Leah J. Knowlton has more than 30 years of experience counseling clients on environmental regulatory matters and representing them in criminal and civil litigation involving chemical releases and other environmental violations. She has served as lead crisis response counsel to major manufacturing companies in workplace toxic exposure incidents and fatal industrial accidents. She advises clients on a wide range of EHS compliance subjects, including PSM/RMP safety matters and CFATS chemical manufacturing security matters. She regularly develops and implements environmental compliance systems and advises clients on OSHA safety standards. She has extensive experience assessing environmental risk and negotiating contracts and remediation plans in corporate and real estate transactions. She has successfully litigated complex federal Superfund litigation and defended clients in civil litigation and criminal prosecutions brought under the Clean Water Act and hazardous waste laws.
Leah became a founding partner of Continuum Legal Group after having spent her entire career in large, multinational law firms and a regional firm in both New York City and Atlanta. She seeks a more personal and direct involvement with her clients and their businesses, to deliver high quality legal work in a more fun and meaningful manner. Her happy place is hiking in the mountains, and enjoying the company of friends, family, grandchildren, and other wildlife.
CERCLA (Superfund) contribution claim defense.
Lead counsel on a team that won summary judgment for a Fortune 100 manufacturing client in years-long litigation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) involving an 84-acre dump and dozens of potentially responsible parties. She and her team successfully argued for summary judgment on the basis of a complex analysis of successor liability.
Defense of criminal prosecution under Clean Water Act.
Served as lead environmental counsel in the successful defense of a manufacturing company and five employees indicted on eight felony violations of the Clean Water Act. Ms. Knowlton orchestrated Daubert challenges of scientific evidence that led to dismissal of all charges.
Criminal investigation of fatal industrial accident.
Served as lead counsel to a regional construction company facing criminal indictment and multiple civil lawsuits arising from a catastrophic ammonia release causing one fatality and several injured workers. The U.S. Attorney declined to file a criminal indictment. Civil damage claims were settled favorably for client.
Cost recovery for owners of contaminated property.
Lead counsel in litigation under CERCLA for cost recovery by owners of property contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls from an adjacent National Priorities List Superfund Site.
Clean Water Act citizens suit.
Lead joint defense counsel in a multi-party federal Clean Water Act citizens suit brought by property owners adjacent to a 100-acre residential development.
Common counsel to PRP Group.
Served as common counsel to a PRP Group of more than 20 companies alleged to have been large volume generators at a Superfund site in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4.
Regulatory Counseling & Permitting
Environmental regulatory compliance.
Serves as lead EHS counsel to a multinational construction company performing one of the most extensive infrastructure projects in Georgia history – valued at over $1 billion. Assists with permit applications, negotiations with regulatory agencies and landowners, and drafting contracts for many aspects of project work.
Environmental management systems development.
Develops environmental management systems for clients in automotive, oil and gas, chemical, and plastics manufacturing businesses, in compliance with ISO 14001 Environmental Management System (EMS) standards.
Permit compliance counsel.
Counsels clients on Section 404 wetlands permits and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit compliance under the Clean Water Act, and defends administrative challenges to permits.
Air permits negotiation and appeals.
Negotiated major Title V air permits with federal and state agencies, and conducted permit appeals in the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings.
Remediation of contaminated sites.
Coordinates remediation of contaminated sites under the CERCLA, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and state remediation programs, including daily management of a Superfund site during emergency removal action.
Manufacturing regulations, requirements, and registrations.
Advises manufacturing clients on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hazard communications regulations (HazCom), Globally Harmonized System (GHS) chemical classification and labeling requirements, and registration under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. Assists clients in developing compliance programs under OSHA process safety management (PSM) and EPA risk management program (RMP) programs.
Water quality and waste issues.
Counseled poultry producers on water quality and waste issues, including wastewater treatment, land application systems, and surface and groundwater withdrawal permitting.
Emergency Response & Safety Counseling
Fatal industrial explosion.
Lead counsel to chemical manufacturing company in emergency response to an industrial explosion with multiple casualties. Coordinated internal investigation and represented client in OSHA inspections and investigations. Led team of lawyers who favorably resolved wrongful death and personal injury claims.
Severe industrial injuries.
Lead counsel to industrial adhesives manufacturer in emergency response to industrial accident resulting in severe burns to a worker. Attended OSHA inspections and coordinated response to OSHA investigation and resolution of citations.
Fatal chemical burns.
Lead emergency response counsel to industrial accident involving release of anhydrous ammonia at refrigeration facility that killed one worker and injured another worker and emergency response personnel.
Asbestos release emergency response.
Serves as emergency response counsel to Fortune 100 company for asbestos releases in manufacturing facilities across the country.
Risk Assessment & Transactional Advice
Redevelopment of contaminated property.
Counsels a leading Georgia educational institution on the remediation and redevelopment of several Midtown Atlanta properties in the Georgia Voluntary Cleanup and Brownfield programs. Most recently, she has negotiated contracts with developers and tenants, and negotiated remedial action goals with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, to facilitate the development of a $650 million mixed-use project on one of the properties.
Acquisition of contaminated property.
Represented client in the successful acquisition of 52 acres of a former rocket manufacturing facility from Lockheed-Martin at Dobbins Air Force Base. The property will be redeveloped into a research campus with laboratories, classrooms, and offices.
Sale of contaminated manufacturing facility.
Representing a Fortune 100 company in the sale of a contaminated 100-acre property in Georgia that conducted chemical and petroleum manufacturing operations for over 60 years.
- New York
- U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Rankings and Recognition
- Chambers USA: Leading Business Lawyers - Environment 2013-2021
- Georgia Trend's Legal Elite, Environmental Law, 2012, 2015-2021
- Georgia Super Lawyers, Environment, 2013-2022
- Top 50 Women Attorneys in Georgia, Atlanta Magazine, 2014
- Business and Law Award, the Georgia Women's Institute, 2014
- Air and Waste Management Association
- American Bar Association
- American Water Works Association
- Georgia Association of Women Lawyers
- Georgia Bar Association, Environmental Law Section
- Georgia Manufacturing Alliance
- Women’s Energy Network, Atlanta Chapter
- “Latest CERCLA Decisions and Navigating Complexities: Arranger Liability, Divisibility, Settlement and More”, Strafford CLE Webinar, June 13, 2019
- "M&A Agreements: Drafting Real Estate and Environmental Contract Provisions", Strafford CLE Webinar, September 20, 2017
- "Environmental Due Diligence and Contract Provisions," Real Estate in Mergers and Acquisitions, National Business, Institute Webinar, April 27, 2017
- "Leveraging Latest CERCLA Decisions and Navigating New Complexities", Strafford Webinar, April 11, 2017
- "CERCLA Actions and Statute of Limitations", Strafford CLE Webinar, February 2, 2017
- "Drafting Real Estate and Environmental Contract Provisions in M&A Agreements: Guidance for M&A Counsel", Strafford CLE Webinar, August 16, 2016
- "Leveraging Latest CERCLA Decisions and Navigating New Complexities" | Strafford Webinar, April 22, 2015
- "Solving the CERCLA Statute of Limitations and Preemption Puzzles - Lessons from Recent Decisions for Timing in Superfund and Environmental Litigation" | Strafford CLE Webinar, February 5, 2014
- "Environmental Criminal Enforcement" | Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association Environmental Summit, November 14, 2012
- "Environmental Criminal Investigations and Enforcement," Strafford CLE Webinar, May 10, 2012
- “EPA Criminal Enforcement on the Rise" Strafford CLE Webinar, August 6, 2010
- "Alternative Dispute Resolution of a Stormwater Runoff Case" | State Bar of Georgia Environmental Law Section, Hilton Head Island, S.C., July 31, 2010
- "Legally Green: Compliance with Green Building Codes" | National Facilities Management Conference, Baltimore, Baltimore, Md., March 17, 2010
- "Water Law," Everyday Law/Leyes Cotidianas, WABE Channel 30 television appearance, February 26, 2010
- "Green Retrofitting Commercial Buildings: Conserving Water and Energy" | Green Retrofitting Seminar, Atlanta, Ga., October 8, 2009
- “Green Building Code Compliance” | Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International Conference, Philadelphia, Pa., June 29, 2009
- "Environmental Risks in Lending and Foreclosure" | Spring Program for Bank Directors and Executives, Community Bankers Association of Georgia, Pine Mountain, Ga., April 25, 2009
- "Sustainable Building Codes: Key Features, Incentives and Challenges" | Southeastern Greenprints Conference, Atlanta, Ga., March 26, 2009
- "Water Features of Green Building Codes" | Georgia Association of Water Professionals' Annual Convention, Pine Mountain, Ga., March 18, 2009
- "Everyday Environmental Law" Everyday Law/Leyes Cotidianas, WABE Channel 30 television appearance, January 25, 2009