manko, one of our founding partners co-chaired Philadelphia’s first Sustainability Advisory Board under Mayor Nutter.  Partner Brenda Gotanda, who is a LEED Accredited Professional, served on the Board of Directors of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council (now Green Building United) for many years and on the Host Committee for USGBC’s 12th Annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. In addition, Gotanda founded the MGKF Sustainability Directors’ Roundtable over a decade ago as a leading forum for sustainability directors and managers in the region to network with peers across sectors and share insights on best practices, new developments, and successful approaches to a range of sustainability challenges. For more than a decade, we also sponsored an annual Environmental Community Service Award for local high schools and middle schools.

Our firm implements sustainability principles and has adopted the model American Bar Association policy to further our commitment.

Photo © scyther5 |

The following are some of the representative matters MGKF has handled in the sustainability field:

  • Assisted clients with constructing, purchasing, selling, securing funding, siting, permitting, contracting and regulatory approvals for a wide range of energy/alternative energy generation projects, including solar and wind power, solid fuel gasification, landfill gas-to-energy, waste-to-energy, renewable natural gas, and waste coal fuel. MGKF has experience with the siting and development of solar photovoltaic projects in a variety of settings, including on rooftops, closed landfills and brownfields. In addition, we have assisted clients with contracts for wind farm development and “waste to energy” projects.  We have drafted power purchase agreements both solar and wind power and have prepared related project development contracts.
  • Counseled energy generation clients on climate and greenhouse gas (GHG) related issues at the federal, state and local level, including GHG emissions projections and lifecycle analysis for state public utility commission proceedings, GHG permitting, transactional agreements, GHG emission controls, regulatory and legislative developments, GHG reporting, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and Protecting Against Climate Threats (PACT) regulatory initiatives.
  • Counseled commercial developers of green building projects on a broad range of issues, including LEED certification, material reuse opportunities, environmental regulatory approvals, and project contracts, warranties and indemnities in purchase agreements and leases.
  • Assisted clients with respect to Federal Trade Commission rules and the "Green Guides" on environmental marketing claims.
  • Assisted clients in establishing environmental risk management programs, developing corporate policies and programs, evaluating disclosure requirements pertaining to environmental liabilities, and performing environmental crisis management.
  • Assisted refiners with regulatory and permitting requirements associated with renewable/clean fuels, including permitting an ethanol production plant and compliance with the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) program.
  • Counseled commercial and industrial clients and lending institutions on the availability of grants and tax incentives for innovative technology, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and assisted clients with the preparation of grant applications.
  • Assisted clients with gap assessments that compare costs of moving from traditional construction practices to green building construction standards.
  • Counseled clients regarding applicable requirements for recycling used electrical components and e-waste and advised electronics recyclers and processors on facility permitting.
  • Drafted and negotiated contracts for deployment of electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Helped clients to evaluate their stormwater infrastructure and develop sustainable stormwater best management practices for their non-residential property and to apply for and obtain credits to reduce their stormwater impact fees.
  • Assisted clients with obtaining appropriate permits and allowances, ensuring compliance with necessary monitoring and reporting requirements, and securing emission reduction credits or offsets.

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