Cowan, M. Benjamin

M. Benjamin Cowan


Partner

 

Overview

Ben Cowan has a broad-based environmental law practice with a particular focus on wildlife and natural resource issues. Ben works with clients from all industries, but as Chair of the Firm's Renewable Energy Section, he serves as national environmental counsel to several of the largest renewable energy development companies in the United States.

Ben counsels clients in complex permitting matters under federal and state wildlife statutes, such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) and Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) as well other environmental liability concerns in connection with project financing and operational issues.

Ben is particularly sought after for his creative but pragmatic approach to difficult project siting issues facing the renewables industry. He has developed solutions to many difficult legal and policy issues under the ESA that enabled his clients to obtain key permits on favorable terms. His contributions to major regional permitting initiatives led to his selection by the National Law Journal as an Energy and Environmental Law Trailblazer.

In addition to his renewable energy work, Ben maintains an active practice involving a wide range of environmental issues for clients in the traditional energy, industrial and real estate sectors. He frequently advises clients in environmental compliance and permitting matters, contaminated site remediation and Brownfields redevelopment, and civil and criminal enforcement defense. Additionally, he brings the legal and practical insights gained over 20 years of practice in these areas to advise clients on the effective allocation and management of environmental risk and liabilities in mergers and acquisitions and other commercial transactions.

Ben is frequently requested to speak at energy industry conferences on wildlife issues and other environmental topics.

Representative Experience

Ben's experience includes:

  • Obtained five incidental take permits ("ITPs") in four states and two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regions for take of endangered and threatened bats at wind farms
  • Advised offshore wind developer on avian wildlife compliance and consultation strategies in connection with federal consultation and state permitting issues
  • Crafted a first-of-its-kind agreement between a major bulk terminals operator and the Virginia DEQ for the voluntary remediation of a heavily contaminated former creosoting site, resulting in a decision by EPA to forego its planned listing of the site on the National Priorities List and facilitating the sale and redevelopment of the property
  • Advised midstream client on federal wetlands and natural resource permitting for oil and gas pipeline and water distribution system
  • Represented wind developer in industry coalition and negotiations with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on development of Regional Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan for USFWS Region 3
  • Counseling wind energy company in development of Eagle Conservation Plan and Eagle Take Permit application for multiple Midwester projects under BGEPA
  • Advise a midstream MLP on environmental due diligence and compliance issues in connection with the acquisition, development and operation of numerous assets in the Barnett, Haynesville, Fayetteville and Marcellus shales
  • Defended refined products terminal operator in enforcement action by TCEQ for operating without a Title V permit
  • Defended a major infrastructure district and multiple private corporations in Clean Water Act criminal enforcement proceedings relating to unpermitted discharges of power wash water into local MS4s, and developed detailed compliance plans to ensure compliance by operator and contractor with relevant federal, state and local process and storm water discharge requirements
  • Represented large terminalling services company in the leasing of brownfield areas at multiple terminals across the United States to various alternative energy companies for the development of co-located biodiesel refineries
  • Management of complex remediation of multi-plume chlorinated solvent contamination at industrial facility in vicinity of Superfund site, balancing strategic considerations due to simultaneous indemnity litigation and pending transaction
  • Obtained one of the first Municipal Settings Designations (MSDs) issued in Texas, resulting in residential-based closure of chlorinated solvent plume

Professional History

  • Partner, Locke Lord LLP
  • Associate, Bracewell & Patterson, LLP (May 1999-April 2002)
  • Associate, Porter & Hedges, LLP (September 1997-April 1999)

Professional Affiliations and Recognitions

  • Selected, Energy and Environmental Law Trailblazer, National Law Journal (2016)
  • Named, Chambers USA, Environment (2017-2020)
  • Named, The Best Lawyers in America®, Environmental (2018-2021)
  • Named, Texas Super Lawyers®, Environmental (2017-2019)
  • Member, State Bar of Texas - Environmental and Natural Resources Section
  • Board Member: Renewable Energy Alliance – Houston
  • Past Chair, Greater Houston Partnership Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Subcommittee
  • Past Chair, The Clean Energy Leadership Alliance of Houston
  • Member, Greater Houston Energy Collaborative Leadership Committee
  • Past Chair, Houston Bar Association – Environmental Law Section

Community Leadership

  • Adjunct Professor, Vanderbilt Law School
  • Past President, Hana and Arthur Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center
  • Board of Directors, Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center