Clean Water Act, Lee Woodard JD'82

​Partner with Harris Beach PLLC; Co-Practice Group Leader in the Financial Restructuring, Creditors' Rights and Bankruptcy Practice Group; Co-Managing Partner of Syracuse, N.Y., Office

​​Clean Water Act (CWA)-Related Work

Woodard represents a national bond surety company that has written reclamation bonds in coal mine bankruptcies. Many bonds intend to reclaim land in accordance with the CWA and monitoring emissions into waters. 

“My goal is to convince the court that assets of the bankruptcy estate must be utilized to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act and to have the properties reclaimed appropriately. Alternatively, I assist in getting the mines sold to a new owner, who will assume the reclamation liability. 

“If there is no sale, and after the debtor’s resources have been extinguished, then my client either conducts the reclamation themselves or pays the penal sum of bond to the appropriate government regulatory body to undertake the reclamation,” Woodard says.​

Trends and Big Issues

“What I foresee for 2016 and beyond are further challenges to the Clean Water Act by way of the bankruptcy reorganization process. Depending on the federal circuit the mine falls within, the sanctity of the CWA and future compliance with it can be vastly different.

“Bankruptcies have the power to reject executory contracts that relate to compliance with environmental obligations such as the Clean Water Act. The end result will be a bankruptcy judge’s balancing of the reorganizational needs versus society’s environmental concerns. The coal industry currently, and I believe the oil and gas industries in the near future, will continue to provide challenges to the Clean Water Act.”​

GET INVOLVED

​Learn more about Vermont Law School's JD program and the Water and Justice Program. Discover how you can get involved with the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School and advocate for water rights.

INQU​IRE NOW to download a JD Degree Program Planning Guide.