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SPR Celebrates Fifty Years of Environmental Law


This year, Sive, Paget & Riesel is proud to celebrate its 50th anniversary.  In the five decades since the birth of the modern environmental movement and the founding of the Firm, SPR has been at the forefront of environmental law and litigation.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, David Sive’s synthesis of litigation skills with the burgeoning environmental movement set important precedents in environmental law, just as major national and state environmental statutes and agencies were being forged.  Critically, the Firm represented the Sierra Club in the landmark Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference v. Federal Power Commission case, which established that federal administrative proceedings must consider potential aesthetic and environmental impacts.  During this period, the Firm brought one of the nation’s first NEPA lawsuits, which challenged the environmental review of a proposed factory adjacent to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

In the 1970s, David Paget and Daniel Riesel left the U.S. Attorney’s Office to join the Firm, which later was renamed Sive, Paget & Riesel.  The 1970s and 1980s saw the concurrent expansion of environmental law and the Firm’s practice.  New York State enacted its environmental review statute, SEQRA, and the federal government enacted additional environmental statutes such as CERCLA and RCRA, which govern hazardous substances and hazardous wastes.  The Firm quickly gained expertise in shepherding major development projects through the environmental review and permitting processes.  Beginning with Battery Park City in 1981, SPR has overseen the environmental review of projects such as Hudson River Park, Brooklyn BridgePark, Lincoln Center’s expansion, the new Yankee Stadium, and Columbia University’s new graduate campus in West Harlem.

Throughout the 1990s, SPR continued to litigate matters related to clean water, air and land.  The Firm also set important precedents in the area of local government law.  For example, in 1998, SPR successfully defended the Town of Cortlandt’s right to restrict mining.

With the turn of the century, SPR has remained at the cutting edge of environmental law and litigation.  In 2003, New York State established its Brownfield Cleanup Program, which promotes the redevelopment of contaminated sites by offering liability protection and tax credits.  SPR’s extensive experience in the areas of hazardous waste, administrative law, and litigation has made it a natural leader in guiding clients through the Brownfield Cleanup Program’s complex regulatory process.  At the same time, SPR has protected natural areas in the Hudson Valley through the use of conservation easements and land use litigation.

Drawing on its founding principles of respect for nature and excellence in legal representation, SPR has developed expertise in the urgent task of upgrading aging infrastructure in an environmentally responsible manner.  The firm presently counsels state entities concerning the environmental review and permitting of three major bridge updates in the New York metropolitan area, for the Tappan Zee, Goethals and Bayonne Bridges.

For more details on the Firm’s remarkable history, please visit SPR’s interactive 50-year timeline. 


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