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practice accolades

Mass Torts

Named a class actions and torts 'powerhouse' in BTI's Litigation Outlook 2014 report

honors + affiliations

Member, American Bar Association

Member, District of Columbia Bar Association

Listed, The Best Lawyers in America (1993–2011)

Editorial Board, Chemical Waste Litigation Reporter

RCRA Editor, EPA Administrative Law Reporter

Comment Editor, University of Pennsylvania Law Review

Listed, Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business (2003–2013)

bar admissions

  • District of Columbia
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Michael W. Steinberg
Senior Counsel


Email: msteinberg@morganlewis.com
Washington, D.C.
1111 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004-2541
Phone: 202.739.5141
Fax: 202.739.3001

Michael W. Steinberg is special counsel in Morgan Lewis's Litigation Practice. Mr. Steinberg’s practice focuses exclusively on environmental law matters, with special emphasis on litigation and counseling involving (1) hazardous waste issues under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, (2) contaminated site issues under the federal Superfund law, and (3) environmental justice issues under federal and state civil rights laws.

In the RCRA hazardous waste area, Mr. Steinberg has filed numerous challenges to EPA rules and decisions in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He achieved a major victory in Shell Oil Company. v. EPA, 950 F.2d 741 (D.C. Cir. 1991), by persuading the D.C. Circuit to overturn EPA’s 1980 "mixture rule." Mr. Steinberg also won a key ruling in Dithiocarbamate Task Force v. EPA, 98 F.3d 1394 (D.C. Cir. 1998), which limited EPA’s authority to list wastes as hazardous under RCRA. He serves as outside counsel to the American Chemistry Council on its RCRA regulatory and litigation advocacy.

In the Superfund area, Mr. Steinberg has an extensive background with litigation, rulemaking, and legislative advocacy. Among his best-known cases is United States v. Olin Corp., 927 F. Supp. 1502 (S.D. Ala. 1996), rev’d, 107 F.3d 1506 (11th Cir. 1997), where the trial court declared Superfund unconstitutional as applied to purely intrastate contamination. As lead counsel in Rollins Environmental Services v. United States (D.N.J.), Mr. Steinberg negotiated a settlement in which the U.S. Department of Defense agreed to pay most of the $300+ million in cleanup costs at the Bridgeport Rental & Oil Services (BROS) site. Mr. Steinberg has testified before Congress on several occasions regarding Superfund liability and enforcement issues. He serves as outside counsel to the Superfund Settlements Project.

In the environmental justice area, Mr. Steinberg litigated the landmark 1995 case in which EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board established important principles governing consideration of environmental justice issues in the RCRA permitting process. In re Chemical Waste Management of Indiana, Inc., 1995 EPA App. LEXIS 25 (EAB June 29, 1995). More recently, he filed briefs amicus curiae for the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in several key Supreme Court and other appellate cases. Among these cases are Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275 (2001), which questioned the use of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit disparate impacts, and South Camden Citizens in Action v. NJDEP, 274 F.3d 771 (3d Cir. 2001), which overturned a preliminary injunction blocking the operation of a new industrial facility based on violations of Title VI. Mr. Steinberg serves as outside counsel to the Business Network for Environmental Justice.

Mr. Steinberg has dealt with federal and state environmental law, with an emphasis on litigation, for more than 20 years. Before he rejoined the Firm in 1987, he was Assistant Chief of the Environmental Defense Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he supervised and handled litigation against EPA under all of the federal environmental statutes.

Mr. Steinberg served as a law clerk to Judge Alfred L. Luongo of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Steinberg is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia.

Selected Representations

Cytec v. Goodrich (2003)

  • Case: CERCLA contribution case involving a chemical plant being cleaned up under the RCRA corrective action program.
    • District court dismissed the case on statute of limitations grounds.
  • Role: Prosecute the appeal
  • Victory: Currently pending in the 6th Circuit. Anticipate amicus support from EPA and DOJ

Old American Zinc Site

  • Case: CERCLA cleanup at a former zinc smelter site in Illinois
    • During World War II, the Defense Plant Corporation leased and operated portions of the site.
    • Industrial buildings have all been demolished.
    • Site still contains large amounts of smelter waste.
  • Role: Represent the site owner
  • Victory: To date, documented the wartime activities of the U.S. and persuaded EPA that the U.S. is a major PRP. Efforts to allocate shares are ongoing.

Hercules Complaint (2002)

  • Case: CERCLA contribution case against the Army Corps of Engineers
    • Corps dredged a small creek removing sediment that contained a pesticide.
    • EPA decided that the areas where the Corps placed dredge spoil is Superfund site.
  • Role: Lead counsel for the plaintiff
  • Victory: Obtained a stipulation from the Corp in which they admitted CERCLA liability, both as an “arranger” and as an “operator at the time of disposal.”

Reynolds Metals (1998)

  • Case: Arnold & Porter filed RCRA citizen suit in district court on behalf of several of client’s competitors.
    • Oregon and Washington state plaintiffs alleged environmental violations at Reynolds Metals’s plant in Arkansas.
  • Role: Lead counsel for Reynolds
  • Victory: Complete dismissal on the ground that the plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to sue.

BROS Consent Decree (1996)

  • Case: CERCLA contribution claim against the United States at the Bridgeport Rental & Oil Services site in New Jersey
    • EPA sent demand letters to about 30 major companies, seeking $88 million in past costs
  • Role: Lead counsel for plaintiffs
    • Filed suit, alleging that the U.S. Department of Defense had sent more waste to the site than everyone else combined.
  • Victory: Negotiated a landmark consent decree in which DOD agreed to pay 78.9% of all cleanup costs, which exceed $400 million.

Shell Oil Co. (1991)

  • Case: Challenge to EPA “mixture rule” and “derived-from rule” under RCRA, dating back to 1980
  • Role: Lead counsel for oil industry
  • Victory: Obtained a ruling from the Washington, D.C. Circuit court that these two rules were void ab initio.

St. Paul Insurance (1984)

  • Case: Claim against the U.S. government for the cost of cleaning up an oil spill from the catastrophic failure of a huge storage tank
  • Role: Lead counsel for the United States
  • Victory: Obtained three sets of discovery sanctions before the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed on the eve of trial. Then sought and obtained the first award of attorney’s fees in favor of the United States.
    • Used new Equal Access to Justice Act
    • Intended primarily to allow fees against the United States

education

  • University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1977, J.D.
  • Yale University, 1974, B.A.