Paul M. Schmidt chairs the Zarwin Baum Environmental and Energy Practice Group. He provides legal services to a wide range of clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and across the country.
For real estate clients, Mr. Schmidt advises on developing brownfields, conducting environmental due diligence, obtaining funding, cleaning up contamination and addressing numerous other issues, such as storm water runoff, sewage facilities, wetlands, asbestos and mold. He also represents clients on permitting and compliance issues in industrial operations, including waste, water quality, air, oil and gas drilling, pipelines, CNG stations, storage tanks and radiation.
In addition, Mr. Schmidt represents clients in property damage, personal injury, cleanup cost-recovery, and other litigation. He has appeared before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the U.S. District Court in the Eastern and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, the Superior Court of New Jersey in most counties, the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
From 1997 to 2001, Mr. Schmidt counseled the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PA DEP) Water Management, Sewage Facilities, Storage Tanks, Waste Management and Environmental Cleanup Programs. Prior to joining PA DEP, he was a Colorado Assistant Attorney General, assisting the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on cutting-edge Superfund risk assessment, remediation and enforcement activities for major Superfund sites, including the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant and several mining sites.
Mr. Schmidt received his law degree and Certificate of Environmental Law from Pace University School of Law where he served as Managing Editor of the Pace Environmental Law Review. He received a B.S. in Biology from Kent State University and spent several years with environmental and industrial hygiene consulting firms before attending law school. Mr. Schmidt is a member of the board of the Eastern Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Transportation and a member of the board of the Philadelphia Traffic Club. He previously served as Chair of the Environmental Advisory Commission of Springfield Township in Montgomery County, as Co-Chair of the Sustainable Land Use Subcommittee of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Real Property Section, and as member of the board of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council's Advocacy Committee.
Assisted one of the largest owners of commercial and industrial property in the United States, as it subdivided a large shopping center and leased and sold portions to national big box and retail companies. Crafted a strategy to ensure that extensive environmental requirements were satisfied in time to meet the closing deadline. Shaped necessary environmental restrictions to minimize impacted parcels, identified affected recent and historic property interest, and negotiated the necessary environmental covenants and subordination agreements with the government agency and with existing and future property interest holders. Quickly obtained regulatory approval of a revised strategy and re-negotiated document language, when the client altered its development plans near closing, enabling the client to close on time and without complications.
Counseled Fortune 50 company on appropriate environmental due diligence, site investigation and remediation of numerous properties acquired as part of multi-million dollar facility acquisitions. Assisted the client to develop claims against the seller’s escrow fund and to rezone and convey various parcels, maximizing the client’s return on the acquisition.
Counseled a foreign company on the appropriate scope of environmental due diligence as part of the multi-million dollar acquisition of a heavily regulated precious metal recycling facility. Identified and quantified significant environmental risks, enabling the client to avoid accepting nearly a million dollars of liability in error.
Obtained the favorable settlement of an action by a national commercial/retail property owner in a suit against Fortune 100 companies seeking to recover costs to investigate and clean up hazardous substances. The client had alleged the defendants discharged the substances at the client’s warehousing facility prior to the client’s ownership.
Advised a nationwide retail property owner on responding to a claim that a worker contracted Legionnaire’s Disease. Assembled a team of public relations, medical, industrial hygiene, and other experts to quickly evaluate the claim, manage information and successfully demonstrate that the client was not responsible.
Advised a nationwide retail property owner on responding to a claim that employees were exposed to contaminants through a water cooler connected to a building cooling system. Assembled a team of public relations, engineering, medical, environmental, and other experts to quickly evaluate the claim, manage information and successfully demonstrate that no employees experienced any exposure to contaminants.
Guided the participation of a multidisciplinary team of experts evaluating cutting-edge human health and ecological risk assessments and response actions at the 25-square mile Rocky Mountain Arsenal Superfund Site. In addition, assisted in identifying and enforcing state environmental laws applicable to the Department of the Army’s response actions at the site.
Developed the legal analysis successfully supporting the first ever ambient promulgation of state radionuclide standards, and assisted in identifying and enforcing state environmental laws applicable to the Department of Energy’s response actions at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant.
Obtained an extremely favorable settlement of a cleanup cost recovery action seeking nearly $600,000, at a cost to the client of only 7% of plaintiff’s damages. Mr. Schmidt obtained the settlement by employing New Jersey’s “Offer of Judgment” Rule, before even undertaking discovery. By quickly identifying the technical and legal weaknesses of Plaintiff’s case and immediately filing a low, but fair, Offer of Judgment, Mr. Schmidt was able to use the threat of nearly complete fee-shifting as leverage to favorably settle the case quickly.
Assisted a client to avoid unnecessary costs and time to remove building materials deemed to contain asbestos by recognizing that previously-sampled materials could be re-analyzed using a more specific analysis. That analysis revealed the absence of asbestos, saving the client over $30,000 in removal costs, additional costs to demo and rebuild the space, and the revenue the client would have lost during the removal.
Secured a favorable settlement on behalf of a client joined late in litigation for allegedly causing the collapse of subsurface structures on an adjoining property due to improvements made on the client’s former property. Mr. Schmidt quickly convinced plaintiff to dismiss its only claim which could allow plaintiff to recover litigation fees, and then attacked plaintiff’s proposed expert in a pretrial motion. In the end, Mr. Schmidt successfully resolved the client’s exposure for approximately 8.5 % of the final settlement amount, leaving prior and subsequent owners of the client’s former property to pay the remaining amount.
Successfully litigated the appeal of a point source discharge permit for the largest gold mine in the State of Colorado, involving significant precedent-setting federal and state legal issues and complex technical issues requiring the expertise of multiple disciplines.
Represented homeowners’ association in the appeal of an electric utility company’s Public Utility Commission application to construct a high voltage electric transmission line through client’s community. Settled the action in a very favorable agreement.
Litigated federal and state civil actions brought by several homeowner groups against Marcellus Gas production and drilling companies for impacts to private drinking water wells. In addition, litigated related appeals of PA DEP Orders to gas production companies.
Assisted numerous developers in satisfying City of Philadelphia’s stringent stormwater control requirements on challenging properties and managed the clients’ various consultants in order to ensure efficient, timely completion of necessary activities.
On behalf of a municipality, won a precedent-setting Title V Operating Permit appeal before the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) holding that when PADEP determines that emissions are insignificant, PADEP cannot rely on a cursory conclusion that the fugitive emissions are incapable of being accurately quantified or controlled, cannot simply presume that required emissions control technology will sufficiently minimize the emissions, and cannot shift to appellants the obligation to prove that the disputed emissions are significant.
Represented the installer of an underground storage tank system in an action brought by the owner/operator of a gasoline station following the release of gasoline. Quickly investigated the release and tank registration history and successfully tendered a claim with the Pennsylvania Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund (USTIF) within the thirty (30) day deadline for doing so.
Represented a consulting firm in a suit seeking approximately $10,000,000 in actual and treble damages for alleged failure to identify building defects during buyer’s due diligence investigation of a multi-building apartment complex.
Won the early dismissal of a serious bodily injury action filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court against an environmental contractor. Obtained sufficient evidence during streamlined discovery to demonstrate the contractor’s duties did not include removing the specific materials, which resulted in the plaintiff’s alleged injuries.
Completed a complicated sale of a former manufacturing plant in Edison, New Jersey on behalf of the seller. What made the transaction difficult was the presence of contaminated soil under the building, threatening perpetual contamination of groundwater.
News & Events:
"Emergency Response to Environmental Accidents", Lambertville, NJ, September 23, 2016.
"The Dark Side of Passive Remediation", In-Situ Remediation Workshop, Doubletree Hotel, Plymouth Meeting, PA, October 1, 2014.
“Too Much Of A Good Thing? Representing Multiple PRPs In Superfund Cases”, Environmental and Emerging Claims Management Association, Captiva Island, FL, May 2, 2014
“2012's Top Cases & Issues Impacting Construction and Environmental Claims”, Council on Litigation Management, Nashville, TN, November 9, 2012
“Environmental Forensics: Age Dating and Fingerprinting Contaminant Release”, Council on Litigation Management, Webinar, October, 2011
“Disputes between Land Owners and the Gas Companies - Personal Injury and Property Damages”, Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s CLE Program “Hot Topics in Oil and Gas Law,” Mechanicsburg, PA, July 21, 2011
"CERCLA and PRP Contribution Claims: Making Cost Recovery Work for You,” Brownfields 2011, Philadelphia, PA, April 4, 2011
“Fundamentals of Litigation Management,” for the Council on Litigation Management’s Live Standards Training Program, at United States Liability Insurance Group, Wayne, PA, October 18, 2010.
“Philadelphia's New Stormwater Fees: How Diversionary Tactics Can Pay Off," Pennsylvania Bar Institute CLE Program, Philadelphia, PA, September 15, 2010.
“Stormwater Utilities and Stormwater Billing,” Green Infrastructure Summit, Gilmore & Associates, Inc., New Britain, PA, June 16, 2010.
“Claims Arising from Marcellus and Other Deep Shale Gas Drilling Activities,” Emerging and Environmental Claims Managers Association Annual Conference, Captiva, FL, May 14, 2010.
“Risk Management for Building Green”, Delaware Valley Green Building Council, Philadelphia, PA, March, 2010
"Who to Call & What to Do if the Inspector Finds a Concern", Philadelphia Dry Cleaners Association & the Korean Dry Cleaners Association of Philadelphia, May 14, 2009.
“Green Industry – Laws That Could Affect Your Business; Contract Principles Important to Your Project,” presented to the Montgomery County Industrial Development Corporation, February 24, 2009.
“The Impacts of Philadelphia Stormwater Regulation on Development,” presented to Bucks County Commercial Real Estate Networking and Exchange Breakfast, February 15, 2008.
"The Impacts of Philadelphia Stormwater Regulations on Development," Philadelphia Counselors of Real Estate, November 26, 2007.
"Stormwater Management: a Legal Perspective," Second Annual Mid-Atlantic Clean Ports Workshop, November 1, 2007.
“Stormwater Utilities in Pennsylvania,” Temple University School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, September 10, 2007.
“Practical Tips For Mastering Large Commercial Real Estate Deals: Deal or No Deal,” legal CLE, Philadelphia, PA, August 2, 2007.
“Common Environmental Obstacles in Real Estate Transactions,” presented to Bucks County Commercial Real Estate Networking and Exchange Breakfast, May 18, 2007.
“All Appropriate Inquiry and the Impact to EPA Grantees,” presented to EPA’s Region III Brownfields Grant Recipients Workshop, December, 2006"
“Offer of Judgment Rule in NJ,” presented to AIGDC, Inc.
“Natural Resources Damages,” presented to AIGDC, Inc.
“Environmental Disclosures and Conditions in Philadelphia Residential Sales,” presented to Aarch Realty LLC, April 12, 2006.
“Revisiting the Limits of Commonwealth Employee Immunity – FMS, Inc. v. Dilazero,” Mark L. Freed, and Paul M. Schmidt, The Legal Intelligencer Environmental Law Supplement, May, 2010.
“Know When to Say When – Deciding Whether to Take Further Action on Conditions Identified in Phase I Assessments,” The Legal Intelligencer, Environmental Law Supplement, April 9, 2007.
“One Size Does Not Fit All – The Importance of Tailored Environmental Due Diligence and Post-Transfer Activities,” The Legal Intelligencer, Real Estate Supplement, March 26, 2007.
"Green Grows - Philadelphia's Laws and Policies to Promote Sustainability," Philadelphia Lawyer Magazine, Fall 2008.
“Developing Distressed Property: Desirability and Viability,” The Legal Intelligencer, Energy and Environmental Law Supplement, July 25, 2017.