John McGahren is the Princeton litigation practice leader and deputy chair of the firm’s global environmental practice. John counsels clients on litigation, enforcement, and transactional matters. He prosecutes and defends citizen suits, Superfund and RCRA disputes, Clean Water and Air Act litigation, state law actions, and natural resource damage claims. He represents clients in commercial litigation, products liability, toxic tort, and government contract claims. John frequently provides counsel on US federal and state regulatory matters and investigations.
John is an incredible big-picture thinker.
John is very knowledgeable and practical on environmental matters.
John is a go-to for anything environmental. He is a client-focused and extremely responsive, top-shelf litigator with excellent communication skills.
John serves as a federal mediator for the District of New Jersey and as a state mediator for the New Jersey Supreme Court Civil Mediation Program. As part of his volunteer work, he has been a member of the board of directors of NJ Law and Education Empowerment Project, which empowers urban youth from underserved neighborhoods to perform at high academic levels.
Before practicing law, John was a licensed professional engineer in the US Environmental Protection Agency Region II Superfund program, working on sites in New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico.
Represented an automobile manufacturer in two related actions in the District of New Jersey for damages associated with multisite removal and remediation of PCB contaminated concrete from decommissioned plant in New Jersey. Claims asserted against client included CERCLA and NJ Spill Act cost recovery and contribution actions, as well as NJ Consumer Fraud, RICO and other statutory, contractual and common law claims.
Served as common counsel and represented 17 companies in a CERCLA cost recovery and contribution litigation with the United States for a major Texas Superfund site. The representation led to the assignment of a major share of responsibility to the United States for cleanup costs and natural resource damages. Worked with EPA and federal and state natural resource trustees on the selection of remedial investigations and actions, which were integrated with natural resource damage assessment and restoration projects.
Served as lead trial counsel in a successful declaratory judgment suit on behalf of a chemical company in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The company filed suit against the current property owner for contractual indemnity for all potential liability and costs, including natural resource damages associated with EPA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Passaic River initiatives. Argued successfully in the Third Circuit, which affirmed the district court's decision.
Served as trial counsel for a private company and an individual in a successful RCRA citizen suit against the commissioner of NJDEP, where the district court found the commissioner liable. NJDEP subsequently settled with the clients and released them from any further cleanup responsibility. Also succeeded at trial in obtaining a liability ruling under RCRA and CERCLA against the United States. Also argued in the Third Circuit.
Represented an automobile manufacturer in a CERCLA contribution action in District of New Jersey against the United States for 16 former defense plant facilities located in several states and procured multimillion dollar settlements.
Obtained a ruling from the Federal Circuit on behalf of a major chemical manufacturer upholding indemnification from the United States for 100% reimbursement of attorney fees and environmental cleanup costs arising from the construction and operation of a WWII ordnance plant in West Virginia.
Defended a real estate investment trust in multidistrict litigation in the Southern District of New York involving claims for contamination of public water supply wells with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).
Defended a chemical manufacturer and dry cleaning equipment manufacturer against claims brought in NY Supreme Court by large water purveyor for contamination of wells with dry cleaning solvents. Obtained early settlements for both clients on favorable terms.
Defended a chemical manufacturer against claims brought by workers in 18 counties in West Virginia for exposure to PCE in mining float sink testing laboratories. Obtained early settlement on favorable terms.
Represented a chemical manufacturing and oil company in a multisite CERCLA action against the United States in the District of New Jersey and before the Third Circuit three-judge and en banc panels in an appeal of the district court's order denying the companies' right to seek cost recovery from the United States for 14 contaminated sites in eight states. Filed a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was granted, but the Court elected to proceed with a concurrently filed petition addressing the same issues in Atlantic Research v. United States.
Represented a major electronics manufacturer in a contract action against the United States in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for defense costs and indemnification for cleanup costs arising from the operations of a former nuclear fuel cell manufacturing facility in Massachusetts, which was utilized by the Atomic Energy Commission, the U.S. Navy, and various national laboratories.
Submitted amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in Cooper Industries, Inc. v. Aviall Services, Inc. and Atlantic Research v. United States on behalf of private companies.
Represented a New Jersey township in a successful RCRA citizens suit against the state for cleanup of a large former state hospital complex. Negotiated a settlement where the state transferred ownership of the facility to the township, which required approval of the state legislature and the Governor.
Prosecuting claims of a chemical company under the NJ Consumer Fraud Act arising from false representations related to fire and explosion from newly installed dust collection and fire suppression systems.
Representing a portfolio power company in NY Supreme Court on indemnity claim under purchase and sale agreement for seven power plants for breach of representations and warranties on operation and maintenance practices by seller.
Enforcement and Administrative Proceedings
Represent a retail electric and natural gas company in license revocation proceedings initiated by the Texas and Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissions. Obtained summary judgment dismissal before Pennsylvania hearing examiner, which is currently under appeal. Settled the Texas proceeding on favorable terms.
Represented a chemical manufacturer regarding a Superfund/Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) site in New Jersey where thorium had been produced. Retained to enforce a cooperative agreement between the company and the U.S. Department of Energy. Negotiated a settlement with the United States for the FUSRAP radiological cleanup, with total estimated costs in excess of $500 million. Also represented the company in a parallel Superfund cleanup of chemical contaminants as well as Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing and decommissioning proceedings.
Represented an automobile manufacturer in civil and criminal proceedings associated with the decommissioning and demolition of an automotive assembly plant in New Jersey, where the state alleged the company violated numerous provisions of the New Jersey Solid Waste Management and Spill Acts at multiple sites. Negotiated an administrative consent order with NJDEP settling the company's liability to the state.
Represented a chemical manufacturer in parallel investigations by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and OSHA arising from a fire and explosion of a dust collection system, which severely burned workers at the facility.
Represented a major oil company in enforcement proceedings by EPA for a Superfund site in Los Angeles. Also represented the company on claims against the United States for contamination attributable to a former WWII synthetic rubber plant owned and operated by the United States at the site.
Successfully defended a major oil company in Puerto Rico in numerous matters, including a $75 million penalty assessed for underground storage tank violations. Filed a Section 1983 civil rights action against the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board on grounds of actual and structural bias in the penalty proceeding and obtained a permanent injunction barring any penalty. The matter included preliminary injunction hearings, appeals to the First Circuit and the Puerto Rican Supreme Court, as well as hearings in the Puerto Rican Senate. Obtained a permanent injunction against EQB on the penalty.
Represented a chemical manufacturer in a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) PCB Mega Rule petition for a risk-based cleanup of one of its former facilities in New Jersey-the second PCB Mega Rule petition ever approved by EPA Region II. Negotiated a remedial action work plan and liability buyout proposal with NJDEP, which included a bankruptcy court-approved natural resource damages settlement.
Represented a national hazardous waste disposal company in negotiations with NJDEP concerning the siting of a solid and hazardous waste rail transfer facility in New Jersey and the settlement of alleged A-901 violations.
Represented a chemical company in municipal hearings concerning a manufacturing plant in New Jersey, where a municipality was seeking to designate the property as an area in need of redevelopment along the lines addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London.
Represented a power company in obtaining a Title V and Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit for a proposed gas turbine power plant in New Jersey.
Negotiated a carbon monoxide emissions offset trade required for air permits with a major airline.
Conducted a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and UK Bribery Act internal investigation for a foreign company involving practices in numerous foreign countries. Advised the client on corporate compliance and ethics programs and anti-corruption policies.
Pro Bono Litigation
Lead pro bono trial counsel for public interest groups and individual plaintiffs in a New Jersey Superior Court action asserting constitutional and statutory challenges to the state's use of paperless direct recording electronic voting machines. The case involved a lengthy trial and appeals to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, and the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Represented a chemical manufacturer in connection with Chapter 11 proceedings for a third-party liability buyout of a former facility heavily contaminated with PCBs. Identified the requirements for the buyout; assisted on contractor selection; drafted and negotiated the liability buyout contract with the contractor and a settlement agreement with the state, which included settlement of natural resource damages; and negotiated the insurance policy as financial assurance for the buyout.
Conducted due diligence and transactional work on numerous financings, mergers and acquisitions, and real estate matters.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Acted as federal mediator in a trade agreement breach and trademark infringement matter-the first joint mediation of its kind involving mediators appointed by District of New Jersey and the Third Circuit.
Served as a state court mediator in an action asserted by NJDEP.
Served on American Arbitration Association panels of arbitrators and mediators in numerous matters involving construction, commercial, and environmental disputes.
Served as court-designated mediator in numerous commercial, environmental, and other matters in the District of New Jersey's mandatory mediation program.
Served as court-designated mediator in civil litigation matters in the New Jersey Supreme Court Civil Mediation Program.
Manhattan College, 1986, M.S., Magna Cum Laude
Manhattan College, 1986, B.S., Magna Cum Laude
New York Law School, 1990, J.D.
U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, Third, and Federal Circuits
U.S. Court of Federal Claims
U.S. Supreme Court
Awards and Affiliations
Recognized, Lawdragon 500 Leading Environmental & Energy Lawyers (2021)
Lawyer of the Year, Environmental Law, Princeton, The Best Lawyers in America (2019, 2022)
Recognized, Environmental Law, Princeton, The Best Lawyers in America (2017–2022)
Band 1, Environment, New Jersey, Chambers USA (2021)
Ranked, Environment, New Jersey, Chambers USA (2006–2020)
Recommended, Dispute resolution: Product liability, mass tort and class action - defense: toxic tort, The Legal 500 US (2020)
Recommended, Industry focus: Energy litigation: conventional power; Industry focus: Environment: litigation, The Legal 500 US (2020, 2021)
Recommended, Industry focus: Environment: regulatory, The Legal 500 US (2016–2021)
Member, Practice Group of the Year, Environmental, Law360 (2017, 2019)
Recognized, Super LawyersBusiness Edition (2011–2013)
Recognized, New Jersey Super Lawyers (2006–2013)
Past Member, Panel of Arbitrators and Mediators (1992) and Environmental Panel (1997), American Arbitration Association
Member, West Virginia Bar Association
Member, US Court of Federal Claims Bar Association