Cowan, M. Benjamin

M. Benjamin Cowan


Partner

 

Overview

Ben Cowan is the Chair of the Firm's Renewable Energy section and has a broad-based environmental law practice with a particular focus on wildlife and natural resource issues under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), and Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). He serves as national environmental counsel to several of the largest renewable energy development companies in the United States and has obtained multiple permits under the ESA for incidental take of bats at wind energy projects. Ben is particularly sought after for his creative but pragmatic approach to difficult project siting issues, and his contributions in that regard led to his recent selection as an “Energy and Environmental Law Trailblazer” by the National Law Journal.

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, and is recognized by Chambers USA, The Best Lawyers in America and as a Texas Super Lawyer.

Representative Experience

  • 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.
  • Representing 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 multiple Habitat Conservation Plans and Incidental Take Permit applications for Indiana bats and related species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
  • 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.
  • Represented North American arm of an international utility in the permitting and financing of multiple wind farms with more than 1,000 MW of generation capacity.
  • Advised major energy company clients in the permitting, development and construction of major interstate natural gas pipelines and multiple interstate crude oil pipelines, including development of required FERC Resource Reports and coordination of NEPA EA and EIS processes.
  • 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 U.S. 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.
  • Counseled national plastic products manufacturer regarding air permit requirements applicable to existing and proposed new manufacturing facilities.
  • Defense and settlement of criminal charges against local plant and plant manager of national manufacturing company resulting in assessment of no penalties against company or plant manager.
  • Managed environmental due diligence for acquisition of $450 million commercial real estate portfolio.
  • Counsel to national home builder on storm water permitting and compliance matters.
  • Counseled major foodstuffs manufacturer regarding classification and disposal options for byproducts.
  • Defended real estate development company against alleged Clean Water Act wetlands violations and obtained after-the-fact permits for same without penalty.
  • Research and development of legal arguments in complex environmental indemnity litigation involving contamination of drilling fluid sites in multiple states and Canada.
  • Represented major U.S. energy company in siting, construction, and brokering of natural gas fired power plant.
  • Represented large energy firm in acquisition of underground natural gas storage and pipeline system.
  • Coordinated environmental permitting and indemnification issues for resin and versatics manufacturing company following spin-off from oil major.
  • Represented foreign entity in acquisition and permitting of large oil refinery.
  • Managed environmental due diligence in roll-up of thirteen printing and publishing companies in multiple states.

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

  • Named by Chambers USA 2017-2019 (Environment)
  • Named, The Best Lawyers in America, 2018-2020 (Environment)
  • Named, Texas Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly Magazine (2017-2019)
  • Chair, Greater Houston Partnership Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Subcommittee 
  • Chair, The Clean Energy Leadership Alliance of Houston 
  • Member, Greater Houston Energy Collaborative Leadership Committee 
  • Chair, Houston Bar Association - Environmental Law Section 
  • Member, State Bar of Texas - Environmental and Natural Resources Section 
  • Member, Texas Association of Environmental Professionals 

Community Leadership

  • Vice President, Hana and Arthur Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center
  • Board of Directors, Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center