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Law Office of

Peter Henner

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Peter Henner
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Peter Henner has a long history of representing environmental organizations, community groups, individuals and municipalities.  His practice includes citizen suits against industrial and municipal polluters, representation of municipalities attempting to protect the environment, the development of creative strategies for community and environmental groups, and, of course, representing victims of toxic and environmental torts.

Peter's practice grows out of a strong commitment to protecting and preserving the environment.  Although he has occasionally represented developers of independent power, such as natural gas plants and hydroelectric facilities, almost all of Peter's environmental practice is devoted to advocacy for the environment. He does not represent large corporations, does not defend major environmental violators, and he does not assist government, commercial or industrial entities seeking regulatory approval of undesirable projects.

Since 2009, Peter has: 1) the represented Save the Pine Bush in opposing the City of Albany's plan to once again expand their Rapp Road landfill in a unique environmental area, 2) won the invalidation of an inadequate Environmental Impact Statement for a 33 acre landfill within the Amsterdam city limit, 3) litigated a case seeking to prohibit the Town of Brunswick from systematically disregarding its own Comprehensive Plan, and 4) successfully resolved a lawsuit seeking to enjoin the nuisances caused by a large, rapidly expanding, environmentally insensitive camp in the Catskills.  In addition to litigation matters, Peter has represented the Landis Arboretum, acted as special counsel to the Town of Berlin Zoning Board of Appeals with respect to cell tower applications, and as special counsel to the Town of Amsterdam for environmental issues.  He also represents community groups concerned about prospective environmental impacts of hydrofracking and industrial wind turbines in Otsego, Schoharie and Delaware Counties.  In 2011 he presented a request for a comprehensive declaratory ruling on the current legal status of hydrofracking to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

From 1998 through 2004, Peter led a team of lawyers in state and federal court litigation on behalf of a group of Connecticut residents who lived adjacent to Wethersfield Cove, just south of Hartford on the Connecticut River. As a result of their efforts, the Metropolitan District Commission paid a $750,000 settlement and committed itself to a remediation program. 

In 2008, on the morning of the scheduled trial, he obtained a  $675,000 settlement on behlaf of the former residents of a mobile home park near Kingston, New York that had been destroyed by flooding in 2005.

Peter has represented several municipalities with respect to issues pertaining to electric generating facilities, including: 1) the Eastern Niagara Power Project Alliance (a coalition of towns, school districts and cities), with respect to issues pertaining to the relicensing of the Niagara Falls hydroelectric facility, 2) the Town of Cortlandt, (the host community of the Indian Point nuclear power plants) with respect  to the sale of the plants to Entergy, 3) the Green Island Power Authority in its efforts to replace an obsolete, privately owned 40 MW hydroelectric facility at Cohoes Falls with a modern, publicly owned 100 MW facility, 4) the Town of Somerset, in western New York, with respect to the 900 MW coal-fired power plant in the Town, and 5) the City of Oswego, in connection with efforts to acquire a hydroelectric facility previously owned by Niagara Mohawk.   

Peter has actively opposed the deregulation of electricity, which has had the effect of replacing a regulated monopoly with an unregulated monopoly. In 2002, and again in 2003, he taught a course in the graduate program of Environmental Management at the Lally School at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute called Managing Energy Issues, devoted to the issue of deregulation. Peter published an article in the Spring 2002 New York Environmental Lawyer describing the failure of deregulation in New York titled "The Alarm Clock Didn't Ring: The Failure to Consider the Environmental Impacts of the "Deregulation" of the Electric Industry in New York".  

In 1998, as part of New York State's deregulation of electricity, the New York State Public Service Commission approved a restructuring plan for the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. On behalf of several municipalities, Peter commenced a lawsuit challenging the restructuring plan, on the grounds that the Commission had failed to adequately consider the prospective environmental impacts of the plan.  This case represents one of the few legal efforts made throughout the country to challenge the deregulation of electricity.  (Since most states that deregulated electricity did so by legislative act, such challenges were usually not possible; in New York, deregulation was accomplished by administrative action, subject to judicial review.)

Peter has litigated a number of other cases alleging violations of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), including legal challenges to: 1) the issuance of Water Quality Certificates to hydroelectric facilities, 2) the relocation of the central office of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (on behalf of the Public Employees Federation, a statewide labor union), 3) the New York State Power Authority's sale of Indian Point 3 to Entergy, a large private energy company, and 4) the permitting of incinerators, landfills, and golf courses. He published an Article in the Fall, 2001 New York State Environmental Lawyer, describing the increasing difficulties for community organizations to obtain standing to maintain SEQRA lawsuits: "Great Future in Plastics?  The Judicial Repeal of Standing for Environmental Organizations in SEQRA Cases".

Peter has also brought environmental lawsuits on behalf of labor unions.  As a union-side labor lawyer, he believes, as an article of faith, that labor unions and environmental organizations are natural allies, and he is always trying to promote working alliances between the two groups. In 2001 and 2002, he acted as special counsel to the New York Metro Postal Workers Union in bringing a citizen suit against the United States Postal Service resulting from the anthrax contamination of the main Manhattan postal facility.

© 2012 Law office of Peter Henner