As society continues to adapt to COVID-19, Law360 sat down with Pillsbury’s Amanda Halter, the managing partner of the Houston office, member of the environmental and natural resources practice section and co-leader of the crisis management and COVID-19 response teams.
In her answer to a question on how the pandemic has changed her practice, Halter said, “We help companies manage environmental liabilities, as well as develop plans and secure permissions for major changes to industrial operations or entirely new facilities. These typically are matters that require significant investment and long-term planning.”
She said examples include “long-term projects such as investigations and response activities for contaminated sites under CERCLA or analogous state laws, which typically take several years; the development a new specialty chemicals plant; or the modernization of a production line.”
She added that the “biggest challenge in the short-term has been that the response to the novel coronavirus has demanded so much of our collective attention — pulling bandwidth away from these kinds of efforts and reducing the workforces that push projects like these forward.”
In the long term, she said, “the coronavirus is throwing into question many of the assumptions that undergird these long-range planning and decision-making processes — e.g., if one outcome of the novel coronavirus is an increased demand for more localized supply chains, maybe the plants, refineries and factories we build should be adapted to have greater operational flexibility than the current default model, which generally aims to do a limited number of things at utmost efficiency. These are the kinds of questions people are asking.”
“During the pandemic, major environmental statutes, programs, regulations and agencies have been fairly static, so there is a clear tension,” she said.
“It is interesting, because it is both a challenge and an opportunity,” she concluded. “I believe our environmental and regulatory professionals are up to it, so I prefer to focus on the opportunities.”